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Strange Allies

George Michael's "The Enemy of My Enemy" details the unlikely alliance between militant Islam and the extreme right.

12:00 AM, Aug 9, 2006 • By DAVEED GARTENSTEIN-ROSS
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The extreme right and militant Islam now possess the same enemies. They both loathe the Jews and believe that the American government is controlled by a shadowy Jewish elite. Both movements also have revolutionary aspirations, seeking to replace the existing order with "monocultural states built around racial or religious exclusivity."

While both sides began to recognize these ideological similarities in the 1990s, 9/11 hastened the convergence of interests. After the Twin Towers collapsed, many far-right leaders exulted at both the punishment inflicted on the United States and the courage displayed by the hijackers. As National Alliance organizer Billy Roper said shortly thereafter: "The enemy of our enemy is, for now at least, our friends. We may not want them marrying our daughter, just as they would not want us marrying theirs. . . . But anyone willing to drive a plane into a building to kill Jews is all right by me."

Since then, here have been intensified efforts to build bridges between radical Islam and the extreme right. Ahmed Huber, a Swiss convert to Islam who is a self-proclaimed admirer of both Adolf Hitler and Osama bin Laden, jubilantly declared that 9/11 would help align the two movements: "The eleventh of September has brought together [the two sides] because the new right has reacted positively. . . . They say, and I agree with them 100 percent, what happened on the eleventh of September, if it is the Muslims who did it, it is not an act of terrorism but an act of counterterrorism."

In the United States, late National Alliance founder William L. Pierce praised Osama bin Laden prior to his death. The Aryan Nations established a Ministry of Islamic Liaison, and the group's head August Kreis declared his solidarity with Osama bin Laden during an interview with CNN. Kreis even advised bin Laden that his followers were willing to fight on al Qaeda's side: "They might not be cells of Islamic people, but they are here and they are ready to fight."

MICHAEL'S BOOK IS FAR from perfect. At some points, the reader is bombarded by page after page of block quotes, with very little analysis from the author. Moreover, the book is too long, with marginal issues explored in too much detail. This is evident from the very outset, as the book's ten-page introduction includes a six-page description of pre-9/11 debates about what direction the post-Cold War world would take, including an extended analysis of the divergent views of Francis Fukuyama and Samuel Huntington that summarizes without adding value.

Not only do these marginal issues test the reader's patience, but they also sometimes display Michael's unfamiliarity with the subjects at hand. For example, the book erroneously refers to Hezbollah as a Salafi group (page 58), and uncritically reiterates the apparently fabricated quote from Ariel Sharon that "we the Jewish people control America" (page 48).

Nonetheless, the value of The Enemy of My Enemy can be found in its in-depth study of the on-again, off-again love affair between radical Islam and the extreme right. How the latest chapter in this romance will play out remains to be seen. It may not result in joint operational work--neo-Nazi groups, in their current state of decline, may be viewed as a liability rather than an asset by Islamic militants. Moreover, although both movements despise Israel and the United States, they may prove incapable of overcoming the vast ideological divide that separates them.

But, even if a united terror front never emerges, there may be other long-term implications to the convergence between militant Islam and the extreme right. For example, the intellectual legitimacy afforded to extreme-right Holocaust deniers within the Muslim world may ultimately prove significant. This is a trend worthy of notice, and George Michael provides the best window available for glimpsing it.

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross is a senior consultant for the Gerard Group International LLC. His first book, My Year Inside Radical Islam, will be published in February 2007 by Tarcher/Penguin.