The UK’s Struggles with Far Right Extremism

23rd January 2019

Earlier this month I wrote about how terrorism from the far right has grown in the United States. My research indicated to me with alarming clarity that this phenomenon does not stop on American shores – the UK is also facing a galvanised extreme right.

On December 6th 2018,  the North East Counter Terrorism Unit arrested three individuals on suspicion of terrorism activity, charging two and releasing one on bail the day after. Those charges included encouraging terrorism, conspiracy to inspire racial or religious hatred, and the dissemination of terrorist publications. The story ran relatively under the radar as the majority of us prepared for the festive season, yet with a closer look, these arrests reveal a growing threat facing British society.

The individual released on bail was Andrew Dymock, the alleged leader of British neo-Nazi group the Sonnenkrieg Division, a branch of the larger US based Attomwaffen Division. The organisation seeks a race war culminating in the destruction of modern society in favour of a new nationalist socialist state. Members of the group have called for the murder of police officers, and the hanging of white women who have had sexual relations with non-white men. Moreover, there have been calls for Prince Harry (a ‘race traitor’, in the eyes of the organisation) to be shot. These messages are all delivered through striking imagery and propaganda posted online.

The Sonnenkrieg Division is small, with only a handful of members at the time of writing. However, their existence is part of a wider story told by far right terrorists in the UK. Another group called National Action are also pushing the far right agenda.The group’s leader, ‘Tom’, explains their existence as a by-product of the ‘vacuum in nationalism’, given that ‘the youth branch of the British National Party simply weren’t doing enough to fill it.’

The statistics only affirm this view that there are those seeking to fill a vacuum of nationalism in Britain. According to the Home Office’s most recent statistics, there has been ‘a 36% increase in the number of referrals to the Government’s Prevent programme over concerns about right wing extremism.’ The rise from less than 1,000 to 1,312 between 2017 and 2018 account for an overall 20% increase in Prevent referrals. Even prior to this rise in 2018, the UK was experiencing some truly abhorrent attacks inspired by far right ideology. I list several below:

  1. Leicester, England: Paul Moore attempts to run down a Somali woman and a 12 year old Somali girl. The authorities identify Moore as an anti-Muslim extremist. [20/09/2017]
  2. Manchester, England: Unidentified anti-Muslim extremists attempted to burn down the Nasfat Manchester Islamic Centre. [17/07/2017]
  3. London, England: John Tomlin pours acid over Muslim victims, two of whom suffered burn injuries as a result. [21/06/2017]
  4. London, England: Darren Osborne drives a van into Muslim pedestrians outside the Muslim Welfare House in Finsbury, killing 1 and injuring 11. Osborne claimed he intended to kill Muslims and his actions were in retaliation to the London Bridge attacks on 3rd June 2017. [19/06/2017]

Perhaps of surprise to some, the Home Office’s statistics also show that the numbers tracking Islamic extremism ‘fell by 14 per cent year-on-year.’ Not only is right wing extremism a growing threat in Britain, but it is a threat that is growing amidst Islamic extremism’s decline. As I emphasised in my previous piece, this tells us that far right violence is not a reaction, it exists because of, and is motivated by virtue of its ideological foundation.

Yet, there are many in British political circles that too often fail to recognise this. Just this week Owen Jones took to Twitter to blame the Daily Mail for ‘legitimising and radicalising’ the far right in Britain. In its earliest days, 2019 has also seen racially charged ‘yellow vest‘ protests in London, with one particular protester threatening war and calling police ‘fair game’. Many will inevitably dismiss this as the emboldened rhetoric of Brexit Britain, but Quilliam’s own Maajid Nawaz reminds otherwise, disassociating Brexit with individuals wishing to justify racial violence. In a recent post, Maajid tweets: ‘Brexiters, they’re doing your legitimate cause (with which I passionately disagree) a disservice. Rein them in, please.’

Call it simplistic if you wish, but the easiest way to understand why extremists exist in society is to simply listen to what they have to say.The Sonnenkireg Division call for the murder of inter-racial couples and a member of the Royal family. These beliefs were not learned by reading the Daily Mail, nor did these beliefs appear in Britain because of a referendum on EU membership. As Tom from National Action already shows us, when there is a vacuum for the far right it is soon filled, and this is fundamentally due to an ideology that persists through political circumstance. As is true in the US, facing the threat of the far right extremist in Britain does not mean turning to the current political climate for answers, it demands a clear strategy for facing radicalisation at its ideological root.