Far-right comes too close for comfort

epa08244703 Forensic experts investigate next to a silver-colored Mercedes car that crashed into a group of revelers during the Rose Monday carnival parade in Volkmarsen near Kassel, Germany, 24 February 2020. According to reports, a man drove a car into revelers injuring at least 30 people including children. The driver of the car has been arrested. EPA-EFE/ARMANDO BABANI LICENSE PLATE BLURRED

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This article by Tonio Galea appeared on Diplomatique.Expert 

Islamist terrorism today absorbs most of the attention of counter-terrorist activities, and with good reason. However, a problem has been allowed to fester in the form of far-right extremism.

During the Carnival celebrations in Germany this week, a car ploughed right into a crowd in wounding 60 people. 29-year-old resident, Maurice P, was arrested on suspicion of attempted homicide in the town of Volkmarsen.

The motive of the attack remains unclear, but initial suspicions were that the attack was linked to far-right extremism, even though this has not been confirmed so far.

The warnings have been there for quite some time, but the threat posed by Islamic extremism has beeg siphoning off most of the resources, especially since 9/11. Still, many security agencies have alerted authorities to the growing threat of far-right extremists over the years.

In Britain, the government considers far-right extremism to be an increasing threat and has recently, and for the first time, proscribed a right-wing extremist group as ’terrorist’. Germany’s domestic intelligence service, meanwhile, has observed a steady rise in the number of “potentially violent right-wing extremists,” with current estimates standing at 13,000.

Far-right terrorism is motivated by a variety of right-wing ideologies, most prominently neo-Nazism, neo-fascism, white nationalism and anti-government patriot/sovereign citizen beliefs, and occasionally by anti-abortion and tax resistance with the justification varying according to country.

At the same time, however, far-right terrorism remains a tiny fraction of total terrorism worldwide. Even in the West, historically nationalist or separatist, Islamist, and far-left terrorism has been much more common; but it must be observed that the threat and victims are on the increase.

In March 2019, the world witnessed the attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, where 51 people were killed.

On 22 July 2011, a Norwegian right-wing extremist with neo-Nazi and fascist sympathies Anders Behring Breivik, carried out the deadliest attack in Norway since World War II. First, he bombed several government buildings in Oslo, killing eight people and injuring more than 200. After the bombings, he went to Utøya island wearing a fake police uniform and began firing on participants in a political youth camp for the Worker’s Youth League (AUF), a left-wing political party, killing 69 and injuring more than 110. Overall the two terrorist attacks in Utøya and Oslo killed 77 and wounded 319 others.

In Russia, in  August 2006, a neo-Nazi militant nationalist organization claimed responsibility  for a Moscow market bombing which killed 13 people.

Right-wing terrorism and violence have a long history in the United States, too. Various reasons have been offered, with an upwards trend  observed during the Cold War.

In 1995, Timothy McVeigh orchestrated the deadliest right-wing attack in recent U.S. history, killing 168 people and injuring more than 680 in Oklahoma City.

Michael Fortier, a close friend of McVeigh’s, remarked that, “we both believed that the United Nations was actively trying to form a one-world government, disarm the American public, take away our weapons.”

Although some of the major right-wing terrorist attacks, these are by no means the only ones.

South America and Eastern Europe, which saw a re-emergence after the fall of Communism, are rife with right-wing groupings. In Italy the roots go as far back as 1969 – considered the beginning of the Years of Lead, a period between 1969 and 1982 characterized by frequent terrorist attacks. – In December 1969 a bomb wegt off at Piazza Fontana in Milan, perpetrated by Ordine Nuovo, a right-wing neofascist group. Sixteen people were killed that day, and 90 more injured

Right-wing extremism has been further emboldened by attacks from groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda together with the migration crisis. These circumstances served to strengthen the justifications behind right-wing groupings, some of which were even successfully elected to their country’s parliament.

Ideology can turn deep-seated fears and grievances into a somewhat coherent political project. In fact, in recent years we have seen a profound shift away from the traditional focus on race and towards, supposedly more inclusive, ideas such as identity and culture.

The Norwegian terrorist Breivik portrayed himself as a member of the Knights Templar — a Crusader order with a fearsome reputation in battles against Muslim adversaries. The Christchurch attacker professed similar ideas, fuelled in significant ways by internet trolls.

At the end of the day, despite the ideological contrasts, the far-right and Islamist terrorism demonstrate many similarities.

The far right is stronger and bolder today than it ever was. Policymakers in all Western countries need to take it seriously because its violence not only threatens lives but undermines the very pluralism and freedom on which Western societies are founded.

This article by Tonio Galea appeared on Diplomatique.Expert 

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