A Suitable Enemy

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Liz Fekete, Pluto; £17.99

One of the most revealing and alarming aspects of A Suitable Enemy is the way in which it describes the same phenomenon erupting across western Europe, country by country, maybe at different speeds, but all moving towards the same barbaric endpoint.

Take the case of the 12 students (11 from Pakistan and one British) swept up by the police in Manchester and Lancashire at the start of last month amid lurid headlines fed to the unquestioning media about imminent attacks. They have been released without charge and handed over to immigration authorities to face possible deportation.

In July 2005 ten Pakistani students studying in Cyprus were deported by the authorities for being suspected of Al Qaida connections. No evidence was ever put forward that they had committed a crime. An unnamed Cypriot security source told Reuters, "I can't tell you whether they are members of Al Qaida - we are not sure of that - but it is certain that they fit the profile of terror suspects." Switch back to Manchester and a newspaper report that "hundreds of police officers carried out the raids in Liverpool, Manchester and Clitheroe as police monitoring emails and internet 'chatter' feared that a group of Al Qaida conspirators were ready to strike".

Or take the case of the Algerian terror poison plot splashed across the newspapers in 2003. Twenty North Africans were swept up in this operation, with the police telling the press they had discovered a stash of deadly ricin. Two months later another supposedly connected ricin plot was "uncovered" in Ireland, then a family in France was arrested, then 16 North Africans were detained in Spain and the whole caboodle ended up being cited by Colin Powell during his now infamous speech at the United Nations.

There was one problem - no such ricin plot existed. It was fictitious. The case against the Spanish "conspirators" collapsed before it came to court and those arrested in Britain were acquitted during trial. It then transpired that the original intelligence that led to innocent people being arrested and put through hell in four countries had been obtained under torture.

A Suitable Enemy is an extremely useful and timely book. Liz Fekete of the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) has performed an important service by explaining and combining studies of the different elements of modern racism post-9/11 and showing their connections and interdependence. By doing so she has provided a clear explanation and context for the myriad of racist sub-theories framing alarming and repressive government policies in Britain and across western Europe.

So, for example, Fekete shows that anti immigrant and asylum policies have merged in state legislation with hostility to Muslims and Islam, allowing politicians to conflate in the public mind two "demons" threatening Western society. These reactionary measures across Europe have created the space for xenophobic parties and hate-mongering individuals to peddle their poison, and have in turn put pressure on the state to enact more and more repressive laws.

Whole populations, peoples and one faith are being judged on whether they belong or not, whether they are like us or not. Those who fail the ever harder tests and barriers, physical and ideological, are increasingly named, imprisoned and expelled. This is driven by what Fekete terms Xeno-Racism; it is both a continuation of the racism of post Second World War Europe and a break from it, to encompass people who may or may not display a "visible difference".

We have special thanks to give to Fekete for her chapter entitled "Enlightened Fundamentalism? Immigration, Feminism and the Right". A version of this was originally a chapter in the IRR journal Race and Class, in 2006, and broke new ground. Here the author takes to task those feminists who have wilfully provided the neocons with intellectual cover for the prosecution of the "war on terror".

Fekete cites the example of Susan Moller Okin, "whose central thesis was that multiculturalism and concessions to difference now posed a threat to the fragile gains made by Western liberal feminists over the decades". Okin posed the question, "Is multiculturalism bad for women?" and her solution was an assimilation into a European monoculture that asserted its civilisational dominance over Islam and non-Western cultures. As one Muslim commentator retorted, "If Western women are now vying for control of the lives of immigrant women by justifying coercive state action, then these women have not learned the lessons of history, be it colonialism, imperialism, or even fascism."

Fekete pointedly terms this a "feminist paternalism" and identifies that it also needs its cheerleaders from within Muslim communities. The most widely known is the former Dutch politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali who collaborated with the Islamophobic film Submission.

There is much, much more valuable information and many more arguments in A Suitable Enemy than I can hint at in a modest review. I strongly suggest you get hold of a copy and find out for yourself.