by Claude Salhani
We are living in uncertain times and when people are uncertain of their future and that of their children, two things are likely to unfold. First comes fear of the unknown and with that is triggered the deep-rooted fear of “the other.”
Political or economic uncertainty typically lays the groundwork for extreme groups to recruit followers who are looking for answers. When individuals feel lost and that they have no control of their lives, they are more easily swayed by people offering answers to their questions, even if those answers are not the correct ones.
Far-right groups, regardless of their country of origin, use the same tactics — instilling fear — to offer a security blanket in exchange for their support.
Europe’s far-right groups peddled fear mongering over the Middle Eastern and African immigrants heading towards Western Europe by the shipload. Europe’s right-wingers lost no time in portraying the refugees as Islamist sleepers, as members of the Islamic State (ISIS).
Among the tens of thousands seeking asylum were there potential terrorists? No doubt. That is the job of security forces to determine the legitimate from those with ill intentions, understanding that not all refugees are potential terrorists.
Europe is not alone in facing such a dilemma. US President Donald Trump called the caravan of South Americans seeking economic relief or escape from ruthless drug lords and their violence an invasion as it headed towards the United States. This despite that this so-called invasion has no weapons, no munitions, no leadership and no command structure.
This caravan was mentioned on Fox News, a network that supports Trump, no fewer than 21 times a day ahead of the midterm elections. Immediately following the elections, that number dropped to one. Coincidence?
Trump and his fellow right-wingers depicted the caravan of South American asylum seekers as killers, rapists, drug barons and people infected with diseases ranging from leprosy to tuberculosis, accusations for which no evidence was produced.
Extreme right-wing groups are becoming more visible in Europe. At the same time, immigrants from North Africa and the Middle East are more visible on the streets of Western European cities. Germany is believed to have taken in more than 1 million refugees between 2014 and the past year. Italy is not far behind.
As the number of newcomers rises, changing the demographic landscape, right-wing groups are using those changes to instil fear and anger among their followers.
In Germany, police detained six people suspected of forming a far-right militant organisation that assaulted foreigners and planned attacks on politicians and civil servants, authorities said.
The men, aged 28-30, are accused of forming “Revolution Chemnitz,” a subversive organisation named after the city where the fatal stabbing of a German man in August was blamed on immigrants and prompted the worst far-right violence in decades.
The violence in Chemnitz exposed deep divisions over Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision in 2015 to welcome almost 1 million, mostly Muslim, refugees.
In France, four men were charged in a far-right plot to disrupt first world war 100th anniversary events.
These recent events point to the resilience of the hate narrative and its dangerous ability of spreading even as the West lives through unprecedented peace and prosperity.
The world celebrated the end of the first world war and the horrors it brought. A hundred years may seem like a very long time and we risk forgetting the atrocities man inflicted on his fellow man in the name of defending himself from the other.
Extremist ideologies pose a danger to society. It does not matter if they originate in the East or West. As the war on ISIS continues, the importance of the war against the extreme right-wingers should not be minimised.