CAIRO – A British anti-fascist research center has warned that the far-right surge could spark a new wave of political violence and lone-wolf acts of terror similar to Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik.
“We have disturbing levels of hate crime in this country which gets under-reported, and we need to know more about the level to which the far right is involved in this,” Professor Nigel Copsey, head of the new Centre for Fascist, Anti-fascist and Post-Fascist Studies at Teesside University, told The Independent.
Copsey’s warning followed worrying figures which revealed that there have been nearly 500 anti-Islamic attacks since March with more than half linked to supporters of far-right groups.
The figures, released by the interfaith conflict resolution organization Faith Matters, showed that there were 496 self-reported Islamophobic incidents in the past nine months.
More than six in 10 of these were against women while one in 10 was against a mosque.
The increasing attacks followed the relative success made by far-right groups in Britain over the past years.
This success, reaching its ultimate in 2009, had radicalized thousands of people online who could seek new and more violent ways to express their opposition to Islam, immigration and economic stagnation.
Fiyaz Mughal, the director and founder of Faith Matters, said there had been a significant change in the atmosphere.
“The fact is that in the past six or seven months we have seen more threats of violence online,” Mughal said.
In the past six months we have seen a lot more calls to do something physically to mosques.
“It is moving from what is happening in their heads to actually doing it.”
In Britain, far-right groups like the English Defence League (EDL) and the British National Party (BNP) have been playing the card of immigration to stoke sentiment against Muslims and immigrants.
In November 2010, British police warned that the anti-Muslim demonstration by the EDL fuel extremism and harm social cohesion in Britain.
Speaking at the launch of UK’s first research centre into contemporary fascism, Copsey warned that fragmentation of the far right could spark a new wave of political violence and Breivik-style lone-wolf acts of terrorism.
“This fragmentation and disintegration of the far right could increase the potential for political violence from small aggressive groups or lone-wolf or sole-actor terrorism.”
Following its success in 2009, BNP leader Nick Griffin and a fellow party member, Andrew Brons, went on to win seats in the European Parliament.
But by the 2012 local elections the party was riven by financial troubles and in-fighting and found itself reduced to just two councilors – from a peak of 57 in 2009.
The decline was reflected in divisions in BNP and the English Defence League.
In October, Brons, a former member of the National Front, quit the party after claiming to have been described by Griffin as “vermin”.
He has since joined the rival Britain First as president.
Splits in the EDL have led to the emergence of the North West and North East Infidels, largely through social media, which have sought to exploit anxiety over child sexual exploitation and the opening of new mosque sites.
“We ignore them at our peril because the demand for and the causes of the far right are still with us – they haven’t gone away and in some cases are getting worse,” Copsey said.
Hostility against British Muslims, estimated at nearly 2.5 million, has been on the rise since 2005’s 7/7 attacks.
Police data shows that 1,200 anti-Muslim attacks were reported in Britain in 2010.
A Financial Times opinion poll showed that Britain is the most suspicious nation about Muslims.
A poll of the Evening Standard found that a sizable section of London residents harbor negative opinions about Muslims.
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