Tag Archives: Islamism

The vicious circle of Islamist terrorism and far-right extremism

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.

An article in CS Monitor by  (Correspondent) and  (Staff writer). Colette interviewed me for the article. Here are the extracts with me in them:

“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.”

And:

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.

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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.


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