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Far-Right Extremism Echoes Across Europe

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Message Abdus-Sattar Ghazali
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Germany has seen a new record high in the number of politically motivated criminal cases in 2020, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said on Tuesday.

The number of such crimes has increased by 8.5% in the past year -- to just under 45,000, he said at a news conference in Berlin. That is a new high, said Seehofer, calling the latest figures "very worrying."

Tellingly, according to Far Right Extremism in Europe report of January 2021, Europe faces a growing threat of far-right terrorism. But the movements are not confined by borders or seaboards, instead, "the modern far-right is currently undergoing a broader and more fundamental shift" the report says, "the emergence of a transnational and post-organizational threat."

Building on recent trends internationally, and following in the footsteps of the hyper-polarization of politics in the United States, far right-terrorism continues to pose a threat in Europe, according to the State of Hate report.

More than 100 pages report pointed out that 2020 saw the European far-right become extremely animated in response to the Black Lives Matter demonstrations that took place across the continent and existing racial nationalist activists and organizations, already preoccupied with the concept of race, have used the Black Lives Matter protests to push their existing political platform to a wider audience.

Some elements of the far-right that have traditionally distanced themselves from open racial politics, promoting instead 'cultural nationalism', have become more willing and open to explicitly racial politics in response to Black Lives Matter protests. Whether this shift is permanent will remain to be seen but in the short-to-medium term we have seen cultural nationalism cede ground to racial nationalism within parts of the European far-right.

The report cited far-right events, such as the mass shooting in Hanau, Germany, at two Shisha bars that claimed nine lives, to the re-election victory of far-right leader Andrzej Duda in Poland taking place in 2020. A large number of arrests and activity online related to terrorism and violence existed as well in the past year, the report says, which surveyed more than 11,000 people across eight European countries, with networks of individuals perpetuating acts of violence spreading internationally.

An international far-right

Under the title of "an international far-right" the Report said:

"While it remains important to explore trends in traditional far right organisations such as political parties, the modern far-right is currently undergoing a broader and more fundamental shift; namely the emergence of a transnational and post-organisational threat. The European far-right scene today is a mixture of formalised far-right political parties, such as the Sweden Democrats, Vox in Spain, Lega in Italy and the AfD in Germany, and a series of looser, transnational far-right movements comprised of a disparate array of individuals collectively but not formally collaborating.

"In the age of the internet we have seen the emergence of disparate movements such as the anti-Muslim 'counter-jihad' movement and the international alt-right. While all these groupings have formal organisations within them, they are often post-organisational. Thousands of individuals, all over the world, offer micro-donations of time and sometimes money to collaborate towards common political goals, completely outside traditional organisational structures.

"Now, from the comfort and safety of their own homes, far-right activists can engage in politics by watching YouTube videos, visiting far right websites, networking on forums, speaking on voice chat services like Discord and trying to convert 'normies' on mainstream social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. The fact that this can all be done anonymously greatly lowers the social cost of activism.

"These new movements are best understood as a many-headed hydra. If one prominent activist or leader falls from grace, it is no longer a fatal hammer blow; others will simply emerge and the besmirched are discarded. Of fundamental importance is that these movements are genuinely transnational. While activists will generally be primarily preoccupied with local or national issues, they invariably contextualise them continentally or even globally.

"Often activists from all over the world come together for short periods to collaborate on certain issues and these loose networks act as synapses passing information around the globe. An Islamophobe in one country outraged by the serving of halal chicken in their local fast-food restaurant can post on social media and the story will spread through the network. If picked up by a 'supersharer' (an especially influential activist with a large social media following) that local story will be picked up by likeminded Islamophobes all over the world and act as more 'evidence' and further convince them of the threat of 'Islamification'.

"If we are to truly understand the contemporary far right, we must therefore change our thinking. We live in a shrinking world: be it in our own community, our own country, continent or globe, we are interconnected like never before.

"The tools at our disposal to build a better, fairer, more united and collaborative world are also in the hands of those who are using them to sow division and hatred around the world. If we want to understand the dangers posed by the politics of hatred and division we can no longer just look at our street, our community or even our country, we must think beyond political parties, formal organizations and even national borders."

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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
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