‘Someone will react’: ISIS fuels British far-right extremism

‘Someone will react’: ISIS fuels British far-right extremism
Islamic State extremism is fuelling Islamophobia and a far-right backlash in the UK, according to a Home Office official.

The official, a senior adviser on right-wing extremism, told BBC Radio 4's Today program that the government is putting an emphasis on the "global jihadist agenda" while possibly ignoring the growth of the far-right at home.

"I have been working with people from the far-right for about 27 years now, I can see increases in some of these groups and membership in some of these groups based on things that are happening nationally here and internationally,” he said.

"A lot of the emphasis is put on the global jihadist agenda, which is fine, and it needs to be, but I really feel that this agenda, the repercussions of some of that in terms of the far-right can't be ignored."

He argues Islamic extremism in the Middle East, including the beheading of US journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and the British aid worker David Haines by the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS), have led to increased resentment and abuse against Muslims in the UK.

The adviser said he has noticed an increase in membership to far-right groups. He claims that since last year, at least five new groups have formed.

"I wouldn't want to get to the point where something happens and we look back and think actually we should have addressed that as well," he added.

In one case, he said he had met with a Briton who said he wanted to establish Nazi-style concentration camps.

"I had one person who said he would like to implement death camps here in the UK and when I asked who he would like to put in the death camps, he just listed everyone that he didn't see as white British,” he said. “So that was every Asian person, every black person.”

According to data released by Tell Mama UK, a group which monitors anti-Islamic hatred, recent events in Iraq and Syria have been met with a corresponding spike in anti-Muslim incidents.

In August, it received 219 reports of abusive incidents targeted at Muslims in England – the same month as the IS beheading of US journalist James Foley. This was almost double the 112 incidents recorded in January. The organization said these numbers don’t represent the full picture because many victims of racial hate crime are too afraid to report it.

On Monday, Harun Khan, deputy secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said a backlash was experienced every time violence is carried out by extremists who claimed to act in the name of Islam – and now after the beheading of David Haines by the Islamic State.

Khan said: "Somebody somewhere is going to react, it's been proven, it's happened many times: after 9/11, after 7 July [2005 attacks on London] and after [the murder of] Lee Rigby."

The Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) claims the government must engage more with the far right. ISD, which specializes in research on right-wing extremism, has called on the UK government to change its approach to tackling far-right movements.

"When individuals are entrenched in these movements there is very little support or option for them to leave,"Vidhya Ramalingam,the research and policy manager on far-right extremism and intolerance at ISD, claims.

"We've seen there's evidence from programs that exist in Sweden, Germany and Scandinavia, that actually if you offer a space for individuals to turn to when they are doubting their ideology, we can prevent violence from happening in the first place."

ISD reports that since 2000 the Exit program in Germany has helped over 500 individuals leave the extreme right, with a 97 percent success rate. The Exit-Fryshuset program in Sweden has a 94 percent success rate with 133 people.

However, the Home Office insists that its Prevent strategy "tackles all forms of extremism, including from the far right." Prevent is one part of the government's counter terrorism strategy to deal with the threat posed by domestic extremism.