London and the War on Terror

The wail of police sirens has become the keynote sound of post-7/7 London, said Les Back at the Eurozine conference “Friend and foe. Shared space, divided society”. The “phobocity” is created not by the suicide bombers alone, but also by politicians and journalists who are concerned with the thought of the terrorists and who trade on people’s fears. The answer to this “politics of misrecognition” – which undermines not just our ability to coexist and share the public space, but also inhibits the ability to identify risk and danger – must be a political language that is against racism and terror with equal commitment and vigilance.

“If you listen, you can hear it”, writes John McGregor in the opening passage of his novel If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things. “The city, it sings… so listen, and there is more to hear.”1 Camus once commented that some cities “open to the sky like a mouth or wound”.2 Our city not only sings, it cries. The sound of London has changed dramatically. There have been few still moments in the London soundtrack since the 7 July 2005 bombings, the exception being the uneasy silence that filled the tube cars underground. After the second wave of abortive attacks on 21 July, commuters travelled silently to work, trying not to notice the policemen with their machine guns or the ethnically profiled stop and search policy that targeted people for being “Asian”- or “Arab”-looking. Both attacks occurred on Thursdays and the security level was heightened every Thursday that followed along with a corresponding atmosphere of fear and dreadful anticipation. Since that summer, the wail of police sirens has become what Murray Shaffer would call a keynote sound.3

The police car approaching from the Old Kent Road gains in volume as it dodges the traffic along Lewisham Way.4 There are other things contained in London’s soundtrack – the dull metallic moan of a jet airplane passing overhead carries some of the 90 million passengers that pass through London’s main airports each year. The sound of a motorcycle accelerating, moving cars and the squeak of their brakes as they come to a temporary halt are also there to be heard, a seagull passing overhead. It is perhaps an obvious point, but the targets of terror are more often than not technologies of movement – the bus, the underground, and the airplane. Phobic racists paste hateful graffiti on bus shelters or roadside walls in a vain attempt to slow down contact and human traffic.

Sounds are, after all, the sensing of vibration: our ears pick up the vibrations of movement. Listening to cosmopolitan London is different from looking at it, in part because race and racism operate within ocular grammars of difference. Listening admits presences in such encounters that can be missed in the visual play of skin. Sit on any London bus today and the languages you’ll hear are more likely to be Russian, Polish, or Portuguese Brazilian, depending on your route. These languages are the registers of new movements and migrations that are not always visually accessible. It is the sound of the police sirens that predominate and I wonder why the police use them so routinely. In Los Angeles, the LAPD have cleared whole areas by switching on their police car sirens simultaneously. The sirens contain a desire to control the space they fill. Perhaps the sirens have always been there and it is just that we notice them now – I doubt it, though. It is worth noting that police cars in Britain only started carrying sirens in 1965. The “twos and blues” (two tones and blue lights) are “get out of the way signs”, they have come to signal what Martin Amis calls a “nameless dread”.5

There is nothing inherent in the tones of the sirens themselves that produces this effect, and their frequency can and has been rendered into banal music. A student living on the New Cross Road told me that her infant starts to dance when she hears the police sirens. Rather, the effect has a history which aligns the sound of the siren to a state of emergency and domestic threat. Before the police had sirens and cars, they carried rattles and whistles, and only a few distinguished police cars – The Wolseleys – had the luxury of bells. The rattle shown here is particularly interesting because it was carried during the First World War to warn Londoners of the threat posed by German Zeppelin bomber raids. This connected the siren to fear of external attack, be it from a Zeppelin or, later, planes or rockets. Every police station in London was equipped with a siren from the 1940s onwards. They would be sounded during air raids or as flood warnings and were kept in use during the Cold War in case of a nuclear missile attack.

The sirens provide unintended sonic signposts. Regular convoys of high-security prisoners pass through New Cross from Her Majesty’s Prison at Belmarsh, SE28 en route to the High Courts in central London at Temple Bar. Belmarsh – opened in 1991 – holds more than 900 category-A prisoners, including suspects held under the anti-terrorist legislation. The prison, as a result, has been dubbed London’s Guantanomo Bay. Sometimes the procession of police cars and their high-security escorts find the route through south London hard to navigate. Regularly, they attempt to drive around the one-way system in New Cross the wrong way. The deafening gridlock that results produces a spectacle of panic, alarm, and emergency. These scenes of urban pandemonium could easily be avoided. The prison architects who built Belmarsh constructed a magistrate’s court opposite the prison. The idea behind the design was that the judicial and the penal elements of the system would be in the same place and prisoners could move from judgement to incarceration in the space of a few hundred meters. However, judges are reluctant to make the short journey to South East London and prefer the prisoners be brought to them, costing thousands of pounds. An exception was the recent appearance of the men accused of the failed 21 July suicide bomb attacks. This time the judge came to Belmarsh, where the four defendants were charged with “conspiracy to murder and cause explosions”. The Times described the scene at Belmarsh magistrate’s court on 8 August 2005 as “the tightest police guard ever seen […] Even plastic cups were screened for harmful substances”.6 In December that year, the suspects appeared in the courtroom of the Old Bailey via video link from the cells in Belmarsh.7 The sound of the sirens also reveals and betrays London’s carceral geography and how the complicities in the war on terror are part of local routines and realities.

The police siren is more often accompanied by the air-chopping sound of the police helicopters that hang in the sky as the motorcade snakes its way through the streets below. “Living in a street off the New Cross Road, I’m used to the sound of police sirens”, writes Jane, who works as an administrator at Goldsmiths College. “The helicopters are harder to become habituated to; in the evenings, the noise obliterates the sound of the TV, and the approaching searchlight inspires a peculiar feeling of guilt, a fear that it will eventually light up the house! When Abu Hamza8 was remanded in Belmarsh Prison, media coverage of his trial was incessant, but one day I realised that I could follow his progress, not by watching the news, but by listening out for the cacophony produced by the police cars escorting the prison transport vehicle in which he was being taken from Woolwich to the Old Bailey, up the New Cross Road, with a low-flying helicopter tracking the progress of the convoy.”9

The soundtrack of the war on terror throws a blanket over the city. The sirens create a sense of imminent threat in which dread and alarm is mutually enhanced.10 The sound of the police car and the helicopter is both a cause and an effect of the fear cast over London in the aftermath of the July bombings and part of the damage done as a result is the creation of a climate of misrecognition. The shooting at Stockwell tube station of young Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes by the police is an example of deadly misrecognition. On 22 July – the day after the second wave of abortive attacks – the policeman saw a “suicide bomber” in their sights and shot him. He was just a young man running away from officers toting automatic weapons. A makeshift memorial has been erected outside Stockwell station, a place where news and information relating to the killing can be posted for local people and also where flowers of remembrance can be laid.

Fear of the enemy next door

The kind of misrecognition I am trying to describe is to be found in the stare of passengers who look anxiously at a young Asian man struggling to carry a heavy bag on to the bus. A London Transport poster campaign told Londoners “Don’t Make Your Bag a Suspect”. It was not bags that identified the suspects, but skin tones and beards. The shooting of Mohammed Abdul Kahar on spurious intelligence is another example. Mohammed Abdul Kahar, 23, and Abul Koyair, 20, were arrested in the 2 June 2006 raid on their home in Forest Gate, east London, involving 250 officers. After his release, Mohammed Abdul Kahar wrote of the ways in which he and his family had been terrorised: “I feel the only crime I have done, in their eyes, is being an Asian with a long-length beard.”11 They were released with no charge but at no time were they told why their house was raided so violently. They had been reported because they had grown beards, shaved their heads, and attended the local mosque more frequently.

We are all looking at each other differently and this is attested by the ordinary tales of many people moving across a cosmopolitan city in the shadow of 7 July. London’s transport police stopped 6747 people between July and August 2005 under anti-terrorism laws. The ethnic profiling of these stops is very stark: 2390 stops were Asians (35 per cent of the total) and 2168 were whites (32 per cent of the total). In London, Asians comprise 12 per cent of the population, while whites make up 63 per cent.12 Asians were five times more likely to be stopped. The city of fear produces a politics of misrecognition. There has been much discussion and debate about the notion of recognition in discussions of multiculturalism, principally focusing on Charles Taylor’s ideas.13 The sirens don’t help us hear each other or to speak against this fear – rather they make our voices inaudible.

Tiggy was stuck on an underground train just outside of Stockwell station the day Jean Charles de Menezes was shot. “I was trying to make my way through town and the tube stopped suddenly. My first thought was, ‘Damn, this is going to make me late.'”14 Tiggy spent many years in South Africa, where she was involved in anti-racist politics. “We were told a suicide bomber was in the train ahead – my first response was, ‘I hope they killed him first.'” The police did shoot first, after restraining him, they shot the young Brazilian seven times in the head. “Isn’t that awful,” Tiggy reflected later. “You start to see the world the way the police do.” Part of the work that the sirens do in our time is to maintain the constant sense of war and emergency and amplify fear. The phobocity is not created by the bombers alone – rather it is created by politicians and journalists who are concerned with the thought of them and who trade on people’s fears.

Suresh Grover, long time civil rights activist, commented that the left has been guilty of looking upon the life of “the ghetto from a kind of political suburbia”.15 Academic debates about multiculture have been similarly confined by a lack of willingness to ask searching questions about the authoritarianism of the powerless. Some inside those communities are fearful of speaking against the purveyors of absolutist religious politics publicly. In the current climate, the New Labour government created a space for a faith-based politics to flourish. Chetan Bhatt has commented that faced with the complexities of the present, the government has reverted to the old colonial strategy of operating through the “community of faith leaders”. The allure of “iron certainties” is captured by Hanif Kureishi’s film My Son the Fanatic (1997). The film is the fable of an immigrant father whose commitment and enchantment with Britain – even in the face of racism – is cast against his son’s rejection of it. Refuting the mores of the world into which he was born and bred, the son embraces intolerant forms of political Islam and lectures his elder that “in the end our cultures […] they cannot be mixed”. The father protests that everything is “mingling already together”. Through gritted teeth, the son says: “Some of us are wanting something more besides muddle.” The embrace of purity and an idealisation of the past is a way out of the muddle of modern life. Kureishi’s message is that we are living in a time when people suffer not from doubt but from certainty, false certainties that compensate for worldly misgivings and hurts. These are not just relevant to the figures in Kureishi’s fable but also to the political caste in the White House and Downing Street.

The mundane, unspectacular ways in which people live with the muddle of cosmopolitan life needs to be defended against those who exaggerate its failure. As I suggested earlier, you can find the qualities of this precious muddle in any hospital waiting room. It was here that the victims of the 7 July bombings were brought for refuge and care. Healthcare workers from all around the world tended to sick patients. The ultimate triviality of our racial or cultural differences was communicated as the doctors and nurses concentrated on healing and saving lives. These are places of hope where multiculture is ordinary, routine, and self-evident. This does not mean that it is simply a matter of asserting that everything is alright, that bombs do not detonate everyday, of celebrating the fact that the dominant experience is that people live with the muddle and mess of multicultural life most of the time. There are hard things to face, and Suresh Grover is right to challenge us all to stop speaking – whether politically or academically – from the false comfort of a political suburbia. This means finding a political language that is against racism and terror with equal commitment and vigilance.

Perhaps an awareness of the fragility and preciousness of life itself is the lasting resource left in the wake of these terrible events. Any Londoner could have been unlucky, the blast didn’t discriminate and no one is immune. Faced with the chaos on the underground that July morning, Shahara Islam decided to give up on trying to get to work. She caught the number 30 bus en route to the shops in London’s West End. On the bus was nineteen-year-old Hasib Hussein, the youngest of the four suicide bombers. Hasib, born in Leeds and of Pakistani parentage, had tried to join the Northern line at Kings Cross but it was closed. At 9.47am, he detonated his bomb, ripping the roof off the bus and killing Shahara Islam and 12 other people. She grew up in Whitechapel, east London, and was the oldest of three children. Her father Shamsul moved to the capital in the 1960s and is a supervisor with Transport for London. Her Bangladeshi family suffered a longer wait for confirmation than the other victim’s loved ones. Some believe this was because the police suspected her of being the bomber. Forensic analysis soon ruled her out. She was just a young Muslim woman who chose to do the most ordinary thing for an East End girl: presented with an opportunity to skive off work, she went shopping. “She was an Eastender, a Londoner, and British, but above all a true Muslim and proud to be so,” wrote her family in a statement issued after the bombings.16 The suicide bombers killed themselves and also people like themselves, striking not against some far off enemy but at their own cultural and historical mirror image. The ordinariness of multiculture needs to be apprehended alongside the bombers’ apparent disregard for the traces they carried in themselves.

Tony Blair and the British government have used the threat of terrorism in order to gain popularity for limiting the rights of those accused suspects and extending the powers of the police force. On 28 February, the Prime Minister told the audience of BBC Radio 4’s Women’s Hour programme that “there are several hundred of them [terrorists] in this country who we believe are engaged in plotting or trying to commit terrorist acts”. In the summer of 2005, responding to pressure from the tabloid press, Blair launched his hastily conceived “twelve-point plan” for tackling terror, including the ill-fated amendment of the 2000 Terrorism Bill that proposed to give police the power to detain suspects for up to 90 days without charge, which was defeated in the Commons on 9 November 2005. Prior to the release of the official account of London bombings in May 2006, a newspaper quoted a security source saying that the number suspected of involvement in “terror networks” had increased threefold to 700 and then in the run-up to the anniversary of 7 July, estimates were put at at least 1200.17 The figures released by the Home Office showed that up to 30 September 2005, 895 people were arrested under the Terrorism Act 2000. Only 23 of those people arrested were convicted of terrorism offences.18 In the midst of these inflated figures, the actual number of people subjected to a control order is less than twenty.19 Fear of the enemy next door has become a key weapon in statecraft, placating the populism of the tabloid press and garnering political support and public opinion. This strategy is as ancient as the art of politics itself. Niccolò Machiavelli wrote over four hundred years ago that “a prince ought to inspire fear in such a way that, if he does not win love, he avoids hatred”.20 Whether or not the modern Princes are reviled is a moot point, but there is a cost in winning consent through fear: it unleashes and reinvigorates racism, spoiling the ground of multicultural encounter. As Benjamin Barber commented: “[…] it is not terrorism but fear that is the enemy, and in the end, fear will not defeat fear”.21

Patriotism in fragments

In his first inaugural address in 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt said famously that “we have nothing to fear but fear itself”. He could have been addressing our times when he dissected this sense of trepidation: “Nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyses needed efforts to convert retreat into advance”.22 Induced by the great economic depression, he comforted his fellow citizens that such “common difficulties” concerned “only material things”.23 This is a stark contrast to the rhetoric of today’s political leaders, who miss no opportunity to exaggerate the threat of terror and to use it as a means to justify the war against it. Far from material, this war seems permanent and metaphysical. Less a struggle against the conditions of life, it is more a matter of selfhood, re-instituted national identity, and the maintenance of a boundary between “us” and “them” in an irreversibly connected world society.

The day before the first anniversary of the London attacks, a video of Shehzad Tanweer – the Aldgate East bomber – was released and broadcast on the Arab news agency al-Jazeera. It bore all the hallmarks of the recording by Mohammed Sidique Khan, combining a hectoring address and denouncement of the war in Iraq in an all-too-familiar-sounding voice.24 It was an immediate reminder of the events of the previous year. Anxious silences fell on many trains and underground carriages. Michael Keith, professor of sociology and local politician, commented:

On the day before the anniversary of the bomb, I went to Aldgate East station, as I do several times a week. I was travelling in rush hour but the station was noticeably less busy than it would be normally at that time. In the terms of that cliché, you could feel the tension. How? Most times when you stand waiting for the tube, the pavement ballet of the station signals the “busyness” of London but also the informalities of the city as people move quickly through, rapidly moving to one side and another, recognising a shared space and separate destinations. This time it was like people had lost their choreography, stepping carefully through the platform, a polite concentration on who they stood next to, who they made way for, belying the sixth sense of everyday commuter rush. But the biggest giveaway was when we got on to the train. Most of the people at the station were not white, they were predominantly Bangladeshi but also African, Chinese, and the usual east end ethnic admixture. But most were dressed western. And on the train, a bearded man sat alone dressed in traditionally Islamic style. We looked at each other as the rest of the full carriage studiously avoided sitting in the vacant chair next to him. A phrase kept coming back to me that somebody had told me – suicide bombers shave before their final hour to make themselves ready for death. The safest man on the tube is the one with the beard.25

The politics of misrecognition and fear damages the choreography of life. It undermines not just our ability to coexist and share the public space of the bus or underground carriage, it also inhibits the ability to identify risk and danger. The politics of misrecognition licences racism; the anxieties produced do not observe the binaries of the colour line and no one is completely free of them.

The maintenance of these boundaries results in comic as well as tragic effects, moments of almost pure absurdity. Anti-terrorist police escorted a man from a plane London-bound from Durham because he had been listening to the Clash’s 1979 punk rock anthem “London Calling”. The story was reported widely in the popular press.26 During the taxi ride from Hartlepool in northeast England to Teeside airport, twenty-five-year-old Harraj “Rab” Mann listened to his MP3 player through a portable stereo packed full of rock classics from a pantheon of British music, including Procul Harem, Led Zeppelin, Ocean Colour Scene, the Beatles, and the Clash. It was Clash lyrics that raised suspicion in the police’s mind: “London calling to the faraway towns. Now war is declared – and battle comes down. London calling to the underworld. Come out of the cupboards, you boys and girls.” The clarion call was interpreted not as a retro incitement to youth cultural rebellion but as suspiciously jihadist in nature.

The story bears closer scrutiny. Harraj documented his experience through a weblog and this is how I got in touch with him.27 Speaking on the telephone, he told me he preferred to be called “Rab” and that Harraj was his “Sunday name”. “You have to laugh about it, but it’s been my friends – who are mostly white – that have been most angry. I know incidents like this occur regularly around London because my relatives tell me about it. In Hartlepool, I genuinely forget that I am Asian. I have a few Asian or black friends, but there’s not a lot of Asian people at Durham Airport. When I go out drinking, it’s always me that is stopped. I just laugh about it, but I realise it’s not really funny.”28 Contrary to the press reports, it later unfolded that he had not been reported to the police by the taxi driver who heard his seditious music. On entering the airport he had a minor altercation with the airport security staff that had been hostile and rude to him. It was these “toy cops” who notified the anti-terrorist police who subsequently questioned the taxi driver about what had happened during the taxi journey.29

The reason Rab was bound for London that day was to meet up with some of his family who live in Southall and Illford. Part of the intention behind his journey to London was to find out more about Sikhism – his family’s faith – and his background: “You need faith but religion is a double-edged sword. When politics and religion get involved, it all goes to pot. I am agnostic.”30 Rab has an A level in sociology and he has his own theories about how things have changed since the London bombings. “The world’s gone mad – it really has. You know you’ve only got to look at music, it is mix and blurred and people are mixed too. I mean like food, I love Italian food, Chinese food, and I love Indian food. But there is just this stereotype and people make assumptions. I get little nine-year-olds calling me ‘Paki’ with such venom. I turn round to them and say ‘are you Irish, or Welsh, or Scottish?’ They look confused and then I explain that ‘there is this place called Pakistan and another placed called India and my parents come from India. I was born in Yorkshire and I have lived in England longer than you have been alive.’ Sometimes you can see the shock in their face when I speak with a British accent. It saddens me.” Rab is not planning to take his case against the airport security any further, preferring to concentrate on his future and his plans to do a degree in graphic design and later to study philosophy at postgraduate level.

Rab’s everyday life is a story of heterogeneous British multiculture, in which cultural and religious fragments and ideologies coexist as a simple fact of life, albeit reflected upon and questioned with openness. The irony is that the the Clash’s “London Calling” could have been viewed as an indicator of his integration, a link with the history that is encoded in post-war British youth cultures. Rab’s story is far from the only example of this syndrome. On 19 April 2004 the police announced that they had seized a terrorist gang just as it prepared to launch a suicide bombing attack on Manchester United’s Old Trafford Stadium. The police arrested eight men, one woman, and a sixteen-year-old youth. No charges were ever laid. Journalist Peter Oborne interviewed one of the suspects, a Kurdish asylum seeker, who said that in the context of the police interrogation, the young man had revealed that he was a Manchester United fan. The police search of his flat revealed football paraphernalia, including a poster of Old Trafford and ticket stubs that the suspect had kept as a souvenir when he had visited the ground to see his team play Arsenal the year before. Oborne concluded: “The Kurds I spoke to had come to Britain in order to escape the brutality of Saddam Hussein’s regime. Perhaps their most meaningful emotional connection with Britain was a love for Manchester United, which was why they kept the souvenirs in their flat […] Nevertheless, the police probably viewed the Manchester United souvenirs as potential evidence of a bomb plot.”31 The results were that, branded as criminals, the falsely accused lost their homes, jobs, and friends.32 A Clash song or a Manchester United programme in the “wrong hands” is terrorism incognito rather than evidence of British attachments or multiculture. This is resonant with Paul Gilroy’s observation that racism’s ire is now “turned toward the greater menace of the half different and the partially familiar”.33 They are manifestations of the abuses that the war on terror has made routine.

Such complexities cast doubt on the view that a stronger sense of national identity is the answer. Tariq Modood is scornful of writers who characterise Britishness as a “hollowed-out, meaningless project whose time has come to an end”.34 The solution, he suggests, “has to be a multiculturalism that is allied to, indeed is the other side of the coin of, a renewed and reinvigorated Britishness”.35 The problem, as Paul Gilroy has shown trenchantly, is that Britishness remains haunted by its imperial past, which it will neither confront nor let go of. A reinvigoration of Britishness, in Gilroy’s diagnosis, also enlivens an imperial psychopathology of manic elation postcolonial melancholia.36 As George Orwell pointed out: “Every nationalist is haunted by the belief that the past can be altered”.37 The past cannot be altered, it can either be faced up to or denied. Accordingly, I want to argue for something that might be referred to as a patriotism in fragments.

The much-maligned Millennium Dome included an exhibit entitled the “Self-Portrait Zone” sponsored by Marks and Spencer. A spiralling ramp contained four hundred photographic images with captions nominated by people living in Britain. Subtitled “Britain by the British”, it reflected a complex past and present in what might appear trite or commonplace. Alongside images of garden sheds, pots of Marmite spread, and digestive biscuits were photographs of musician Talvin Singh and the memorial plaque to murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence that is set in the pavement of Well Hall Road in Eltham, South East London. The debate on multiculturalism is dominated by material metaphors. Commentators often invoke the idea of a “mosaic” with hard, discrete edges and of multicultural society as the likeness assembled from these discrete pieces. Here culture is like a casino chip that can be traded, gambled, and risked. Alternatively, the notion of the “melting pot” draws on the legacy of an American racial nomology in which the heated encounters liquefy difference and produce fusion. What all these metaphors share is some sense that culture has an inherent material property that is either fixed, as in the pieces of a mosaic, or has changed its properties as a result of the heat of some transformation.38 Perhaps, the notion of a fragment that refuses to represent some inherent difference – like those four hundred photographs – offers another kind of metaphor.

Orwell, in the much cited passage from the Lion and the Unicorn, lists what he considers the “characteristic fragments”, the “dozens of small things that conspire” to give a feeling of place.39 Orwell did as much as anyone to confer the trivial pleasures of life – be it a “nice cup of tea” or the enjoyment of English cooking – on serious cultural study.40 There can be no assemblage of these fragments into some stable coherent national identity. Rather, nationalism remains shattered regardless of the efforts of all the king’s horses and all the king’s men to put it back together. What endure are pieces that can be shared and combined that conduct identification without requiring a stable identity at its core. This patriotism of fragments breaks with the longing for stable or whole identities and foregrounds that such grand national identities are forever in pieces. The affinities that result are loose, changing, and open yet powerful like the photographs collected in the Millennium Dome exhibit. The patriotism of fragments contains incommensurable political energies and forces where imperial nostalgia can resonate alongside a future-orientated inclusive worldly diversity. I think it is here that we should look to both describe and valorise what others like Paul Gilroy refers to as a convivial culture in which “a degree of differentiation can be combined with a large measure of overlapping”.41

This is an excerpt from Les Back’s forthcoming book The Art of Listening, which will be published by Berg in July 2007.

This article is based on a contribution to the panel discussion “Parallel lives. Cultural diversity and inequality in the urban space”, which took place at the 19th European Meeting of Cultural Journals in London from 27-30 October 2006.

Jon McGregor, If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things, London: Bloomsbury, 2002, 1-2.

Albert Camus, Summer in Algiers, London: Penguin, 2005, 1.

Murray Shaffer, The Soundscape: Our Sonic Environment and Tuning the World, Richmond, Vermont: Destiny Books, 1994, 58.

The recording made on 28 September 2005 can be heard at

Martin Amis, Visiting Mrs. Nabokov and Other Essays, London: Vintage, 2005, 146.

Simon Freeman, "Maximum security as London bomb suspects appear in court",,,22989-1726498_1,00.html.

Associated Press, "London bombing suspects appear in court, via video",

Abu Hamza is a Muslim cleric convicted in 2006 for incitement to racial hatred and murder.

Jane Offerman, personal communication email, Monday, 15 May 2006.

Sound has been put to work by the torturers and interrogators of prisoners in solitary confinement, where they are subjected to high-volume music often accompanied by flashing lights. The music played is a bizarre range, from heavy metal rock, such as Metallica's "Enter Sandman", to songs from children's television, including the "I Love You Song" from Barney & Friends, a purple dinosaur puppet show. See Jon Ronson, The Men Who Stare at Goats, Basinstoke and Oxford: Picador, 2004, 130-131. More chillingly, Moazzam Begg -- a British detainee in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba -- wrote in his memoir of how he was subjected to the continuous sound of a woman screaming. See Moazzam Begg, Enemy Combatant: A British Muslim's Journey to Guantanamo and Back, London: The Free Press, 2006, 161.

Mohammed Abdul Kahar, "I just thought: one by one they are going to kill us", The Independent, 14 June 2006. 2.

Vikram Dodd, "Asian men targeted in stop and search", The Guardian, 17 August 2005.

Amy Gutmann, ed., Multiculturalism and the Politics of Recognition, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994.

Field notebook, 27 July 2005.

Suresh Grover, "After 7/7", Xenos Conference, Goldsmiths College, 15 February 2006.

"Obituary: Shahara Islam", BBC News,

See "Security services identify 700 potential al-Qa'ida terrorists at large in Britain", The Independent, 10 May 2006, and Frank Gardner, "One year on: Is the UK any safer?", BBC News,

Audrey Gillan, Richard Norton-Taylor, and Vikram Dodd, "Raided, arrested, released: the price of wrong intelligence," The Guardian, Monday, 12 June 2006,,,1795482,00.html.

Peter Oborne, The Uses and Abuses of Terror, 17.

Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince, London: M. Dent and Sons, 1958, 93.

Benjamin Barber, Fear's Empire: War, Terrorism, and Democracy, New York: W. W. Norton and Company Inc, 2003, 32.

Franklin D Roosevelt, "Inaugural Address, 4 March 1933," in Samuel Roseman, eds., The Public Papers of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Volume Two: The Year of Crisis, 1933, New York: Random House, 1938, 11-16.

Ibid. 11.

Sarah O'Neill and Daniel McGrory, "I blame war in Iraq and Afghanistan, 7/7 Bomber says in video", The Times, 7 July 2006, 4.

Personal communication email, 12 July 2006.

"Man Taken off Plane", Hartlepool Mail, 3 April 2006; "Man held as terrorism suspect over punk song", Reuters, Wednesday, 5 April 2006; "Clash Fan Taken off Plane", The Sun, 5 April 2006; "Air Terror Alert Over Clash Hit", The Mirror, 5 April 2006.

Interview, 9 May 2006.

In the aftermath of a wave of airport terror alerts in the summer of 2006, two Manchester UMIST students -- Sohail Ashraf and Khurram Zeb -- were forced off a Monarch flight from Malaga, Spain. The mental atmosphere amongst the white passengers of paranoia and misrecognition was so intense that they were asked to leave the aeroplane: two Asian students enjoying the "quintessentially English tradition" of living it up in the sun were viewed as dangerous potential terrorists.


Peter Oborne, The Uses and Abuses of Terror, 28.

Ibid. 26.

Paul Gilroy, After Empire: Melancholia or Convivial Culture, London: Routeledge, 2004, 137.

Tariq Modood, "Remaking multiculturalism after 7/7", openDemocracy, 29 September 2005,, 7.


Paul Gilroy, After Empire: Melancholia or Convivial Culture, London: Routeledge, 2004; "Multiculture in Times of War", Inaugural Lecture, London School of Economics, Wednesday, 10 May 2006.

George Orwell, "Notes on nationalism", in The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters: Volume 3, eds. Sonia Orwell and Ian Angus, London: Penguin Books, 1970 [1945], 420.

For a full genealogy of the notion of the "melting pot", see Werner Sollors, Beyond Ethnicity: Consent and Descent in American Culture, New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986, 66-101.

George Orwell, "The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism and the English Genius", in The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters: Volume 2, eds. Sonia Orwell and Ian Angus, London: Penguin Books, 1970 [1941], 75.

George Orwell, "In defence of English cooking" and "A nice cup of tea", in The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters: Volume 3, eds. Sonia Orwell and Ian Angus, London: Penguin Books, 1970, 56-58 and 58-61.

Paul Gilroy, "Multiculture in Times of War", Inaugural Lecture, London School of Economics, Wednesday, 10 May 2006, 28.

Published 15 November 2006
Original in English

© Les Back Eurozine


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