Category Archives: Extremism and counter-extremism

CALL FOR PAPERS: (UN)MAKING EUROPE – Islamism and the right; Antisemitism and racism

 The European Sociological Association has issued its call for papers for the 2017 conference, (Un)Making Europe: Capitalism, Solidarities, Subjectivities, which will be in Athens in September. The closing date is 1 February. The whole call is here.

This post is to draw your attention to the semi-plenary and stream organised by Research Network 31 (RN31), the network on antisemitism and racism. Here are those calls:

SP10 – Right-Wing Extremism and Islamist Extremism in Europe: Similarities and Differences

Coordinator: Karin Stögner, University of Vienna, Austria karin.stoegner@univie.ac.at

Right-wing extremism and Islamist extremism have a strange relation. While political right-wing extremist agitation often focuses on Islamist terror and instrumentalizes it for an agitation against Muslims and migration in general, Islamist-extremist movements refer to a “war of the West against Islam” in order to mobilize against the West in general. Despite these obvious differences, the two movements show striking similarities, such as antisemitism, homophobia, discrimination of women, homogenizing collective identity constructions, antidemocratic orientation, and authoritarianism. Both movements engage in an authoritarian rebellion against the ruling system and give themselves an anti-elitist image. Conspiracies and scenarios of impending doom play a major role in both. The “Jew” as the universal foe is central in both ideologies, just as a strict gender-binarity and a reactionary gender regime. Against this background Islamist extremism and right-wing extremism need to be viewed as competing authoritarian movements rather than opposite ideologies. For this semi-plenary session we call for contributions that explicitly relate the two movements to one another, referring to the similarities no less than the differences.

Issues that could be addressed by submission include: Antisemitism in right-wing extremism and Islamist extremism, including the image of Jews and Israel in both ideologies. How do the two movements relate to collective identity constructions, the nation and the Ummah? What is the role of gender-relations and gender-images in both ideologies? Which conspiracy theories can be found in both ideologies respectively? How do these issues contribute to a more general authoritarian and anti-democratic orientation within both ideologies? What are the historical, religious and socio-economic contexts in which the movements emerged and how are they connected?

RN31 – Ethnic Relations, Racism and Antisemitism

Coordinator: Karin Stoegner, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria karin.stoegner@univie.ac.at

The ESA Research Network 31: Ethnic Relations, Racism and Antisemitism invites sub-missions of abstracts for presentations at the 13th ESA Conference. We will hold sessions that focus on theoretical, methodological and empirical aspects of research on antisemitism and racism. This will include comparative studies. The network’s perspective is to bridge an exclusive divide between the understanding of antisemitism and of racism, exploring the correspondences and affinities, but also the differences and contrasts. Our over-arching question is to understand the material conditions and the social, political and historical contexts shaping variations of antisemitism and racism across time and across different European and global contexts.

In particular, we will focus on the role of antisemitism, ethnic relations and racism in current threats to democracy and democratic values in Europe; how antisemitic, xenophobic and racist myths, narratives and discourses circulate in the digital “post-truth” age. Specific questions might include:

– How can we explain the relationship between authoritarian populism, right-wing extremism and Islamism, three of the main dimensions of antisemitic, racist and xenophobic narratives? How can we explain anti-Muslim and anti-refugee hatred in Europe today?

– What are the gender politics of these formations?

– How can sociologists considering these questions intervene in debates on free speech, academic freedom and hate speech?

We are also interested in submissions exploring philo- as well as antisemitism, and ostensibly liberal and critical forms of racism, nationalism and intolerance. For example, how does Israel figure in both antisemitic and philosemitic discourses of the Jewish other?

What kind of racist, intolerant or antisemitic views exist on the part of discriminated minorities? And does the discrimination faced by minorities in turn feed these views?

We also welcome presentations that highlight neglected forms of racism and racialisation (including anti-Roma discrimination or “anti-Gypsyism”) and presentations that explore the intersection of different racisms or of racisms with other axes of difference and power. We particularly welcome contributions that offer a comparative framing (e.g. cross-nationally or from the perspective of different European regions), presentations that offer a multi- or inter-disciplinary framing (e.g. drawing on history), and papers that offer theoretical and methodological innovation in studying our questions.


Javier Muñoz: Extremismo.com

Dibujo que recrea el asesinato de la emperatriz Sissi a manos del anarquista Luigi Lucheni, a orillas del lago Quai de Mont-Blanc, en Suiza.

Drawing heavily on the article I wrote for La Vanguardia earlier this year, El Correo columnist Javier Muñoz has written a piece on online extremism which quotes me extensively. Here are some extracts.

Ningún país escapa al goteo de jóvenes que un día abandonan la delincuencia, dejan de fumar porros o mandan los estudios y el trabajo a paseo para luchar por el califato en Mesopotamia. Un profesor de la Universidad de Oxford, Ben Gidley, se fijó en uno de esos individuos; una chica criada en el barrio londinense de Lewisham que se marchó a Siria durante el verano de 2014, cuando las cancillerías europeas empezaron a tomarse en serio al Ejército Islámico. Gidley se interesó en el caso porque él reside en Lewinsham, un lugar en su opinión anodino. Revisó lo que la yihadista escribió en Twitter mientras su cuenta se mantuvo activa y lo primero que comprobó es que el perfil era la foto de un niño con un fusil.

Los tuits estaban impregnados de una violencia extrema. La muchacha aseguraba haber visto cómo se esclavizaba a mujeres yazidíes (herejes según los yihadistas) y cómo se decapitaba a prisioneros. Buscaba enlaces para contemplar el asesinato de un periodista británico en la web y expresaba el deseo de ser la primera combatiente del Reino Unido en matar con sus propias manos a un cautivo occidental.

Con relatos como ése, dice Ben Gidley, se pone en cuestión el modelo británico de integración de los inmigrantes basado en el multiculturalismo. Sin embargo, a su modo de ver, los hechos desmienten esa teoría. “En realidad -escribe el docente en un artículo publicado en La Vanguardia Dossier-, los reclutas británicos que han viajado recientemente a Siria para luchar con el Estado Islámico presentan a menudo un alto nivel educativo y unas trayectorias profesionales de éxito”.

Gidley duda de que la chica de Lewinsham pueda ser catalogada como una musulmana no integrada. Se educó en una sociedad libre, se topó con los “comportamientos patriarcales de los ancianos de su mezquita” y se sintió “aburrida por la vida londinense”. Conocía la jerga de las redes sociales, hablaba de tiendas, del tiempo y de su círculo de amigos.

El Reino Unido ha contabilizado más de 700 yihadistas locales, un colectivo que, según el primer ministro, David Cameron, ha surgido por la pasividad de la comunidad musulmana. Sin embargo, su ex ministra Sayeed Warsi, abogada de origen pakistaní y miembro de la Cámara de los Lores (dimitió del Gobierno conservador en 2014 por su política en el conflicto palestino), no está de acuerdo. Admite que las familias y los clérigos musulmanes pueden hacer más, pero se queja de que se responsabilice a estos últimos de la atracción que la violencia despierta en ciertos jóvenes, un fenómeno que recuerda los magnicidios de algunos anarquistas de finales del XIX y comienzos del XX.

Asesinato de Sissi emperatriz

Continue reading


Multiculturalismo: pros y contras del sistema británico de integración no regulada

LV_20150313_LV_FOTOS_D_54428960971-992x558@LaVanguardia-Web

Vanguardia

I’m published here, in Spanish, along with a few of my colleagues including Carlos Vargas Silva and Matthew Goodwin. Scroll down for the table of contents, and right down for how to buy. In due course, I’ll publish the English version.

VANGUARDIA DOSSIER Nº 55 | ABRIL / JUNIO 2015

El futuro del Reino Unido

Esta monografía de VANGUARDIA DOSSIER analiza el futuro del Reino Unido y sus cuatro naciones: Inglaterra, Escocia, Gales e Irlanda del Norte

IR A LA TIENDA Continue reading


Understanding foreign fighters

This is a short version of my latest COMPAS blog post. Read the whole original here.

This summer, it emerged that a young woman brought up near where I live in Lewisham, South London, had travelled to Syria to join ISIS. I spent some time reading her Twitter interactions with other young British women with ISIS ion Syria and Iraq. Most of the Twitter accounts are now deleted, but on the whole they were little different from any tweets by any South London teenagers: written in the familiar shorthand of social media conversation (“LOL”, “c u l8er”), accounts of shopping trips, mentions of best friends, complaining when the wi-fi was poor, comments on the weather. But the Lewisham woman’s profile picture was of an infant boy, presumably her son, holding an AK-47. Sparsely interspersed among the banal chitchat, were casual references to meeting Yazadi slave women or to beheadings. And, in one of the last posts before the account went offline:

Any links 4 da execution of da journalist plz. Allahu Akbar. UK must b shaking up haha. I wna b da 1st UK woman 2 kill a UK or US terorist

Foreign fighters in ISIS and other jihadi groups are regularly reported in the news media, and our politicians have been increasingly talking tough about them. But what do we really know about them, about their profiles and motivations?

muslim militantsNovember’s COMPAS Breakfast Briefing addressed these questions. Our experts were Rachel Briggs, a Senior Policy Analyst with our Breakfast Briefing partner, the Institute of Strategic Dialogue (ISD), and Peter Neumann, a Professor of Security Studies at Kings College London, and the founding director there of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR). The evidence was based on a series of important and innovative research projects at ISD and ICSR (listed at the end of this post), using social media analysis and face-to-face encounters with foreign fighters to build up a rich picture of their actions and their networks.

As is our usual practice, the oral briefings are podcast on the COMPAS site, while the discussion afterwards was under Chatham House rules. In this blogpost, I briefly summarise the key points from the briefings, and then discuss some of the wider issues touched on in the discussion, before finishing with links to information on ICSR’s and ISD’s work in this field. You can listen to the podcast here. Continue reading


Integration, Disadvantage and Extremism: parliamentary report launch

Yesterday, the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism hosted a parliamentary launch of our report on integration, disadvantage and extremism, edited by David Feldman and me. David and I presented the report to the integration minister, Stephen Williams MP, and a small audience of MPs,  lords and officials. The event was chaired by John Mann MP. The report was published in May by the Pears Institute for the study of Antisemitism and COMPAS.

Here is the text of what I said.

My job today is to say a few words about the recommendations made in this report. David finished on the importance of the role of central government in promoting and shaping integration in the UK. Running through our recommendations is a commitment to two related principles: the responsibility of leadership in combating extremism and the importance of evidence in making policy.

One of the central recommendations of the report, therefore, is listening to the grievances that drive intolerance in our society. The evidence collected in this report shows that grievances relating to disadvantage provide fertile ground for intolerance and division. To combat intolerance, therefore, we need to understand and address its social contexts.

For instance, Oxford sociologist Professor Anthony Heath shows that disengagement from the British mainstream is a function of what he calls the “integration paradox”: This paradox sees not Muslim migrants, but their objectively more “integrated” British-born children, becoming more sensitive to the inequalities of opportunity facing them in British society. Similarly, Vidhya Ramalingam, in collecting the evidence on far right extremism, shows that the appeal of the far right is not necessarily to the most disadvantaged among the white working class, but to those who are socially integrated in their communities but feel left behind by a rapidly changing Britain and distrustful of authority. We make a mistake, therefore, if we simply dismiss as ‘prejudiced’ those who are drawn to racist and extremist programmes – whether among the white or Muslim populations – as if they are fantasists. Rather we should see them, in general, as responding to real problems but with the wrong answers.

This points to a second key recommendation too: the importance of a whole community approach to integration, led by national government, to re-engage with those feeling left behind or disengaged. Not by targeting ‘problem’ minorities – an approach which reproduces the flaws of a divisive state multiculturalism: stigmatising groups, driving grievances and competition, promoting division over cohesion. But instead by calibrating mainstream policy levers towards ensuring that no group is left out of a concern for social mobility and social justice. For example, it is not integration policy but housing and schools policy that will stop a drift towards segregation where it occurs; it is not integration policy but employment policy that will reduce the growing gaps in employment outcomes across the population.

As MPs know from their constituencies, integration – or a lack of it – is experienced at a local level, on the streets of Britain’s towns and cities. But a national strategy is critical if we are to have any chance of overcoming the barriers to integration that create the conditions in which extremism festers. A national strategy isn’t necessarily about a new national funding programme. A national strategy is settingout detailed, concrete, substantive actions – for example, to narrow gaps in socio-economic and educational outcomes, or to eliminate segregation in schools and neighbourhoods, or to build a shared civic culture – but also a coherent methodology for measuring progress based on robust data: such a smart approach is the only cost-effective approach to doing social policy in a time of austerity. Again: the responsibility of leadership, grounded in evidence-based policy-making.

A third recommendation to put this responsibility into effect is around the way we communicate these issues. The kinds of grievances which give rise to softer forms of racism are often driven by inflamed discourse, by debates based on perceptions and assertions rather than facts. To this end, we all have a responsibility to promote evidence-based, balanced and open discussion and debate. This means finding a way to re-engage communities while using language that does not alienate, but rather speaks to their concerns about fairness, equality and justice: not lecturing about prejudice or common values, not dismissing grievances as “bigoted”, for example, but instead addressing their substance.

This approach builds on the record of the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism, which has worked to develop guidelines on electoral conduct and on hate speech in campuses.

In widening the focus from antisemitism to other forms of intolerance and extremism, this might mean, for instance, taking care in the use of numbers – inaccurate presentation of information leads to divisive debates and bad policy-making.

It might mean avoiding terms such as ‘native population’ – which can obscure the contribution and strong British identification of long-settled minority populations and conflate nationality with ethnicity.

And it might mean avoiding speaking of Britain’s diverse population as if it is composed of discrete and homogenous entities – ‘Muslim communities’ or ‘white working class communities’ – given that similarities across and differences within such communities are often at least as significant. Such terms, in failing to recognise the diversity and range of voices and positions within such populations, also fail to address the real structures of disadvantage that shape their experiences.

Addressing these structures of grievance is the best – the only – way to take forward the imperative to tackle all forms of intolerance in our society.


Political Violence, Terrorism and Extremism in Greece and Europe

London2014-10

Earlier this month I participated in this workshop of the Political Studies Association’s Greek Politics Specialist Group. The webpage has lots of the materials from the workshop and is well worth a visit.


Integration, Disadvantage and Extremism: press coverage and commentary

Here is a bit of coverage on the report edited by David Feldman and me, published at the end of May.

From Herald Scotland:

Academics issue new warning on extremism

Tuesday 27 May 2014

RADICAL Islamists and far-right extremists are often two sides of the same coin, leading academics have claimed.

A report also found radical ideologies are embraced by people who feel marginalised as they appear to offer an explanation for, or an answer to, a sense of grievance or lack of opportunity.

The report for the Commons All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Anti-semitism, warns extremism and integration cannot be tackled at a local level alone.

It also says they cannot be addressed in isolation from tackling inequality. The report calls for MPs to implement a national strategy. Co-editor Professor David Feldman of Birkbeck, London University, said: ‘Xenophobia, Islamophobia and antisemitism are promoted by leaders to drive many forms of extremism.”

From the CST blog:

A new report (pdf) looking at connections between integration and extremism has been published by the Pears Institute for the study of Antisemitism, Birkbeck, University of London; COMPAS, University of Oxford; and the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism.

The report includes a chapter by CST’s Dave Rich on the relationship between antisemitism and far right or Islamist extremism. Other chapters look at integration, extremism and British Muslims; drivers of far right extremism; and the relationship between ethnicity, economic disadvantage and class.

The full report can be downloaded here (pdf). An extract from Dave’s chapter is below.

The first and most obvious point to make is that far right and Islamist extremists try to use antisemitism for political purposes. It can be argued that this political mobilisation of antisemitism is its defining characteristic, which differentiates it from other forms of bigotry. This is most commonly found in antisemitic conspiracy theories that blame a Jewish ‘hidden hand’ for the ills of a particular society, party or community; and that accuse Jews of ‘dual loyalty’ – the idea that Jews are loyal only to each other or, nowadays, only to Israel.

This political use of antisemitism by far right parties and movements form a familiar and tragic part of European history. In recent years explicit antisemitism has largely disappeared from the public propaganda of Britain’s main far right movements, but the underlying ideas remain in euphemistic references to ‘international finance’ or ‘Zionist businessmen’. In 2000, British Nationalist Party (BNP) Chairman Nick Griffin advised BNP writers to get around the law by using “Zionists” as a euphemism for “Jews” when writing articles. This is not to suggest that anybody who criticises Zionism is antisemitic; just to note that genuine antisemites developed an antisemitic usage of the word “Zionism” a long time ago. Three years later, Griffin blamed the Iraq war on what he called Tony Blair’s “pro-Israeli big business backers”. In 2006 he changed tack, publicly denouncing antisemitic conspiracy theorists as “Judeo-obsessives”; only to return to their ranks a few years later in describing the English Defence League (EDL) as a “Zionist” plot. Continue reading