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After Hanau, the global rise of the far-right cannot be ignored

After Hanau, the global rise of the far-right cannot be ignored

Categories: Latest News

Thursday February 20 2020

In light of the tragic deaths of at least nine individuals in Germany this morning, MEND wishes to extend its thoughts and best wishes to all those affected by politically motivated violence. While the multiple factors and unanswered questions surrounding this case cannot be overlooked, the role of rising levels of far-right violence across the global context cannot be ignored.

Meanwhile, a toxic atmosphere of political divisiveness that has surrounded British politics since the EU referendum has a direct impact on the vulnerability of minority communities to hatred. The xenophobic attitudes and populist rhetoricthat have surrounded discussions of Brexit have become normalised within public spacesand compounded by Islamophobic statements made by our politicians, including the Prime Minister himself.

It is, therefore, imperative that lessons from Christchurch, Halle, and now Hanau are learned and that policies are implemented to protect minority communities.

Far-right violence is not a new nor isolated phenomenon. According to the GlobalTerrorismIndex, the UK suffered 12 far-right attacks in 2017. Meanwhile, the number of people imprisoned in relation to far-right activity increased by nearlyfivetimes in the two years following the murder of Jo Cox by Thomas Mair in 2016. Furthermore, despite the inherent flaws within the current PREVENT strategy, the number of far-right referrals has increased by 36% between the year 2016-17 and 2017-18.

It is also notable that research carried out by Queen Mary University examining sympathies for violent protest and terrorism (SVPT) amongst different ethnic and religious groups found that twice as many White Britons (15%) expressed extremist sympathies with SVPT versus those of Pakistani origin (8%) and that 18% of Christians were found to hold extremist views, compared to 8% of Muslims. Moreover, Europol figures show that separatist and ethno-nationalist organisations posea significant threat across EU countries. Indeed, 87% of terrorist attacks in 2017 were perpetrated by such ethno-nationalist or separatist individuals or groups. Consequently, the dangers posed by the far-right should not be underestimated.

At the same time, the levels of populist rhetoric within British political discourse provides fertile ground for far-right sentiments to thrive. MEND has produced a report documenting over 120 incidents of Islamophobia within the Conservative Party that have come to light in the last five years and which have emanated from over 60 conservative members of Parliament, councillors, and party candidates.

The consequences of the normalisation of xenophobic rhetoric within political discourse can be seen in hate crime reports. As but one example, MEND’s Islamophobia Response Unit (IRU) noted a 36% increase in reports of Islamophobic hate crime in the weeks following the Conservative victory in the general election in December 2019.

As Prime Minister, it is incumbent upon Mr Johnson to ensure the cohesion, safety, and prosperity of every citizen of this nation. In the words of John Maxwell, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way”. Moreover, it is only by taking meaningful steps towards eliminating hate within the party itself can minority communities have confidence in the Conservative Government’s willingness and ability to tackle hate crime in wider society.

MEND, therefore, calls upon the UK Government to

  1. Clearly and urgently outline its plans to tackle far-right politically motivated violence in the UK.
  2. Confirm its commitment to financing mosque security in a manner that is proportional to risk, in line with what is already correctly provided to Jewish religious institutions. 
  3. Outline its strategy to implement primary legislation to deal with social media offences and hate speech online, including the removal of extreme content.
  4. Confirm its commitment to working with social media companies to protect free speech while developing an efficient strategy to tackle hate speech online in consultation with Muslim grassroots organisations.
  5. Initiate an immediate Independent Inquiry into Islamophobia within the Conservative Party, with a view to explicitly including protections against Islamophobia in the Members’ Code of Conduct.

Read MEND’s briefing on protecting against violence from the far-right here.


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