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Finsbury Park attack: The racist, right-wing extremist terror wave is here

With mainstream media that promotes Islamophobia and politicians rewarded for anti-Muslim stances, it is not difficult to understand why Westerners are becoming radicalised and carrying out acts of terror against Muslims

On Sunday evening, a van ploughed into a dozen Muslims outside Finsbury Park mosque in London. Earlier that day, a 17-year-old Muslim American girl was abducted and then brutally bludgeoned to death by a baseball bat wielding attacker. 

The Islamic State has succeeded in unleashing, empowering, and mobilising the worst racist, xenophobic elements in Western societies

These terrorist attacks, presumably carried out by xenophobic, far-right attackers, take their place within a broader spike of violence against Muslims in Europe and North America. After the Manchester attack on 22 May, anti-Muslim hate crimes increased by 500 percent. Since the London Bridge attack on 3 June, more than 50 incidents have been reported to authorities each day.

While most attacks carried out by right-wing terrorists are downplayed or ignored by the mainstream media, with one study finding attacks carried out by Muslims are overrepresented in the media by 449 percent, many are as deadly as any carried out by so-called “jihadist” motivated individuals.

In January, a Trump supporting, right-wing terrorist murdered six Muslim worshippers and wounded another 19 at an Islamic centre in Quebec City, Canada.

A mourner comforts Mohamed, the son of Boubaker Thabti, a Tunisian who was killed in an attack on a Quebec City mosque, as his father's body arrives at the Tunis-Carthage airport in February 2017 (AFP)
Last week, a Muslim mother was punched in the face in Birmingham in what was described as a “horrific racist attack,” while others are routinely spat on, and an ever-increasing number of mosques and Islamic cultural centres are attacked with firebombs.

These attacks carried out by right-wing extremists are increasing in both frequency and intensity, alongside many other potentially deadly attacks that have been foiled at the last moment by law enforcement.

The nightmare arrives

Put simply, the Islamic State (IS) has succeeded in unleashing, empowering, and mobilising the worst racist, xenophobic elements in Western societies.

It can be argued that IS-inspired or orchestrated terrorist attacks played a significant role in putting America’s most famous Islamophobe – Donald Trump – into the White House, who, in turn, has empowered racist and anti-Muslim hate groups.

Since IS declared its caliphate in 2014, there have been more than 50 “jihadist” attacks carried out in Europe and North America. These attacks take their place alongside what terrorism scholar David Rapoport described as the “fourth wave” of global terrorism, attacks carried out by groups cloaking themselves in religious veils.

Singer of the US group Eagles of Death Metal Jesse Hughes pays tribute to those killed in coordinated attacks in Paris on 13 November 2015 for which the Islamic State claimed responsibility (AFP)
The three preceding waves of terrorism include anarchism (first wave) in the early 20th century, anti-colonialism (second wave) in the 1920-60s, and New Leftist (third wave) in the 1960s-90s.

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For the past decade, law enforcement and counter-terrorism agencies have been telegraphing their growing concern over the rise of far-right wing extremism in both Europe and North America, with the FBI rating terrorism from the radical right as their number one concern.

Now it appears as though their predicted nightmare is well and truly upon us. Rapoport may need to update his model to include a “fifth wave”: racist, right-wing extremism.

Same methods

Right-wing extremists are radicalising in the same way as homegrown "jihadists". They’re consuming extremist propaganda that tells the following narrative, according to JM Berger of the International Center for Counter Terrorism (ICCT) in The Hague:

1)  The out-group is responsible for a crisis that afflicts the eligible in-group

2)  The extremist in-group is responsible for a solution that confronts the out-group to resolve the crisis

3)  In order to access the solution, members of the eligible in-group must join the extremist in-group

Berger says extremist groups seek to reinforce each of these linkages, “tying the out-group to the crisis, the extremist in-group to the solution, and making the case".

But where would-be “jihadists” must navigate and seek out pro-“jihad” propaganda in the darker corners of the internet, would-be racist, right-wing extremists are fed anti-Muslim tropes and negative stereotypes in the mass media on a constant basis.

Protesters hold a banner during a demonstration by the UK branch of the German group 'Pegida' (Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West) in Newcastle upon Tyne, in February 2015 (AFP)
In the West, politicians and public figures are rewarded with higher profiles, poll numbers and lucrative book deals by espousing narratives that posit Muslims as a threat to Western democratic values, while social media streams are filled with shared anti-Islam memes and infographics that disseminate Sharia and demographic time bomb conspiracy theories.

Mainstreaming hate

In every sense, the mainstream media, insofar as it elevates and provides a platform to anti-Muslim hate merchants, performs the role of racist, right-wing extremist recruitment propaganda. On CNN, Fox News, or any other cable news network, on any given day, right-wing, anti-Muslim talking heads portray Muslims as an out-group responsible for a crisis (threat against Western democratic values) that affects the eligible in-group (non-Muslim Westerners).

Earlier this month, a US Congressman urged Americans to 'kill' all radicalised Islamists, making no distinction between non-violent Muslims and terrorists

Earlier this month, a US Congressman urged Americans to “kill” all radicalised Islamists, making no distinction between non-violent Muslims and terrorists. On his Facebook page he posted: “Their intended entry to the American homeland should be summarily denied. Every conceivable measure should be engaged to hunt them down. Hunt them, identify them, and kill them. Kill them all. For the sake of all that is good and righteous. Kill them all.”

A recent report prepared by the US Congress into violent extremism found that “of the 85 violent extremist incidents that resulted in death since 12 September 2001, far right-wing violent extremist groups were responsible for 62 (73 percent) while radical Islamist violent extremists were responsible for 23 (27 percent),” which represents a margin of almost three to one.

In this climate, it’s not difficult to understand why an increasing number of racist, white Westerners are becoming radicalised into violent extremism, and, in turn, are carrying out an ever-increasing number of acts of terror against Muslims in Europe and North America.

CJ Werleman is the author of Crucifying America, God Hates You. Hate Him Back, Koran Curious, and is the host of Foreign Object. Follow him on twitter: @cjwerleman

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Photo: Police patrol outside Finsbury Park station in north London after a vehichle hit pedestrians, on 19 June 2017 (AFP)