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Opinion: Britain's low-key attitude on terrorism

The 5th anniversary of London's 7/7 mass murder will be marked by nothing much.

London bombing monument
On July 6, 2009, a woman walks around a memorial to honor the victims of the July 7, 2005 London bombings in Hyde Park. The memorial consists of 52 columns representing the lives lost, and was officially unveiled on July 7, 2009. In contrast, there will be no ceremonies to mark this year's fifth anniversary. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

LONDON, U.K. — Mass murders are significant events and their anniversaries are usually a time for reflection and public commemoration.

Five years ago today, four suicide bombers blew themselves up in a coordinated attack on London's transport system. Fifty-two people were killed and several hundred more were injured. The bombers were all British Muslims.

But Wednesday's anniversary is being marked, well, it's being marked by nothing.

There will be no memorial service for the victims' families attended by the royal family or the prime minister, no re-enactment of the London-wide moment of silence that marked the first anniversary of the atrocity.

Not everyone is happy about the government's hands-off attitude. Thelma Stober, who lost part of a leg in the bombing, told the BBC she had approached the government about marking the occasion but had been turned down.

The government department responsible issued a statement, "Many of the families have told us that after five years, they no longer look to government to lead the commemorations. They prefer to remember their loved ones in their own way. Many are planning to visit the memorial throughout the day." The BBC did not record Stober's response.

The 7/7 memorial, located in Hyde Park, is a sculpture comprised of 52 steel columns, each 11 feet high and representing one of the dead.

The non-observance of the occasion says much about British society's ability to absorb a shock as big as 7/7. It is useful to compare the non-event of this anniversary to the hysteria that has accompanied the failed bomb plots in Detroit and Times Square. There are several reasons why the British take a low-key attitude to terrorism.

First is the country's long acquaintance with the random violence of modern terrorism. For the better part of 15 years, the IRA waged a bombing campaign on the island of Britain. In that time they killed senior conservative politicians and innocent school children. They mortared 10 Downing Street when the British cabinet was meeting. Society realized the best way to deal with this sort of attack was to carry on as before. That lesson has been carried over and applied to Islamist terrorism.

Second, it is clear that the Muslim community itself was as shocked by the events as the rest of Britain and has worked quietly from within to confront radicals. It is notable that the most persistently vocal radicals are increasingly isolated.