New Internationalist

A Suitable Enemy

November 2009

Racism, Migration and Islamophobia in Europe

In his foreword to this survey of EU immigration, asylum and security policies, A Sivanandan writes: ‘Facts do not speak for themselves – not in an age of disinformation, spin and deceit.’ In such diminished times we are fortunate to have commentators such as Liz Fekete to sift through the mediated dross that passes for debate and show what actually informs policy making.

Fekete argues that the far right has framed the political discourse on immigration: its assertions that asylum seekers are a threat, and its conflation of Islam with terrorism, have been accepted by mainstream opinion and propagated by both populist politicians and an irresponsible media. Tightening of European immigration criteria has gone in lockstep with ever more draconian policies on asylum seekers. Legislation introduced to ‘combat terrorism’ is used to suppress legitimate dissent within migrant communities, while rigid deportation rules dehumanize their victims, treating them as economic units rather than individuals with rights.

At the heart of A Suitable Enemy is Feteke’s dissection of what she terms xeno-racism: institutionalized racism based not on skin colour but on discrimination against those who refuse to ‘assimilate’ and accept an arbitrarily determined set of cultural norms. Recently, we can think of the ‘Britishness’ test for applicants for UK citizenship or Sarkozy’s comments on the hijab.

In this trenchantly argued and readable book, Liz Fekete has provided a valuable resource for those of us who believe that human rights for the élite few and the iron fist for the excluded many is neither a moral nor a sustainable policy.


This column was published in the November 2009 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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This article was originally published in issue 427

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