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Mon 16 September 2019
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Byline Times examines the increase in white radicalisation in the West

The UK must open its eyes to the increasing threat posed by ‘far-right’ groups to the West.

In the past few years, for example, the UK has seen the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox by a Britain First supporter and the popularity of figures such as Tommy Robinson on the rise. Darren Osborne who killed Muslim worshippers outside a London mosque claimed he had been inspired by Robinson’s tweets.

In the US, emboldened by the election of Donald Trump, we have in recent months seen an attack on a Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh (in which 11 people were killed) by an alleged white supremacist and a plethora of letter bombs sent to many of Trump’s high-profile critics by one of his supporters.

In the past decade, 71% of the 387 murders committed by extremists in the United States have been perpetrated by the far right, while Muslims were responsible for 26%.

At a ‘unite the right’ rally in August 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia, counter-protestor Heather Heyer was killed when a right-wing protestor drove his car into a crowd of people.

In a speech in London in February, the UK’s counter-terrorism police chief, Mark Rowley, warned that far-right groups were “reaching into our communities through sophisticated propaganda and subversive strategies, creating and exploiting vulnerabilities that can ultimately lead to acts of violence and terrorism,” adding that the “threat was considerable at this time”.

The number of far-right extremists being reported to the UK Government’s Prevent programme in recent years has increased. Between 2007 and 2012, concerns were raised about 177 people. In 2012 to 2017, that number rose to 2,489 of a far-right persuasion.

Meanwhile, 2017 was one of the deadliest years on record for domestic extremist violence in the US since 1970. An Anti-Defamation League study found that, in the past decade, 71% of the 387 murders committed by extremists in the United States had been perpetrated by the far-right, while Muslims were responsible for 26%.

We have also witnessed the emergence and growth of right-wing groups and parties in much of Europe, as well as in Australia. There are a number of parallels between many of these groups. They exploit grievances (such as immigration, jihadist attacks, demographic change) and employ similar narratives (that liberal elites are to blame, notions of ‘white genocide’, traditional anti-Semitic tropes) to recruit and inspire followers.

Speaking to Byline Times, Tahir Abbas, an academic at the London School of Economics who has carried out extensive research on radicalisation in the UK, emphasised the societal causes of this phenomenon. For him, “it is without a doubt that far-right extremism has increased significantly in the last few years… those left behind by the ravages of neoliberal capitalism, largely concentrated in the north, where next to no benefits from it are to be found, are outraged, aggrieved and politically disenfranchised… with Muslim groups often on the receiving end of the greatest levels of vilification and demonisation in both media and politics”.

Mr Abbas believes the rise of the far-right is also a backlash against multiculturalism and diversity, as well as the prominence of women in society, whether in the education system or in the labour market. In his view, “a crisis of masculinity is also conflating a sense of what it is to be a man, which has fundamentally altered in the light of the changing nature of economies and societies over the last four decades and largely as a result of the processes of deindustrialisation that have also broken down traditional forms of urban patriarchy.”

Far-right extremism and Muslim extremism “are two sides of the same coin”, according to the academic, who said they have been caused by similar factors, affecting similar demographics and reinforce one another. He believes policy-makers are missing a major trick in “failing to acknowledge and not acting upon these inter-relationships”.

For journalist C J Werleman, who writes extensively on issues affecting Muslims, there is a Russian hand at play in the rise of the far-right. Talking to Byline Times, he argued that the threat of far-right extremism is rising across the West, with right-wing political parties and groups not only growing in terms of both influence and size but also being directly and indirectly supported by nation-state actors, notably Russia.

“The Kremlin views Western far-right political platforms as a vehicle to undermine democracy and social cohesion in Western democracies, utilising xenophobia and Islamophobia as the glue to mobilise support for far-right political parties and individuals, with hyper-nationalism serving as the guiding ideology,” he said.

However, Journalist Yvonne Ridley (who famously converted to Islam after being kidnapped by the Taliban) told Byline Times: “The right-wing threat has always been around, and it has been far worse in previous years, i.e. in 1930s Europe than it is today.

“Hate fuels this sort of negative growth towards immigrant and minority communities, and it usually thrives in conditions which promote poverty, unemployment and lack of economic growth.”

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