By Nick Lowles
Welcome to HOPE not hate’s report into the ‘Counter-Jihad’ movement. This report is the largest and most comprehensive survey of groups and individuals who comprise the ‘Counter-jihad’ movement to date.
The report covers the right-wing political parties, who are increasingly using anti-Muslim rhetoric to garner votes. It also explores the websites and bloggers who propagate scare stories about Islam. It covers the street gangs, like the English Defence League (EDL), and the like-minded groups they inspire around Europe. It also investigates the funders and the foundations which bankroll the network.
Perhaps most interestingly, it reveals the inter-connections between the different strands of this movement.
The ‘Counter-Jihad’ movement, as we define it, is a broad alliance of people and ideas embracing sections of neo-Conservatives, Christian evangelicals, hard-line racists, football hooligans, nationalists, right wing populists and some former leftists. Some are hard-line, others less so. Some are openly racist, others are not. Few represent anything more than a minority following in the religious or political traditions they claim to represent. But in all cases the rhetoric used, either explicitly or by implication, leads us to question whether the target is merely radical Islam and Islamist extremist groups, or if it goes wider, criticising Islam as a faith and Muslims as a people. In many instances, this criticism leads to hatred.
We believe that criticism of Islam is perfectly acceptable, as it should be of all religions. We believe that people should also speak out against Islamist extremism and those who carry out terrorism and violence in the name of Islam. Indeed, we ourselves have publicly condemned Islamist extremist groups and we will do so with increasing frequency in the further.
What marks the ‘Counter-Jihad’ movement out is that in the name of opposing Islamist extremism they make generalisations about an entire faith and many fail to differentiate between the actions of a few and the vast majority of Muslims who also reject the extremists. Many of those who we include in the ‘Counter-Jihad’ report actually contribute to heightening tensions between communities and the whipping up of fear and suspicion.
In many ways the ‘Counter-Jihad’ movement represents the new face of the political right in Europe and North America. Replacing the old racial nationalist politics of neo-Nazi and traditional far right parties, with the language of cultural and identity wars, it presents itself as more mainstream and respectable. And as we have seen in countries such as Denmark, the Netherlands and Switzerland these new right-wing populist parties, with an anti-Muslim and anti-immigration message, can garner support from far broader swathes of the population than the old-style racist parties.
But the ‘Counter-Jihad’ movement is more than just right-wing populist political parties. As this report shows, the bloggers, radio hosts and journalists are increasingly shaping and poisoning the wider political and media discourse. Over the next few years, as economic hardship bites and insecurity breeds fear of the ‘Other’, the strength and impact of the ‘Counter-Jihad’ movement will probably grow. More work needs to be done in this field and as a result HOPE not hate is establishing a permanent ‘Counter-Jihad’ Monitoring Unit. We will follow these organisations and individuals, produce further reports into their activities and develop the tools we need to defeat them politically.
The ideas of the ‘Counter-Jihad’ movement are largely based around the belief that Islam poses a serious threat to Western civilisation. Many of its adherents also fail to distinguish between the hardline radical Islamists, such as Al-Muhajiroun, and the overwhelming majority of Muslims who reject these extremist views and just want to live quietly and in peace. Immigration and multiculturalism are seen by many as the Trojan Horses through which Islam is gaining a foothold in the West.
Their numbers are numerically small but their influence is much bigger. Their anti-Muslim rhetoric poisons the political discourse, sometimes with deadly effect.
Norwegian killer Anders Behring Breivik was inspired by many of the ‘Counter-Jihadists’ we profile in this report. Perhaps he would have gone on a killing spree without reading their work but it is clear their writings had an important impact on the creation of his political mindset. In his choice of targets it is obvious that he had accepted much of their hatred towards the political establishment.
He too believed that Islam was a threat to Western Europe. He too believed that the immigration and multiculturalist policies of many Western Governments were allowing Islam to go unchallenged and to prosper. He believed all this because he read what they wrote. He read it and he digested it. In his Manifesto he regurgitated it - sometimes word for word.
Almost a quarter of Breivik’s 1,518-page Manifesto comprise of quotes from other people - the overwhelming majority from people featured in this report. Half of these 375 pages of quotes came from just one man, the ‘Counter-Jihadist’ blogger Fjordman.
Yes, Breivik feared and hated Islam, but it was the Norwegian establishment who were his real enemy. More specifically it was social democracy that he and the ‘Counter-Jihad’ movement blamed for encouraging and promoting immigration and multiculturalism. He bombed Government buildings and he shot young members of the ruling Labour Party.
The ‘Counter-Jihadists’ were desperate to distance themselves from his actions. Many did so because they were genuinely appalled by what he did. Others were worried about how it would impact on them.
As our report highlights the ‘Counter-Jihad’ movement is a loose network of bloggers, political activists, street gangs and foundations. Sometimes they act alone, sometimes they join together. The individuals sit on each other’s boards and the organisations share platforms and co-host events.
Many of the key players and organisations have never actually met. Some operate under pseudonyms and others do not exist beyond the internet or a blog site.
The ‘Counter-Jihad’ movement manifests itself in different ways, in different countries, but its underlying message is the same. Sometimes it is focused around the single issue of Islam, but in other situations it becomes interwoven with wider politics of immigration, culture, loss and identity.
In the United States, five state legislatures have already banned Sharia law from being practised. It is being debated by another twenty. In Switzerland, people voted for a ban on Minarets despite the fact that there were only four in the country. In France, politicians of the centre and right tried to outbid each other in the 2012 Presidential election to prove how hardline they are on Muslim practices and extremism. The fear of Islam is playing an increasingly important role in the political discourse in many countries.
In many ways there is a symbiotic relationship between the ‘Counter-Jihad’ movement and those they claim to oppose. Both point to the other to prove the need for their own existence. On an intellectual level both view the other as proof of the incompatibility of the religions to co-exist. On a street level both use the activities of the other as a recruiting tool. In December 2010 Detective Superintendent John Larkin, of the West Midlands Counter-Terrorism Unit, told the BBC that the activities of the English Defence League were providing recruiting grounds for Islamist extremists.
“In some areas, we have evidence that once they [the EDL] have gone and the high-profile policing of the event has occurred, there’s fertile ground for [extreme Islamist] groups who would come in to encourage people to have this reality - this is the way white Western society sees us,” he told the BBC. “And that’s a potential recruiting carrot for people and that’s what some of these radicalisers look for - they look for the vulnerability, for the hook to pull people through and when the EDL have been and done what they’ve done, they perversely leave that behind.”
In Norway, Anders Breivik’s defence team are calling some of the leaders of Islamist extremist groups, including one man who was recently imprisoned for five years, to give evidence in his court case because these people will say that they want to turn Europe into an Islamic state.
On every level, the ‘Counter-Jihad’ movement is one that we cannot afford to ignore. For this reason we have produced this ‘Counter-Jihad’ report and are establishing the ‘Counter-Jihad’ Monitoring Unit.
HOPE not hate
Updated 24 August 2012 | top |