We have met the enemy and he is us

Walt Kelly famously coined the phrase ‘we have met the enemy and he is us’ in a Pogo comic strip in the 1950s. The phrase takes on a macabre prescience this week in the wake of the horrific attacks carried out in Norway. Islamophobia has driven great swatches of both domestic and foreign policy in the UK over the past several years; now we’re faced with the bitter irony of a terrorist attack seemingly masterminded by a blonde, blue-eyed, square-jawed aryan who somehow believed that he was spearheading a crusade for racial homogeneity. In other words, creeping fear and demonisation of Islam has led us to a moment of abject cruelty performed not by Muslims, but in the name of protecting Europe from some fantasy Muslim invasion.

Thus, it appears, have our pigeons come home to roost in dramatic fashion. The exaggerated threat attributed to the Muslim world has been used to justify the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the erosion of civil liberties at home, and a general uptick in suspicions and tensions between ethnic groups. Far from making us safer, we believe we’re now beginning to see the degree to which it has planted the seeds of divisiveness and hatred close to home.

Admittedly, the recent attacks did not take place on British soil. On the other hand, Anders Behring Breivik has reportedly claimed links with the English Defence League (EDL) and other far-right groups around Europe. The rise of groups such as the EDL, in our view, is far more troubling than tribal warfare in Afghanistan or dictatorship in Iraq. To say nothing of the fact that hard-right political parties are gaining ground across Europe.

This is the real terror. The threat that all we hold dear: liberal democracy, political freedoms, the right to self-determination, peace on our own soil, could be eroded by disenfranchised racist groups spawned by our own actions. It’s time to take that possibility seriously.

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