This week marks 18 years since the tragedy of 9/11 which opened much of the world’s eyes to terrorism. In the years following that attack we learned about terrorist groups like Islamic State/Isis, the Taliban and Al-Qaida, but more recently there have been an increasing number of attacks by far-right extremists.
The Global Terrorism Index 2018 (GTI) published in December 2018 highlighted the increase in far-right terrorism:
- There were 113 attacks and 66 deaths due to far-right terrorism between 2013 and 2017
- Of these, 47 attacks and 17 deaths took place in 2017
We have seen more attacks in 2018 and 2019 including shootings at mosques and synagogues, as well as vehicle attacks. In July 2019, the Home Office recognised the increasing threat and confirmed that it would be including right-wing terrorism in its UK threat level assessments.
Right Wing Terrorism Defined
Google turns up dozens of websites with varying definitions, so let’s stick to the basics with Wikipedia which defines right wing terrorism / far-right terrorism as:
“Terrorism that is motivated by a variety of different right-wing and far-right ideologies, most prominently by neo-nazism, neo-fascism, white nationalism, white separatism, ethnonationalism, religious nationalism, and anti-government patriot/sovereign citizen beliefs and occasionally by anti-abortion and tax resistance.”
The Washington Post and other media have begun to report politically motivated murders (i.e. the targeting of a specific individual) as right wing terrorism too, although these may not be classified as terrorism by the governments concerned. A recent example was the murder of a German politician, “Who supported Angela Merkel’s pro-refugee policy.” The suspect was reported to have ties to neo-nazi and other right wing extremist groups.
Right wing terrorism is making more headlines these days, but has been around for a long time. It is believed to have begun in North America as early as the 1860s, in Western and Central Europe in the 1970s, and in Eastern Europe in the 1990s. Back then communication was very different for any terrorist or extremist groups, but the emergence of the internet and social media have changed communication a lot.
“Online platforms have amplified far-right messaging substantially throughout North America and Western Europe, with elements of Islamophobia and xenophobic sentiments found across 50 different far-right organisations,” explains the GTI. It is very easy for individuals to be drawn into extremist groups of all kinds online.
While social media sites and apps such as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and Reddit say they are committed to removing extremist content, it is very difficult to find every group or page and remove content. When the Christchurch Mosque shooter released a video of his attack, Facebook immediately tried to remove it, but it had already been shared and saved countless times.
Forbes also notes that many far-right attacks weren’t associated with a named organisation. Rather, they were carried out by ‘individuals motivated by extreme white nationalist or anti-Muslim beliefs,’ which makes them more difficult to track.
We can all be affected – but we can all be prepared
Far-right extremists have primarily targeted religious centres, but the recent El Paso Walmart shooting showed that targeting could be less focused. Even in the cases of attacks such as the Christchurch mosque shooting, terrorism can impact those who aren’t directly targeted.
From security risks for travellers visiting religious sites to police cordoning off areas, transport delays and cancellations when an attack occurs, everyone can be affected.
As is the case with any act of terrorism, we’re far more likely to be affected indirectly than directly, but this is just another reason we need to report any suspicious activity, know what to do in case of an emergency, and have financial protection* in place to prevent direct or indirect effects becoming an even greater trauma.
*Safe Journey financial protection is comprehensive terrorism travel insurance that includes cover for emergency medical care, medical repatriation, cancellation if there’s an act of terrorism within 40 miles of your destination up to 6 weeks before you depart, curtailment if you’re already travelling and there’s an act of terrorism within 40 miles of your accommodation, as well as cover for delays, lost personal possessions, and even withdrawal of services. For full details, please read our Policy Wording.
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