When most people think of the Bataclan these days, it’s not the venerated theater where rock bands have been playing since the 1970s which comes to mind. Rather, it’s Islamist terrorism, after 89 people were killed there during a concert in November 2015.
So when news spread this fall that a rapper named Médine, who once named an album “Jihad” and is openly critical of secularism in France, will play the Paris venue in the fall, the far right was outraged. “Is it normal that a militant, fundamentalist Islamist goes to the Bataclan to express his hatred and defend ideas that I believe are inciting crimes?” asked France’s far-right leader Marine Le Pen.
“It’s partly about the politics of the spectacle of confrontation,” says Ben Gidley, a senior lecturer of sociology at Birkbeck, University of London who worked on a 2014 study on what drives extremism in British society. “Every time [a far right leader] is on television saying something inflammatory, that fuels the anger about extreme Islamism which gives an opportunity to the entrepreneurs of panic on the right to put their message into the public sphere. Once you have a spectacular appearance on one side, it gives a platform to the other.”
Mr. Gidley in Britain says that labeling far-right violence “terrorism,” whether in political discourse, media coverage, or within civil society, is a solution to breaking the cycle. “It’s really important,” he says, “to challenge the association of terrorism and Islamism which contributes to the anti-Muslim discourses that feed the far right and to have clarity to challenge it properly, that there is a problem with right-wing terrorism.”
He also says policy makers need to create more space for cultural mixing and frank talk about people’s concerns amid demographic change. “There need to be more opportunities for people to air their grievances, to feel listened to,” he says. “If there are concerns about migration or foreign policy, instead of making them into taboo topics, create opportunities to allow people to feel listened to so they don’t get channeled into extremist ideology.”
I think in the first quote, there’s a slight leap out of context. I think where it puts “a far right leader” in square brackets, I was referrring to Anjem Choudary, the British hate preacher the UK mainstream media love almost as much as they love “Tommy Robinson”. My point was that each time he appears on the screen, it fuels the anger about Islamism that feeds the far right (just as every time “Robinson” appears on the screen, it fuels the anger about Islamophobia that fuels Islamism.
In the second quote, I am arguing that the far right and Islamists resemble each other in channeling real (as well as imaginary) grievances in dangerous directions.
These ideas are developed more fully in a chapter I wrote with David Feldman in this report.