The Enemy Within

by Sayeeda Warsi, Allen Lane, £20

This apologia pro vita sua by Britain’s most distinguished Muslim politician is a well-judged mixture of anecdote, fine-grained political analysis and prophetic jeremiad against the myopic mutual gaze of the British establishment and our Muslim minorities. The focus is narrowly directed on Whitehall’s travails with Islam and Muslims. Those hoping for a discussion of non-security related dimensions of British Muslim life should look elsewhere.

At the book’s heart lies a detailed account of the evolution of counter-terrorism policy under David Cameron, whose steady shift towards a punitive and inquisitorial approach she justly laments. “Speak the truth,” says the Koran, “even against your own people”, and Warsi, although a diehard Conservative, writes in obedience to this. One is braced and challenged, and ultimately impressed, by her evident anguish in denouncing the hostility of her own political colleagues not only to her views on British Muslim communities but also to her religion itself.

One recalls the Koranic tale of the Pharaoh of the Exodus and the minions of his unbelieving and xenophobic oligarchy: in his palace only one believer stood firm for decent principles, a woman. The prophet of Islam tells us that battered wives will earn a reward akin to that of the good woman downtrodden by Pharaoh, and Warsi clearly bears many scars, with more, probably, to come.

She documents the slide to a frankly anti-Muslim stance in many Conservative inner circles, and the growth in influence of right-wing think tanks. She laments the reluctance of Conservative conferences to allow Muslims to exhibit or hold fringe meetings. She reports with dismay Conservative efforts to brand Sadiq Khan as an extremist sympathiser during the 2016 London mayoral race.

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