This week’s Channel 4 documentary Angry, White and Proud showed some of the less salubrious sides of far right groups and activities in this country. Over the last six months, there has been much talk of a drop in support of these groups. Whilst it is true that actual street base support has dropped, this does not take into account how the narratives of these extreme groups has pervaded and spread across the internet and through social media platforms.
In 2013, we at TELL MAMA published our findings that nearly 70 per cent of self-reported anti-Muslim incidents online had a perpetrator with a link to a far right group, (the English Defence League, the British National Party or the North West Infidels, for example). The majority of online reported cases included threats of offline action and therefore were not be dismissed or underestimated. Most perpetrators of online anti-Muslim hate were male and under the age of 40.
After the murder of Lee Rigby in 2013, the real impact of far right sympathisers was felt in the United Kingdom. Since May 2013, over 50 mosques have been attacked, the majority of the attacks being conducted by far right sympathisers who were enraged by the killing of the soldier, and who decided to target Muslim communities by targeting the institutions which symbolised them. And who can forget the brutal murder of grandfather Mohammed Saleem in Birmingham in April 2013, which was carried out by Pavlo Lapshyn, a Ukrainian far right extremist who had just arrived in the United Kingdom on a temporary work placement in Birmingham and who was also involved in planting explosives in Walsall, Wolverhampton and Tipton mosques.
This adds to the regular flow of (mainly) men who have been influenced by extremist far right rhetoric.
Take for example, Ryan McGee, and his history of hate with weapons. Ryan was found to possess a viable nail bomb, an air rifle, an imitation pistol, a knuckleduster, knives and axes. Police also found pressure sensors in the flat that could have been used as a booby trap bomb. Bizarrely, when he turned 18, Ryan’s mother bought him an English Defence League ‘armed forces division’ hoodie and t-shirt. His room also was emblazoned with the EDL insignia. Although Mcgee argued at his trial that he had rejected much of the right wing ideology that had previously interested him.
Or John Parkin, an English Defence League sympathiser, who was banned from every mosque in England and Wales in 2013. He was issued with the CRASBO after trying to burn down the local mosque in Rhyl. Or Ian Forman, a neo-Nazi who was jailed after plotting to bomb Penny Lane mosque in Liverpool, as well as the Wirral Islamic Centre. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison after a significant terrorism trial which provided an insight into the way that he has collected the ingredients for a bomb.
So, if you were watched the television this week, feeling slightly amused by the buffoonery on show in the documentary, remember these cases. Far right sympathisers have killed before. Some of them will actively look for opportunities to murder.
If there is one thing you should take from this article, it is the name of David Copeland. His 13 day murder spree in 1999 killed three and led to explosions in Brixton, Brick Lane and Soho. It was his intended aim to spark a race war in our capital. Next time you ever see Angry, White and Proud,reflect on his name. There might not be a conveyor belt from radicalisation to violent extremism, but maybe - just maybe - being angry, white and proud, could lead an individual down a dangerous path.
Fiyaz Mughal OBE is the Director of Faith Matters (@FaithMattersUK) and TELL MAMA (@tellmamauk.org). He has worked on numerous counter-radicalisation projects and heads up the national anti-Muslim hate monitoring project, TELL MAMA, which he founded.