As an American student living in England until just two weeks ago, I was deeply affected by the July 7th bombings in London. The incident was confirmation that scaled-up intelligence and security is necessary but far from sufficient to prevent terrorist attacks. Resource constraints and the tradeoff between security and personal freedom make it impossible (and indeed undesirable) to secure all public spaces.

While I applaud discussion on the “deeper determinants” of terrorism such as poverty and social exclusion, there is also a need for smaller-scale and immediate changes in our fight against the current wave of terrorism.

Al-Qaida style terrorism has nothing to do with Islam itself, and everything to do with small, but influential sub-communities of extremists. Effective anti-terrorism efforts must thus include monitoring and surveillance of community leaders promoting violence as a redress for political grievances. However, unless such surveillance efforts are grounded in due process and concrete evidence, they will do little more than fuel the “us versus them” rhetoric so inimical to conflict resolution. The January 2005 judgment by Britain’s law lords condemning the indefinite detention without trial of foreign terrorist suspects is an important step in the right direction.

Secondly, media coverage which explicitly recognizes the Iraqi lives–and not just the American and British ones–lost in the present conflict would provide a truer representation of the war’s consequences and help undercut the notion that Muslim lives do not matter to the West. In addition, it is vital that discussions about Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine extend beyond sensationalist media outlets to schools and community groups where the young people most heavily influenced by extremist propaganda can find a more nuanced presentation of the facts. The media has little incentive to promote solutions to conflict and it is a grave mistake to allow it to be the sole forum for discussion.

Finally, in the wake of these latest terrorist attacks, it is absolutely vital that Muslims with an alternative vision of their faith organize to make their voices heard both within the Muslim community and outside. Jihadists are by no means the only nor the most dominant representatives of their faith. As noted by Thomas Friedman in a recent column in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, King Abdullah II’s conference for moderate Muslim clerics and thinkers was an important step towards creating an alternative leadership and voice for Muslims around the world.

But more remains to be done. The day after the London bombings, ABC ran a story about riders of Bus No. 30 (the bus that had been blown up the day before near Tavistock Square) who chose to resume their daily commute. Most of the riders interviewed spoke of defiance and the need to resume normal activity as soon as possible so that the terrorists would know they had not won. One woman interviewed, however, said that she was now suspicious of Muslims taking the bus: "I look at Muslim women, and who knows if they could have a bomb strapped to them. You just don’t know. I’m not racist, but that’s the way I feel now.”

Anyone who’s lived in London and walked along Blackstock Road, Edgeware, Whitechapel, Green Lanes or any of the other historically Muslim strongholds in the city knows that there is already a significant degree of geographic separation between Muslim and non-Muslim communities in the city. The only real chance of keeping that gap from becoming larger in the wake of last week’s bombings is for members of the Muslim community to step forward and take the stage away from jihadists. The voice of moderation has been drowned out for long enough.

Divya Balakrishnan is a Graduate Student at the London School of Economics

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