Prevent plays a decisive role in challenging Far-Right extremism

Home Office and Police figures have shown that the number of Far-Right referrals to Prevent’s Channel programme have risen significantly in recent times. The proportion has increased from a quarter of all referrals in 2015 to around a third in 2016. In certain parts of the country these referrals reportedly outnumber all other cases, including those involving Islamist extremism. This news has not received nearly as much publicity as inaccurate perceptions that the policy unfairly targets the wider Muslim community.

Following the recent car ramming attack against Muslim worshippers in Finsbury Park, the Security Minister Ben Wallace confirmed that the sudden increase in arrests for domestic terrorist offences had been driven by Far-Right extremists. This rise occurred after the neo-Nazi organisation National Action was proscribed by the government in December 2016. Many of their members were subsequently taken into custody.

These actions have taken place against a disturbing increase in anti-Muslim hate crime. Anti-Muslim incidents exploded in the immediate aftermath of the recent London Bridge attack. Twenty took place on a single day (June 6).

Student Rights has long monitored hate crimes which have taken place at university campuses across the UK. Many of these indicate a Far-Right motive, including the distribution of swastikas and leaflets promoting holocaust denial at Cambridge, UCL and Exeter earlier this year. Swastikas and SS imagery have also appeared at Durham and Goldsmiths in 2016 and at Birmingham in 2015. In each of these cases it is unclear whether the perpetrators were fellow students or members of the public who trespassed onto university property. There have also been acts of violence. In March 2016, two men were arrested outside King’s College London after vandalising an ISoc stall and pulling off a Muslim student’s niqab. Jewish and Muslim students are undoubtedly fearful about their safety.

Where once racist political parties such as the National Front and the British National Party (BNP) focused on achieving political office, the past decade has seen the rise of populist anti-Muslim organisations such as the English Defence League (EDL), Pegida UK and Britain First which favour street rallies and confrontational publicity stunts.

There has also been a fragmentation of traditional Far-Right parties like the BNP into smaller neo-fascist and neo-Nazi groups such as Infidels and National Action, where white supremacy and anti-Semitism still remain core beliefs.

National Action seems to have been formed by a small number of university students. It has been associated with a number of incidents at Nottingham, Leicester, Warwick, Coventry and elsewhere, including distributing stickers featuring slogans such as “Hitler was Right” and “white power”. Former members of National Action continue to hold secret gatherings even though their group has been proscribed by the government. Student protestors opposed members of another Far-Right group, the Racial Volunteer Force (RVF), after they appeared at Royal Holloway in October 2016.

Even when Far-Right extremists operate independently of established networks or organisations, the results can be deadly. David Anderson QC, an independent reviewer of anti-terror legislation, has rightly said, “Extreme Right-wing ideology can be just as murderous as its Islamist equivalent. A sophisticated network is not a prerequisite for mass slaughter.”

It has been reported that children as young as ten have been targeted by Far-Right recruiters. There have also been cases where early intervention might have averted tragedy. Earlier this year, a seventeen year-old member of National Action from Bradford was given a three year rehabilitation order after attempting to make a pipe bomb in his home. Another member of National Action, 26 year-old Zack Davies, was convicted of attempted murder after he tried to behead an innocent Asian man back in 2015.

Like its Islamist equivalent, Far-Right extremism provides its followers with a seemingly cohesive sense of meaning, purpose and identity. Recruiters prey on vulnerable individuals looking for an ideology or cause that can offer them absolute certainty in times of personal crisis. They offer friendship and present the world in binary terms of an ‘in-group’ and an ‘out-group’. This is set against apocalyptic visions of societal collapse, in which only shared grievances and conspiracy theories can explain the corrupt state of the world. By explaining away personal failure or social crisis, these narratives can deflect individuals from assuming responsibility in their own lives.

We at Student Rights will continue to monitor and expose instances of extremism, including those associated with the Far-Right. We believe these ideologies represent a direct assault on the values of tolerance, freedom and community cohesion that we wish to see prevail on campuses. These groups justify their extremism and violence with reference to each other. When left unchecked, they drag the rest of society into a vicious cycle. University campuses are often at the frontline of this battle.

The Far-Right is especially dangerous for students from minority backgrounds. Prevent, on the other hand, is one of the most effective forms of defence we have against this pernicious form of extremism. We urge any students to report incidents to us as well as the relevant authorities at their universities and student unions.

Posted in blog and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .