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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.

Anjem Choudary, can always get the newspapers' attention with outrageous comments and stunts like his threat to parade 500 empty coffins through the streets of Wooton Bassett, the town adjacent to the military airport where the coffins of British soldiers killed in Afghanistan arrive back in the U.K.  Choudary's threat came to nothing. His own community was profoundly embarrassed by it.

The third reason for Britain's low-key attitude is that security services have learned as many lessons over the years about how to respond to terrorist provocation as British society has. There has clearly been cooperation between Britain's domestic and international security agencies, and intelligence on jihadist activity gleaned in Pakistan has been used to thwart at least some of the plots in Britain.

It is also clear that sources of information within the Muslim community have been developed and have helped police cut things off before they get out of hand. Up to 12 plots are reported to have been foiled in the last decade.

The margin of error remains thin on all sides. In June 2006 police raided a home in Forest Gate in London and shot an innocent man who they thought was involved in a jihadist plot. In July 2007, an attempt to set off a car bomb near a nightclub in Piccadilly Circus failed because the explosive device was faulty, not because of police activity. The two bombers then drove north to Glasgow in Scotland and attempted to blow their car up at the airport. They failed.

These two examples speak to the difficulty facing police and the Muslim community. But for the most part a tenuous balance has been reached.

Tariq Modood, professor of Sociology at Bristol University, summarized the attitude inside the Muslim community as wanting to allay their fellow citizens' fears about Islam but also wondering if they have all been smeared with the jihadi brush. "We hear you, but do you hear us?" he told the BBC.

The answer to that question might be found in Tuesday's announcement by British Prime Minister David Cameron that there will be an independent judicial inquiry into allegations that Britain was complicit in torture of some of its Muslim citizens suspected of terrorism in the years after 9/11.

Ten Britons were held at Guantanamo. Several of them have claimed British intelligence operatives were involved in sending them for torture while they were en route to the notorious detention center. This has long angered Britain's Muslim community.

Tuesday's announcement demonstrates that the government does indeed hear what its Muslim minority says. The enquiry will be another quiet bit of bridge building to ensure that another 7/7 never happens.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/worldview/100706/london-terrorism-bombings-british-muslims