A recent report titled ‘State of Hate’ published by advocacy organisation Hope not Hate revealed that far-right extremism is on the rise and urged the Government to address the changing nature of far-right organisations towards increased violence.
Hope not Hate has conducted extensive research into far-right organisations such as Britain First and produced a pamphlet in 2014 called ‘Britain First – Army of the Right.’ In this publication, Hope not Hate revealed that in just six months Britain First gained 1500 members. The organisation’s research also investigated the tactics being employed by far-right organisations which include ‘direct action in or outside mosques, patrols in areas densely populated with Muslims, training with knives, and teaching martial arts.’ This type of confrontational behaviour is not only provocative but could potentially lead to violence. For instance, last month, the leaders of Britain First, Paul Golding and Jayda Fransen, were arrested for leading a “Christian patrol” in Luton. A video uploaded to YouTube showed Golding and Fransen along with other members of Britain First walking down a street holding large Christian crosses and handing out anti-Islam literature. They were met by a group of angry local residents who got into a heated argument with the group. Eventually, police arrived on the scene and escorted the group out of the street.
Nick Knowles, Chief Executive of Hope not Hate, attributed the rise of the far-right to the current economic, political, and social climate. He explained that, anti-immigration rhetoric fuelled by the refugee crisis has been combined with hostility towards Muslims. Unfortunately, we have seen evidence of this not only in the UK but in the rest of Europe as well. In early February, Pegida, an anti-Islam movement founded in Germany in 2014, organised rallies in cities across Europe using Facebook. In the same month, it was reported in the Independent that migrants in the Calais Jungle were being brutally attacked by far-right militia. It is clear that social media is facilitating the far-right’s ability to organise and promote itself. The numbers speak for themselves, Pegida’s Facebook page has more than 200,000 likes whilst Britain First has a whopping two million likes, more than the likes on the Facebook pages of the Labour and Conservative parties combined. Far-rights groups’ incredible popularity online is helping them to mobilise support and recruit new members. In 2015, the number of demonstrations held by the far-right was exceeded by the ones in 2014, and social media played a big part in this.
Figures published by the Metropolitan Police show an increase in racist and religious hate-crimes in the city of London, from 962 reported incidents in January 2015 to 1,051 reported incidents in January of this year. Islamophobic crime has also increased from 80 incidents in January 2015 to 96 incidents in January 2016. It’s important to be aware that these figures are probably much higher because the majority of hate-crime victims to do not report their experiences for a number of reasons. In fact, in 2014, the Mayor of London’s Office for Policing and Crime published ‘A Hate Crime Reduction Strategy for London’ in which it revealed that 43% of hate-crimes were not reported to the police. A lack of awareness around hate-crime – what it is and how to report it, very little confidence in authorities taking the crime seriously and fear of reprisals are just some of the reasons why hate crimes go unreported.
JAN Trust has been extensively working extensively on the issue of extremism for a number of years. This research led to the development of its Preventing Extremism workshops which have been delivered to thousands of students in schools across London and the rest of the UK. The workshop is unique in that it aims to show young people, parents and practitioners that extremism is not specific to a faith, ethnicity, gender or social economic background. We have also held workshops to raise awareness of hate crime specifically in regards to Islamophobia. Looking at the figures and studies mentioned above, along with the frightening rise in the popularity of the far-right, there is still much to be done. If you would like to find out more or support the work of JAN Trust in combating extremism and hate-crime please visit our website at: www.jantrust.org.