Rightwing far right extremism
Far right extremists take out a protest march in Belgium Image Credit: Shutterstock

Since the swift victory of the Taliban in Afghanistan, many predications and speculations are going around about the growing terror threats from jubilant Daesh and Al Qaida affiliates in Africa, also the possibility of the so-called ‘lone-wolf’ attacks in Europe. The stabbing attacks in New Zealand last week by a terror suspect, allegedly inspired by Daesh ideology, has further added to the prevailing fear of religious terrorism.

However, the ongoing discussion on global terror risks continues to ignore the dramatic rise of Islamophobia in recent weeks and the resulting growing threat of far-right extremism. The defeat of the US and its allies in Afghanistan has given a fillip to this phenomenon, particularly in Europe, North America, and parts of Asia.

With it, even there are reports of celebration by far-right extremists in the US of ‘Democrat Biden’s defeat’ and their use of Taliban-ruled Afghanistan as symbol to mobilise their ranks.

Despite the serious nature of threats from the far-right groups for many years, only in October 2020, the US Department of Homeland Security acknowledged violent domestic extremism as the most pressing and lethal threat facing the country.

A matter of grave concern

The attack on the US Capitol on 6 January 2021 by the supporters of Donald Trump exhibited the threat the far-right extremism poses. Against this backdrop, the admiration of the Taliban’s victory by White supremacists and far-right extremists in claiming it as a model to successfully carry out civil war in the US is a matter of grave concern.

The far-right groups have been building international networks to spread their terror-promoting ideology for some time. The war in Ukraine has become a magnet for right-wing extremism, with most foreign fighters travelling there to fight for the Russian side. Organisations like the Base have been facilitating international connections among the neo-fascist groups worldwide.

Similarly, the Nordic Resistance Movement has become an alliance among Scandinavia’s neo-Nazi groups. Not all of them, however, work clandestinely. The Russian Imperial Movement (RIM), another hub of the extreme right, operates in Russia.

The far-right terror groups are cooperating today internationally more than ever before and espousing a similar vision of waging a civil war against the ‘others’. The new technology and electoral victory of right-wing populists in many countries have facilitated this process of transborder mobilisation and international collaboration. The Capitol attack inspired them, and Afghanistan has provided them an excuse to globalise far-right extremism further.

Anti-democratic and exclusionary ideologies

The far-right extremists come from a diverse spectrum but are infused with anti-democratic and exclusionary ideologies. The common hatred towards immigrants binds them together. Despite the growing threat from the violent terror acts committed by the individuals or groups motivated by far-right agenda, law enforcement agencies don’t prioritise them as they do to the religious terrorism.

Even a few academic works look at this threat carefully, thus resulting in mass ignorance and lack of professional expertise.

National governments and international agencies continue to downplay far-right terrorism by branding it as a limited domestic security issue, not a global threat. The response of many countries to far-right terror threats has been seriously inadequate and highly politicised.

There is no doubt that, at least in the West, the far-right terror threat has overtaken the religious terror threat, and the development in Afghanistan will make it worse. Unfortunately, the US-EU cooperation in addressing far-right terrorism continues to be ad hoc.

Attacks by far-right terrorists 

The deaths from terrorism worldwide are continuing to fall since 2014. However, as the 2020 Global Terrorism Index indicates, attacks by far-right terrorists have increased by 250 per cent during these years. And, in terms of fatalities, the increase is a staggering 700 per cent.

Europe has witnessed the revival of far-right extremist groups and a surge of violence against their political opponents, immigrants, Muslims, ethnic minorities, and the LGBT community. The trend is not limited to Europe only; the US, Canada, Oceania, and India also face a similar scourge.

In the name of ‘War on Terror’, the US has waged several wars against other countries since 2001. However, the US has witnessed more far-right terrorism on its soil than the terror activities by the far-left network or those influenced by Daesh or Al Qaida.

As a study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies counts, between 1990 and 2020, there were 893 terrorist attacks and plots in the US. Right-wing terrorists carried out 57 per cent, only 15 per cent were committed by religious terrorists.

Since the Sep. 11 attack, for the last two decades, policymakers, security agencies, and researchers in most parts of the world have focused their attention on religious radicalism, ignored the far-right extremism, and underestimated their terror potential.

The ‘our boys syndrome’ continues to give them a cover to be overlooked by the law enforcement and intelligence apparatuses. As the statistics suggest, right-wing terrorism has become a serious threat to global peace, security, and stability.

Unlike religious extremism, the far-right terror does not need failed states or collapsed institutions to gain strength and recruits its base. The right-wing extremism has grown in rich powerful democracies and is spreading its tentacles globally. It has much superior access to material resources and weapons.

Afghanistan, which had inflamed religious extremism in the 1980s and 1990s, is again becoming a pretext for far-right terrorism to further garner ideological and material strength. The world must need to take notice and act swiftly.