Domestic terrorism: white supremacist terror

Today I’m going to be discussing a very important topic that poses a threat to all communities. It is an area that is increasing in threat levels. This could be a trigger for various minority communities as I will be discussing far-right hate attacks and ideologies. This is one of those topics that is not nice to hear about, but, one we need to be aware of as I believe it is one of the biggest threats to modern society.

There is a racial and prejudice stereotype about terrorism in the West. This has created hostility towards non-white communities, particularly Muslim communities. This prejudice continues to grow and has created a whole group of people who bring about terrorism in the west; white supremacists or far-right extremists. Their hateful ideologies are causing harm to our communities and recently white supremacists have become the biggest terror threat to the western world.

White supremacist terror is very prominent within the US, but that doesn’t mean the threat doesn’t exist right here in the UK. So, today I wanted to briefly talk about the US and then dive more into the threat in the UK.

What is white supremacy?

White supremacism is the belief that white people are the superior race and that they should therefore dominate all races. This is a far-right extremist belief. It is a hateful and dangerous ideology that has led to colonialism, increase in hate crimes, genocide and a long painful history of oppression.

The term has become a political ideology that wishes to maintain the social, political, historical and institutional domination of white people. The beliefs often rely on the now discredited scientific racism doctrine and on pseudoscientific arguments, meaning that they are mistakenly or wrongfully relying on scientific methods to prove something that is false.

White supremacists in the US

The best way to get an idea of the threat white supremacists or far-right extremists pose in the US is to look through the statistics. This is purely because the facts are all there. Domestic terrorism is high and it continues to rise.

  • Since 9/11 white supremacists and other far-right extremists have been responsible for 3x as many attacks on US soil as Islamic terrorists.
  • 2019 was the 6th deadliest year for domestic extremist-related killings. 90% of these killings were from right-wing extremists.
  • The September 2020 draft report from Homeland Security stated that white supremacists presented the greatest threat to the US. These attacks have become far more lethal since Trump became president.
  • From 2009-2018 far right extremists have been responsible for 73% of domestic extremist-related casualties.
  • 2018 and 2019 were the most lethal of all domestic extremism movements over the last 20 years.

The main point we can take away from these stats is that far-right extremist attacks are the biggest threat to the US, and they are still on the rise. These attacks are racially and politically motivated and they aim to incite hate. They are becoming more and more lethal. The added factor of gun violence means these attacks just keep getting worse. There is an epidemic of tragic mass shootings.

One of the biggest factors as to why domestic terrorism has been reaching record highs is also due to the President himself. Trump continually downplays the threat of right-wing extremists. In the early days of his presidency, Trump stripped Homeland Security which focused on combatting violent extremism. As well as also pulling funding that was meant for organisations countering neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other likeminded groups. Efforts to combat domestic extremism came to a halt. In fact the Trump administration focused federal resources on Islamist terrorism even though the greater risk was coming from right-wing extremists. Trump even tried to change the name of ‘Countering Violent Extremism’ to ‘Countering Radical Islamic Extremism’. Trump repeatedly turns a blind eye to the real threat posed to the US; hateful ideologically driven violence.

In a very recent study from the Centre for Strategic and International Studies it was found that white supremacist groups were responsible for 41/61 terrorist plots and attacks in the first 8 months of 2020. That is 67%. Many Americans believe that Trump’s denunciations of left-wing activists and his refusal to condemn an extremist right-wing group has raised fears throughout the year of politically motivated violence. The study warned that violence could continue to rise after the presidential election because of concerns about polarisation, economic hardships, racial injustice and the ever-growing issue of coronavirus. If Biden was to win the report believed white supremacists would violently mobilise against Black, Asian, Muslim, LGBTQ+, Jewish and Latino communities. Protestors and demonstrators are increasingly being targeted which is alarming, particularly when those protesters are exercising their freedom of speech.

White supremacists in the UK

Police have said that the fastest growing UK terror threat comes from far-right extremists. The head of counterterrorism in the UK, Neil Basu, said that 7/22 plots foiled since March 2017 where linked to far-right ideology. Some of these plots were designed to kill, mimicking the attacks seen in jihadist attacks. This rise in threat and hate crime came in the period following the vote to leave the EU in the years 2016-2018. These groups in the UK range from anti-immigration, anti-Islam, Islamophobia, white nationalists, neo-Nazi’s, National Action and Sonnenkrieg Division.

Examples of white terror in the UK

David Copeland

David Copeland, a self-confessed racist and homophobe, was jailed for attacks on Brick Lane, Soho and Brixton in 1999 in a 13-day nail bombing attack that killed 3 people and injured 139. The first attack in Brixton was intended to harm the black community, 48 were injured. A week later in Brick Lane a second bomb was set to target the Bangladeshi community in east London. A passer by in a stroke of luck found the bag containing the bomb, mistaking it for lost property and put it inside their car, reporting it to the police. The final attack was targeting the LGBTQ+ community. This bomb had 1,500 nails and went off at Admiral Duncan Pub in Soho, central London. When Copeland was arrested police discovered Nazi flags hanging in his bedroom along with news reports of his bombings.

Thomas Mair

Thomas Mair, in a politically motivated attack, murdered Labour MP Jo Cox outside a library in West Yorkshire on June 16th 2016. It was discovered that Mair had been using the library computers, just where Cox was devastatingly attacked, to learn about the KKK and how they had killed people supporting civil rights. When his home was raided they discovered an extreme nationalist and racist library, as well as Nazi ornaments and literature about white supremacy. The Southern Poverty Law Centre, an American anti-fascist organisation, has published records that showed Mair had bought books about explosives from the neo-Nazi National Alliance. Those orders were made days after the Copeland attacks in London, attempting to start a ‘race war’.

National Action

National action are unashamedly racist and overtly neo-Nazi. The group claim they are patriotic yet are hostile to all rules of law, democratic processes and people who do not share their views. They were disbanded in 2016 after a government assessment that deemed National action to be an extreme racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic group that raised a concern of terrorist action as well as glorifying terrorism and extreme violence. The group was described as “a really dangerous, well-structured organisation at the heart of a neo-Nazi ideology that seeks to divide communities.” They do still remain active in places but some people have been convicted for holding a membership.

The group was founded in 2014 by Ben Raymond and Alex Davies. They believed British far-right organisations had been diluted so they aimed to respawn far-right extremism. They believe in white power and targeted specific political leaders for being ‘race traitors’.

Oskar Dunn-Koczorowsk and Michal Szewczuk

These two teenagers were jailed for terrorism offences and for being part of the far-right extremist group Sonnenkrieg Division. They encouraged an attack on Prince Harry for marrying a women of mixed race, outside of his own race. They deemed he should be shot for being a ‘race traitor’ and stated that white women who date non-white men should be hanged.

The teens ran personal accounts sharing far-right propaganda that encouraged terrorist attacks, specifically lone attacks against the public. Police found Szewczuk in possession of bomb-making instructions and a white resistance manual when he was a student at the University of Portsmouth.

Martin Snowden, the head of counter terrorism policing in the north-east of England, explained that the teenagers saw themselves as superior to the majority. He explained that it “only takes one individual to be encouraged or be inspired by that propaganda to take that further step” and this “represents a significant risk”.

Links to extra resources

I have linked articles and reports on UK terror attacks from far-right extremists below. I have summarised here their ideologies and attacks in an attempt to censor horrific details, this is also the reason for the lack of photos in this article. If you would like to read more about this topic and the prison sentences, as well as responses from judges, they are all in these articles. The Copeland article features reports from victims 20 years on.

The fuel of the dark internet

Both in the UK and the US, even globally, the internet is the fuel to hateful ideologies fire. It continues the spread and extends the reach of hate groups online. The internet has brought about a new era of violence. White nationalism grows because of the dark corners of the internet that incites violence and allows aspiring white supremacist terrorists to draw inspiration from other killers. They in some cases on different message board forums and sites attempt to copy eachother and one up different attacks. The internet has allowed hateful ideologies to spiral out of control, particularly in the US, where gun violence poses an even greater threat to communities.

Prejudice towards Muslim Communities

Throughout all of this the Muslim community have been discriminated and terrorised against. The islamophobia present in white supremacists hateful views creates violence against innocent Muslim lives. There is a mainstream prejudice against Muslim communities, one possessed particularly by far-right groups that expresses violent hatred against all Muslims. Unfortunately this hatred has led to various targeted attacks towards Muslim communities, with the attack on mosques.

This prejudice is fuelled by false and toxic narratives in the media. When a white supremacist killer attacks communities they are called ‘mentally ill’ or ‘lonely’, not terrorists, even though their action is politically and socially motivated, aiming to bring harm, the definition of terrorism. A US study showed that between 2008-2012, 81% of terrorism suspects that were subjects of news reporting were Muslim, which was a far greater percentage of terrorist attacks in the US actually committed by Muslims. This is a harmful bias that incites violence against the Muslim community.

These prejudices and false media narratives led to the Finsbury park attack where Darren Osborne drove a van into a crowd of Muslim’s near a north London mosque. Osborne injured nine people and killed one. The judge of Osborne’s case said he was rapidly radicalised over the internet where he became exposed to racist and anti-Islamic ideology.

Ignorance and misunderstanding of Islam

The false media narratives fuel the ignorance people have towards Muslim culture, religion and beliefs. The majority of Muslims reject the Jihadist violence involved in terrorist attacks, they believe it is not justified by their religion.

ISIS follows a jihadist tradition, they are a militant Islamist group. They reject all innovation in the religion and aim to return to the early days of Islam. The group has been condemned by many Muslim leaders, explaining that their extremist ideas decay the earth and destroy human civilisation which is in no way a part of Islam, it is an enemy to Islam. Leaders have explained that their sacrifice without legitimate cause it not jihad at all, it is criminality.

An academic criminology paper called ‘ISIS is not Islam: epistemic injustice, everyday religion, and young Muslims narrative resistance’ by Sveinung Sandberg and Sarah Colvin does a great job at explaining the harm prejudice has done to Muslim communities as well as correcting ignorant mainstream beliefs about Islam. They aim to debunk dominant western narratives that construct young Muslims as easily radicalised and potential violent extremists. They undertook a study that addresses prejudices and biases towards Muslims and Islam. Young Muslim participants were interviewed, they openly spoke out against martyrdom and terrorist action, saying it goes completely against Islam. They referred to terrorists as anti-Islamist, wrong and satanic. One participant stated that “It is not only the jihadists who are acting wrongly but also a mainstream media that actively furthers epistemic injustice by spreading the jihadi misrepresentation of what Islam says.” Participants wanted a voice to present another image of Islam than the one they faced daily in the mainstream media. The mainstream media fuels this false idea of Muslim and we urgently need to remove the narrative and present this religion for what it really is.

I urge you to read the paper to learn about Islam from young Muslim accounts and to find out more about the danger false narratives can have on Muslim communities. To read this paper click here and download the PDF.

Concluding thoughts

Far-right extremists and white supremacist groups are the largest and most rapidly growing risk to society. They incite hate against innocent lives and they threaten the very foundation of a multicultural world. They bring harm to the Muslim community with their abhorrent islamophobia. But not only do these groups incite the violence, the media and political leaders spread false narratives of what terrorism really looks like in society. The truth is right here in what I have said today, domestic terrorism and far-right extremist groups are a radicalised and growing threat to the western world. Our political leaders cannot turn a blind eye to their hateful ideologies.

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