The Far-Right: The Fastest Growing Terrorist Threat
Categories: Latest News
Monday October 21 2019
Earlier this month witnessed a devastating far-right terror attack against a synagogue in Halle, Germany, in which at least two people were killed. This attack is eerily similar to the terrorist attack against mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March 2019. Indeed, prosecutors have argued that the attacker in this case deliberately mimicked tactics used by the Christchurch attacker, with over 2,000 people watching a live stream of this latest attack on an online streaming platform and a far-right manifesto published online.
This latest tragedy reveals further evidence of a rising global threat of far-right violence and how mainstream social media platforms are being used to disseminate extreme content. The Government must radically recalibrate how far-right violence is understood and tackled within security discourses and strategies as well as outlining their strategy to implement primary legislation to deal with social media offences and online hate speech, including the removal of extreme content.
In September of this year, the Met Police pledged to thwart the rise of the far-right, which they announced was the fastest growing terrorist threat of terrorism in the UK. Home Office data indicates that the majority of terror-related suspects arrested last year (41%) were of white ethnicity, the highest proportion since March 2004. It can be argued that the ongoing rise of far-right extremism can be linked to polarising political discourses surrounding Brexit, which frequently revolves around divisive, xenophobic, and racist rhetoric. Indeed, counter-terror expert, Raffaello Pantucci, acknowledges that “the political mainstream discourse around questions of immigration and Muslim communities has been consistently dragged to the right, meaning previously less acceptable narratives are getting brought more into the mainstream. Brexit has also fed this, given the undertone of anti-immigrant narrative that has fed parts of the debate.”
The Met Police, in collaboration with the MI5, stated that they are currently carrying out 80 investigations into terror-related plots fuelled by white supremacist and far-right ideologies. They noted that the process of radicalisation and planning of attacks largely occurs online via social media platforms such as Facebook, 8chan and Twitter, allowing individuals to anonymously connect with far-right devotees throughout the world.
Investigators have also found far-right material on mainstream social media platforms, such as YouTube. The content on these platforms often serve as a gateway for users to be drawn to other sites that host increasingly extreme narratives. With the large audiences that these mainstream platforms attract, it is essential that the policies and procedures in place are sufficient to address hate speech and extreme content. As such, it is essential that the Government prioritise the implementation of primary legislation to deal with social media offences and online hate speech, including the removal of extreme content.
Religious institutions and buildings, such as mosques, synagogues, and gurdwaras, are often a visible symbol of the religio-cultural identities that they represent. Consequently, it is not uncommon for them to be targeted with violence, of which this year’s examples in Christchurch and Halle are perhaps the most extreme examples. At present, the Government commendably provides funds of £14million per year for synagogues and Jewish institutions. However, with no regular funding for mosques, the last ‘Places of Worship Security Fund’ launched in 2016 provided only £2.4 million to be distributed across mosques, churches, temples, gurdwaras, and other institutions. While the Government has recently announced plans to increase the funding available to religious institutions for security, comprehensive risk analysis to develop effective strategies and devise funding plans that are sufficient to address the threats is still urgently required.
Thus, MEND calls upon the Government to:
- Outline their plan to tackle far-right politically motivated violence in the UK.
- Commit to financing mosque security in a manner that is proportional to risk, in line with what is already correctly provided to Jewish religious institutions.
- Outline their strategy to implement primary legislation to deal with social media offences and hate speech online, including the removal of extreme content.
- 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.