Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed
rise of white nationalist violence proves that the threat of fascism is not
just about one community — it threatens all communities: white people, black
people, Muslims, Jews, and beyond.
of mass shootings at the end of July comes head on the heels of an escalating
epidemic of U.S. gun violence. Since the beginning of the year, there have been
at least 257 mass shootings, which have killed 9,080 people. This is nearly
triple the number of people that died on 9/11, the terrorist attack which
justified U.S.-led wars that have killed at least a million people.
Over the last
decade, nearly three quarters of terrorist attacks on U.S. soil have been
linked to domestic right-wing extremists, with just a quarter linked to
Islamists. And in 2018, every terrorist murder in the U.S. was linked to the
ideology of extreme white nationalism is now a bigger U.S. national security
threat, and a bigger cause of death, than Islamist terrorism or immigration.
Yet millions of white Americans have been brainwashed into believing the exact
could this happen?
There is an
unmistakeable line of transmission between the white supremacist views that
helped inspire the California and El Paso attacks, burgeoning anti-Muslim
hysteria around the world, and the traditional bedrock of anti-Semitic
neo-Nazism that is normally associated with the far-right. Yet this nexus
between Islamophobia and anti-Semitism is little understood.
Tipping Points into Mass Violence
The El Paso
shooter, Patrick Crusius, posted his white nationalist manifesto online in the
8chan message board. The manifesto not only railed against the “Hispanic
invasion of Texas,” it also praised the Christchurch mosque massacre. Since
January, Trump’s re-election campaign has funded 2,199 Facebook ads
characterizing immigration as an “invasion.” The ads were viewed by at least a
million, and as many as 5.6 million, people.
now compelling research suggesting a link between social media and spikes in
racist violence. Last month a joint study by academics at Princeton University
and the University of Warwick found “a clear pattern” in data correlating
Trump’s tweets about Muslims with a higher frequency of anti-Muslim hashtags on
Twitter, and increased actual hate crimes against Muslims.
found that the start of Trump’s presidential campaign preceded a shift in
anti-Muslim sentiments on pro-Trump Twitter accounts and a rise in the rate of
hate crimes. In more quantitative terms, a one standard deviation higher social
media use was associated with a 38 percent larger increase in hate crimes
personally gone out of his way to amplify far-right anti-Muslim figures. Within
the last few months, he has repeatedly retweeted racist British commentator
Katie Hopkin, who has a long track record of denigrating blacks, Muslims,
immigrants, and Jews.
Trump retweeted Hopkins multiple times, including her attacks on London’s
Muslim Mayor Sadiq Khan over knife crime in the capital, her endorsement of
crowds at a Trump rally shouting “send her back” in relation to a Muslim
American Congresswoman, and a description of the majority black city of
Baltimore as a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess” where “no human being
would want to live.”
engagement with Hopkins is revealing. Although he does not follow her, nor have
her on any Twitter lists, he is consistently able to locate her choice racist
tweets and amplify them — suggesting that far from merely being an accident of
Trump’s personality, amplifying these tweets is a deliberate strategy of his
White House communications team.
Shared Ideology of Global White Nationalism
In one of
these tweets, Hopkins openly endorsed the rise of extreme nationalist
politicians around the world, including Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro,
Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor
Orban, and leader of the Polish Law and Justice party (PiS) Jaroslaw Kaczynski.
politicians have promoted divisive, xenophobic policies.
has promised to “disappear” minorities that do not “bend to the majorities,”
granted the police a “carte blanche to kill” criminal suspects, which
potentially includes leftists and opposition forces, and described black
activists as “animals” who should “go back to the zoo.”
called for “ethnic” shops to be forced to close at 9pm because they are
“managed by foreign citizens” that harbor “drunks and drug dealers” who “piss
and shit” on the doorstep; and threatened to “bulldoze” the home of a woman he
called a “dirty gypsy” on the eve of the Roma Holocaust Memorial Day,
commemorating the murder of 3,000 Romani and Sinti people in Auschwitz gas
promoted the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that Jewish philanthropist George
Soros is orchestrating the mass migration of millions of Muslims to Europe,
accused the EU of having “secretly launched a programme to breed a Soros-like
human race,” and declared that “we do not want our own colour… to be mixed with
those of others.”
has claimed that migrants from the Middle East could trigger “epidemics” in
Europe as they carry “various parasites and protozoa, which don’t affect their
organisms, but which would be dangerous here.” He has also been accused by
Polish Jewish leaders of covering up and failing to addresstheir concerns about
growing hostility to minorities and Jews in the country, and his ruling party
is closely aligned with neo-Nazi movements in Poland.
amplifying Hopkins’ tweet about these politicians, Trump demonstrated his
affinity with these emerging proto-fascist movements across Europe and South
America, as part of a global far-right network with converging aims and a
Making of the ‘Great Replacement’ Mythology
It is now
widely recognized that at the core of this shared far-right ideology is the
so-called “great replacement” theory, which posits that a genocide of white
people is being achieved through their replacement by migrants, mostly from
Muslim countries (or, in the United States, from Latin America).
overlapping xenophobic agendas of these politicians illustrates how latent
anti-Semitism remains a driving force in this global movement, which
nevertheless masquerades under the guise of anti-migrant and anti-Muslim
sentiment as a mechanism to achieve mainstream reach.
the focus on a “Muslim invasion” through a combination of mass immigration and
birth rates allowed far-right groups inspired by neo-Nazi ideas to rehabilitate
themselves and conceal their traditional anti-Semitic roots.
It is no
surprise then to see that many of the groups that have played the biggest role
in spreading the core tenets of the “great replacement” mythology through the
spectre of a global Islamist conspiracy are simultaneously allied with longstanding
white nationalist movements.
most entrenched narratives that cross these different far-right groups is that
Muslim citizens and civil society groups in the West represent “fronts” for the
Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group founded in Egypt in 1928.
Many of the
same far-right think tanks which have promoted the white genocide thesis that
has inspired recent terrorist attacks started off scapegoating Muslims as
closet extremists attempting to takeover Western societies from within.
U.S., groups like the Gatestone Institute (formerly chaired by Trump’s current
National Security Advisor John Bolton), Frank Gaffney’s Centre for Security
Policy, Robert Spencer’s JihadWatch, David Horowitz’s Freedom Centre, Daniel
Pipes’ Middle East Forum, Steve Emerson’s Investigative Project on Terrorism,
and Raphael Shore’s Clarion Project have made it their business to accuse
prominent Western Muslim civil society networks of being hotbeds of extremism
conspiring to conquer the West by stealth.
massive migration of Muslims to Europe, the Brotherhood — with its history,
organization, cadre, clear ideology, and international connections — was in the
perfect position to affect their thinking and compete for their leadership,”
claimed a Gatestone article earlier this year. “The Muslim Brotherhood has,
over the last decades, also successfully implanted itself in the United
States,” the article continues, concluding that: “In fact, nearly all prominent
Islamic organizations in the United States are rooted in the Muslim
organization that has repeatedly come under fire from this sort of far-right
propaganda is the International Institute for Islamic Thought (IIIT), the
largest American Muslim philanthropic foundation, founded in 1981. Like many
other ordinary American Muslim civil society groups, such as the Muslim
Students’ Association (MSA) or the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA),
IIIT is routinely portrayed as little more than a front for an Islamist
conspiracy to infiltrate America and impose “Shariah Law.”
“fake news” playbook used to build up this picture is revealing — a close
inspection reveals that the claim is built-up entirely from innuendo,
non-sequiturs, and false generalizations.
the U.S. government launched a major multi-agency investigation into terrorism
financing across multiple agencies known as Operation Green Quest, focused on
uncovering Muslim charities operating as “front organizations” for terrorists.
was that U.S. government agencies like the Treasury Department, FBI, and many
others had a nebulous and weak understanding of the Muslim world, often leading
investigators to see connections and ties which were not there, and to read
conspiratorial meaning into every association or relationship that might
potentially link individuals or organizations to extremism — however tenuous.
to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the net of suspicion was thrown
over virtually the entire American Muslim community. IIIT was just one
venerable organization that found itself caught up in Operation Green Quest’s
major Muslim charities have had their assets frozen and raids have been
conducted on homes and businesses around the country without any kind of
accountability or redress,” noted the ACLU. “Raids were mounted in scores of
cities across the country, with special attention given to convenience stores.
Once a business, charity or other body was ‘flagged’ as having some kind of connection
to ‘terrorism’ — no matter how tenuous — the investigation would proceed
entirely in secret, giving the organizations no opportunity to clear their
to Michael Isikoff, reporting in Newsweek in late 2003, Operation Green Quest’s
“most highly publicized case — its raids on the offices of a large network of
Islamic charities and foundations in northern Virginia in March 2002” resulted
in no charges or prosecutions relating to terror financing. “Customs agents,
armed with federal search warrants, hauled away truckloads of documents and
computer files. But so far the investigation, which created a ruckus within the
American Muslim community, has yet to yield any criminal charges.”
relation to a number of successful indictments, Isikoff noted that “it is still
unclear whether these connect to the financing of terror groups or simply
involve networks of Middle Eastern immigrants attempting to send money home to
Operation Green Quest did yield some results. But IIIT and its most senior
founders and officers — such as Jamal al-Barzinji and Hisham al-Taib — having
fully cooperated with U.S. investigators, were eventually exonerated completely
when it became clear there was simply no meaningful evidence whatsoever they
had ever organized or facilitated terrorist financing.
Much of the
“evidence” cited by far-right groups implicating IIIT in a
terrorist-Brotherhood conspiracy is based on cherry-picking documents that came
to light from Operation Green Quest, including alleged Muslim Brotherhood
documents as well as FBI files relating to inquiries at the time.
innocent Muslims were regularly caught up in this sweeping process. A 2004
report by the U.S. government’s General Accounting Office pointed out that
having provided a list of 30 suspected terrorists to U.S. Immigration and
Customs Enforcement identified from July to October 2003, the FBI went on to
find that only “10 of the approximately 30 subjects had a confirmed nexus to
terrorism or terrorist financing.”
Penetration of the FBI
part of the problem is that for years the FBI has suffered from institutional
training manuals obtained by Spencer Ackerman for Wired revealed that after
9/11 the agency was teaching its counterterrorism agents that “main stream”
[sic] American Muslims are likely to be terrorist sympathizers; that the
Prophet Mohammed was a “cult leader”; and that the Islamic practice of giving
charity is no more than a “funding mechanism for combat.” And “combat” can
include numerous techniques including “immigration” and “law suits”. Thus, a
Muslim who immigrates to the U.S. or sues the FBI for harassment is seen as
just another agent of the jihad.
training manual instructed its agents that Islam “transforms country’s [sic]
culture into 7th century Arabian ways,” and that “It is characteristic of the
Arab mind to be swayed more by words than ideas and more by ideas than facts.”
surprisingly, many FBI anti-Muslim briefings were inspired by the same nexus of
far-right anti-Muslim bigots promoting conspiracy theories about the Muslim
Brotherhood and, more recently, elements of the “great replacement” theory. For
instance, among this FBI manual’s recommended reading materials are two books
by Robert Spencer, whose JihadWatch website portrays IIIT and other American
Muslim groups as terrorist-supporting Brotherhood fronts.
FBI anti-Muslim briefings were drafted by intelligence analyst William
Gawthrop, who had previously given an interview to WorldNetDaily (WND) blaming
the Prophet “Muhammad’s mindset” as “a source for terrorism” and calling on
counter-terrorism efforts to focus on getting Muslims to abandon the Qur’an.
WND, of course, is a notorious extreme right website which has promoted numerous
conspiracy theories such as the “birther” theory denying Barack Obama’s U.S.
It is no
surprise then to see that some FBI files used by these far-right groups to
justify their claims wrongly painted IIIT’s founder as Muslim Brotherhood
members, when this was simply never the case.
Brotherhood did, of course, have its own agenda and as such was trying to
insert its members into groups like IIIT and many other American Muslim
networks. However, the very Brotherhood documents cited by far-right ideologues
as “proof” of the alleged conspiracy actually confirm not only that the
Brotherhood had no real control over IIIT and other American Muslim groups, but
was increasingly losing whatever presence it once had among American Muslims.
Trump, Islamophobia inside the FBI is reportedly at record levels, and even
Muslim special agents and intelligence analysts — sorely needed in the fight
against Islamist terrorism — are being discriminated against and hounded at the
agency purely due to their faith and ethnic backgrounds.
and denigrating organizations like IIIT, the far-right are ironically
disempowering the very forces among Western Muslims that are on the frontlines
of the fight against Islamist extremism.
years, IIIT has harnessed research and education with the goal of improving
Muslim societies and building the next generation of American Muslim leaders.
This has included publishing ground-breaking theological work undermining the
core narratives of Muslim extremists.
research has encompassed work on ‘Tajdid’ and ‘Islahi’ covering
the need for Islamic scholarship to continually renew and reform itself;
developed the ‘Maqasid’ approach to interpretations of Islamic law
around questions of Islamic reform focusing on universal ethical principles and
values; challenged extremist claims that apostates should be put to death and
established an Islamic basis for freedom of religion and belief; pioneered new
Islamic approaches to understanding ‘jihad’ which engage critically with the
classical tradition while delegitimizing extremist interpretations that promote
terror; demonstrated how Islam underpins “liberation and the equality of women”
as fundamental; promoted Islamic grounds for Muslim minorities in the West to
become integrated, active citizens that contribute to their host societies
based on a “humanistic vision.”
far-right would never know this body of work exists, because it is irrelevant
to their goal of portraying Islam and Muslims as a civilisational threat to the
insidious is that the narrative of “Muslim invasion,” propped up by suppressing
authentic visions of American Islam produced by the likes of IIIT, is in
reality not just about Muslims.
“Muslim invasion” narrative is central to the goal of legitimizing a broad,
xenophobic agenda rooted in anti-Semitic movements historically aligned with
Alliance between Islamophobes and Anti-Semites
That is why
so many of the same groups promoting Islamophobic myths play a lead role in
amplifying white nationalist concepts.
Gatestone has published material claiming that white people could go extinct
thanks to Muslim birth rates and mass migration; Clarion Project has featured
far-right politicians like Geert Wilders insisting that Muslims should be
deported en masse from Europe; Gaffney’s Centre for Security Policy has called
for naturalized American Muslims who practice their faith to be deprived of
their citizenship and deported.
groups frequently cultivate ties with anti-Semites. In 2016, I was commissioned
to investigate the trans-Atlantic networks behind the rise of the far-right as
a global movement by the London-based hate crime charity Tell Mama UK. Among
the most shocking findings of our report, Return of the Reich: Mapping the
Global Resurgence of Far Right Power, was that anti-Muslim groups were often
rooted in political movements that were traditionally anti-Semitic, and often
worked closely in secret with active neo-Nazi movements.
this alarming phenomenon as a form of “reconstructed-Nazism,” “indicating that
the core ideology [of the global far-right] embraces core Nazi principles, but
embeds them in a range of cosmetic narrative adjustments which allow those
principles to function subliminally in a new post-war, anti-Nazi, and post-9/11
global cosmopolitan context.”
Part of the
strategy for this movement has been to brand itself precisely as fighting
against “foreign invaders” who are themselves depicted as “Nazis” or
“fascists,” thus cementing the movement’s self-portrayal as an “anti-Nazi”
movement defending freedom and civilization. In this case, the specter of
Muslims as tentacles of a near omnipresent Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy has
functioned as an ideal bogeyman against which far-right groups can legitimize
their existence, and distract from their own fundamentally fascist goals.
instance, in 2017 Gatestone partnered with Rebel Media to produce a video
series featuring racist bigots like Daniel Pipes and Geert Wilders. Yet Rebel
Media is a far-right Canadian website with what reporter Eli Clifton describes
as “a history of bigotry and anti-Semitism that once published a ‘satirical
video’ titled ‘Ten Things I Hate About Jews.’”
has not only released materials defending Holocaust denial, its staffers have
disturbing connections to white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups. The website
has, for instance, hired former Trump advisor Sebastian Gorka, who was
belatedly fired after being outed for ties with Hungarian Nazi collaborators.
Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy has a long established partnership with
the International Free Press Society in Denmark, an anti-Muslim coalition whose
senior staff are affiliated with the neo-Nazi Belgian Vlaams Belang party. The
party, described by Professor Etienne Vermeersch at the University of Ghent as
racist “in the Nazi sense of the word,” was born out of the Flemish Legion — a
German Waffen-SS division recruited from Flemish volunteers.
Belang’s leader Filip Dewinter once admitted that the party’s rebranded focus
on Muslims and migrants was entirely tactical. His party, in turn, sits within
the Identity and Democracy Group in the European parliament (formerly Europe of
Nations and Freedom), whose members include far-right parties accused of
neo-Nazi sympathies, including the Freedom Party of Austria, Poland’s Congress
of the New Right, and France’s National Rally, which has been unable to shake
off revelations about the pro-Nazi attitudes of several Marine Le Pen
Gatestone and CSP have direct ties to the Trump administration. Their
advancement of Islamophobic ideology has provided them ideal cover to not only
sanitize “white genocide” and “great replacement” theory, but to conceal their
anti-Semitic heritage and ongoing partnerships with neo-Nazi political parties
of this is clear: Jews and Muslims cannot afford to be at loggerheads in the
fight against fascism. Both communities are in the firing line of a global
far-right agenda advanced by groups and political parties forged in the
historic bowels of Nazism.
their political differences and disagreements, both communities need to forge
bonds of solidarity in the struggle against racism. If they are to survive, our
communities have no choice but to resist being distracted by efforts to divide
us and turn us against each other, which is a deliberate far-right strategy to
debilitate both Jewish and Muslim communities. Instead, we need to identify new
lines of strategic cooperation to resist and disrupt a global far-right
movement which threatens not only our communities, but the very foundations of
that no matter what our political leanings might be, the struggles against
Islamophobia and anti-Semitism are fundamentally about the same thing:
protecting diverse, inclusive, and free societies.
Nafeez Ahmed is an award-winning investigative journalist and systems theorist.
He reports on global system transformation for VICE, is editor of crowd funded
investigative journalism platform INSURGE INTELLIGENCE, and is a Research
Fellow at the Schumacher Institute. His latest book is Failing States,
Collapsing Systems: BioPhysical Triggers of Political Violence (Springer). He
is also founder of Perennial, a project on Islamic theology for the modern
world. Republished, with permission, from Foreign Policy in Focus.
Headline: Behind Islamophobia Is A Global Movement Of Anti-Semites
Source: Lobe Log