7/7 London bombings: victim’s family vows to fight extremism in schools

Esther Addley Telegraph

The family of one of the victims of 7/7 has launched a campaign designed to tackle extremism in schools, days before the 10th anniversary of the attacks.

Miriam Hyman was one of 52 people killed on 7 July 2005, when the bus on which she was travelling was blown up by 18-year-old Hasib Hussain, one of four suicide bombers who attacked London’s transport network.

Now, in what they hope will become a lasting legacy for the 31-year-old, her family has launched an educational programme for pupils aged 11-14, designed to counteract radicalisation and promote respect between different communities.

Hyman’s parents and older sister, Esther, have already set up a children’s eyecare clinic in India in her memory, which opened in 2008 and treats more than 10,000 children annually.

Esther says the family has decided to turn its attention to what happened on 7/7. “We realised if we wanted to make an impact we would have to go through the medium of education, and tackle young people while they are young. After all, that’s what the extremists do – they radicalise young, vulnerable people. We’re not saying we can counteract radicalisation by ourselves, but we would like to contribute towards that.”

The new resource, developed to fit national curriculum requirements in conjunction with Copthall school in north London, where both sisters studied, and the Institute of Education (IoE) at University College London, examines the events of 7/7 and their consequences for police, doctors and witnesses as well as victims and their families.

In addition, students will study geography, art and dance modules linked to the north-east Indian state of Odisha, where the Miriam Hyman Children’s Eyecare Clinic is based, with the aim of fostering respect and understanding between communities. Hyman’s mother, Mavis, is originally from Kolkata in India; her father has since died.

“What we are trying to provide is a healthy and enthusiastic narrative about other countries,” Esther said, “mainly because we feel that we can’t say to young people, ‘Don’t do this,’ without providing them with an alternative narrative.”

Students will also be encouraged to take part in an altruistic group activity, such as running a fundraising event, “so they understand that they, as individuals, can impact on the real world and make a difference to the lives of others. A lot of young people who are taken down the path of extremism are missing a sense of purpose and belonging, and we hope to provide a sense of high self-esteem that comes from helping others, rather than the alternative, from hating others.”

“This is an increasingly troubled and dangerous world and it’s changing very quickly,” said professor Chris Husbands, vice provost of the IoE. “It’s 10 years since 7/7 and children in secondary schools have no serious memory of it, but this is part of their world. The IoE is committed to ensuring that young people are well educated for the world in which they are going to live.”

The project is web-based, with the intention that it can be used in any English-speaking setting globally. “The possibility that we are doing something in her name to counteract what we are seeing on a daily basis on the news, would mean that the events of 7/7 hadn’t happened for nothing. It would mean that she hadn’t died for nothing,” Esther said.

“If we can help even one young person to have a more open, more critical mind to approach the propaganda they are presented with, if one person proactively becomes an active member of their community, we will feel that we have done our job.”

She and her mother plan to mark the anniversary of the atrocity at a succession of memorial events next Tuesday, the 10th anniversary of the attacks: a memorial service at St Paul’s Cathedral during which a minute’s silence will be observed across London’s transport network, a commemoration of survivors and victims’ families at Hyde Park at the permanent memorial to the 52 dead, and finally at a private family gathering of what Esther describes as “team Mim” at their local park in Golders Green.

“We find that that mutual support makes what would otherwise be a much more difficult day far more bearable.”

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