The far-right Britain First, whose anti-Islamic tweets had previously been retweeted and made headlines by former US President Donald Trump, has been accepted as a political party in Britain. A spokesman for the British Electoral Commission said that the group’s application for registration as a political party had been considered and that the necessary conditions had been met. “Britain First”, however, had been removed from the list of political parties in the Britain in 2017.
Welcoming the decision of the British Electoral Commission, Paul Golding, the leader of ” Britain First “, said that he had immediately started recruiting members for the party. The British Electoral Commission is not involved in identifying parties from their political point of view in any way and merely emphasises that their names or logos must not mislead voters.
Britain First was formed in 2011 by members of the right-wing British National Party and it has recorded negative anti-Muslim propaganda in cyberspace and organised anti-Muslim protest rallies in front of mosques and demonstrations in opposition to Muslims and immigrants.
Paul Golding ran for mayor of London five years ago, but did not get enough votes to run for office. Following Sadegh Khan’s election victory, the extremist group threatened to take military action against Muslim officials.
The name “ Britain First ” came to prominence again when former US President Donald Trump retweeted its deputy’s anti-Islamic tweets. Four years ago, Jayda Fransen, the deputy leader of the Britain’s far-right party, “ Britain First ”, posted videos of several young people being beaten and a Christian statue being broken on Twitter, and tried to attribute the actions to Muslims.
A spokesman for the then-British prime minister called the US President’s action “wrong” and said that the British people reject the fanatical ideas of the far-right, which are against the values of the country.
” Britain First is an extremist group that seeks to sow discord in society by presenting a discourse of hatred and lies,” former Home Secretary Amber Rudd had said in an emergency House of Commons condemnation of the US president’s republishing of anti-Islamic videos.
In 2018, Facebook blocked the group’s account for spreading racist views and violating the network’s rules. A year later, the British Electoral Commission fined them £44,000, including for failing to submit an audit report on time.
According to a new study, Brexit has pushed extremist right-wing views on immigration and identity into the mainstream.
Hope, Not Hate Study
According to the research report “Hope, Not Hate“, Britain ‘s exit from the EU has sparked debates about loyalty, elitism, and patriotism, and “attracted people close to the far-right to mainstream right-wing thinking.”
The group also added: ”The disappearance of these barriers has led political figures and analysts to use literature and discourse that we have previously seen only from the far-right and in anti-Muslim prejudices, anti-immigrant and anti-refugee views, and concepts such as cultural warfare against social liberalism. Part of this is due to politicians turning to far-right theories for popular support, and part to the far-right connection to major issues,” the report said. The change has weakened far-right street movements and reduced membership and events in Britain , according to a study by Hope, Not Hate.
“Leaders of the past and present of the far-right have even participated in Election Day celebrations in Parliament Square,” the report said. “Efforts to curb extremist and dangerous views, which previously kept far-right groups and ideas out of the mainstream, have now failed, both here and in continental Europe”. Hope, Not hate,” warns that while “irrelevant” to public debates on the traditional far-right, frustration with Mr Johnson or Britain’s withdrawal from the EU could make them popular in the future.
The report comes amid growing hate crimes across the Britain and warnings of growing Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. Nick Lowles, chief executive of Hope, Not Hate, said that despite the decline in organised groups, hatred “has spread through an online culture and far-right mainstream discussions.” “Citizens, institutions and government agencies need to understand the scale of the problem and push back the ideologies of division and hatred,” he added. Outside the Britain , attacks by far-right groups have reached “unprecedented levels” by Christchurch, El Paso, Hale and Hanau.
The report found that threats involving more violent young people and individuals, increasing the illusion of conspiracy, insults (unwanted and unmarried singles) and sexist and mostly online ideologies, have led to widespread extremism in ideological ways.
Hope, Not Hate, has called for action against online extremist networks, including the coded version of the Telegram app. The group also urged the government to ban a neo-Nazi satanic organisation called the Order of the Nine Angels, which advocates murder and sexual violence.
Lowles said the current strategy “Is quite insufficient to deal with this rapidly growing threat.” “In 2020, the far-right, through a virtual community without a leader and a global community, carried out international terror operations, from Christchurch in New Zealand to Halle in Germany, through a new generation of young people and extremist terrorists,” he said. “But the authorities have been slow to make the connection between hate crimes in the real world and the ideological ecosystem beyond them.”
“The government is working to eradicate extremist right-wing groups, and we are providing the police with the tools and resources to counter this threat,” said a British Home Office spokesman.
What Is Extreme Right?
The term “left and right” is one of the most controversial concepts in history and political literature. Those on the right advocated the preservation of the monarchy, aristocracy, and official religion, and those on the left opposed the traditional hierarchy of power and advocated rapid and radical reform. The term gradually became popular in Western political literature after the French Revolution, as it has long been one of the basic criteria for dividing individuals, political factions, and regimes. In the political arena, conservatism is often followed by the full manifestation of rightists. The so-called right-wing ideology opposes change and believes that the status quo should be maintained as much as possible. They see social inequality as a natural necessity for social growth and its elimination as impossible, and nationalist and patriotic ideas are more prevalent among right-wing tendencies.
In the early twentieth century, the world witnessed the growth of extremist tendencies in right-wing thinking, tendencies that posed increasing threats to the world. The intellectual foundations of the extremist right in Europe must be sought in the ideas of Nazism and Fascism.
Reasons for the Far Right in Europe
The far-right nationalist parties in Europe, referred to by other names such as the radical right, far-right populism, extremist populist parties, radical right-wing populists, anti-immigration parties, neo-fascist parties and neo-populist parties, range from openly neo-Nazi parties to bourgeois forces that are well integrated into political institutions, and not all of them can be viewed at a glance. The dominant far-right current in Europe today, as a result of an ideological shift, has distanced itself from its origins – traditional fascism – by rejecting biological racism and instead emphasising culture and identity in a different way from its Nazi and fascist predecessors.
The success of the far-right indicates the failure of the European Union (EU) project. Many believe that corruption within the EU has made people suspicious of it. Because the EU is not real in nature, it has been questioned by people, and instead of convergence, a wave of divergence has begun. The economic crisis has affected the people of Europe one by one. The people do not trust the EU project, which is why we see that the right-wing parties were able to attract the people’s votes. The European system of democracy does not work and people are confused between different attitudes.
The symbols of unity and a united Europe are challenged one by one by its nations, and even the governments and parties of Europe, and the simultaneous occurrence of security, economic, social and political crises in a united Europe is a window to the effective survival of the European Union and its continuation. The rule of European institutions is not left to the people. Well-known American analyst, George Friedman,believes that nationalism is redefining itself as the main engine of political life.
Multinational institutions such as the European Union and multinational trade agreements are challenged because some see them as incompatible with national interests. The costly nature of collectivism in the European Union has led to the growth of nationalism. This nationalism should not be confused with fascism, because what is happening in a united Europe is the product of a mismatch between the national interests of countries and the interests of multinational institutions, especially the European Union.
Populism is an anti-elitist sentiment that seeks the popular demands of the people and the emergence of this phenomenon is rooted in the problems of societies. The main characteristic of populist leaders is demagogic and propaganda speeches, which are often absurd. These populist leaders are often extremists with exaggerated behaviours and ideas. In recent years, the world has seen the attractiveness of the populist view. Trump’s victory in the US election was the biggest earthquake of populism in the world, an event that may spread to Europe in the not-too-distant future.
The increasing migration of workers, asylum seekers, technicians and professionals, who are predominantly Muslims, to Western industrialised countries, has led to the adoption of multicultural policies by Western governments. Economics has also aroused the identity and cultural sensitivities of the far-right. Waves of immigration have turned Western countries into multicultural states, exposing the relations between minority and majority cultures and their carriers to new conditions, complexities and new pressures. Intolerance of foreign subcultures, defence of authoritarian attitudes in dealing with foreigners and their exclusion from the West, have been done so that the originality and national, cultural and racial identity of the West is not damaged further. These parties believe that social issues and policies should be adopted and interpreted more in terms of ethnic, racial and cultural issues. In any case, immigrants and asylum seekers are the intermediary and focal point of both the globalisation of the economy and multiculturalism in the West, and act as the central signifier of the far-right discourse. The economic and social turmoil in Western societies, on the one hand, and the way out of it, on the other, are elaborated around this concept.
A wave of right-wing extremists is sweeping Europe, and history is stepping back. The enmity of the extremist right with Islam is a sign of this historical setback. The holding of a conference of extremist factions in Europe one day after the inauguration of former US President Donald Trump could be a sign of change in the new international order. It is no coincidence that Frank Walter Steinmeier, in an article published in Build, spoke of a turning point in the coming to power of Donald Trump as the new President of the United States. “The world must prepare for a turbulent time,” Steinmeier wrote, noting that the election of Donald Trump would definitely end the old world of the twentieth century.
What Donald Trump and right-wing populists have in common in politics is anti-Islam. Islamophobia is one of the new terms which have recently become relatively common, especially in the context of the relationship between Islam and the West. European extremism, especially when it came to power, mainly focused on xenophobia in its approaches, and today it has made anti-Islamism its motto and model of progress. A new group in Europe that is pursuing this goal claims to want to fight new interpretations of Islam and considers Europe a Christian continent.
An important factor in the spread of Islamophobia and subsequent anti-Islamism in European societies is the rise of Islam due to immigration, the increase in the birth rate among European Muslims, and the growing conversion of European citizens to Islam. The French philosopher, Emmanuel Todd, believes that one of the most important dangers felt by European societies is the domination of the Muslim population in Europe and, consequently, the domination of Islam and its development in these societies. Increasing numbers of Muslims in Europe will also strengthen their political voice in the future, and European governments will be forced to incorporate their views into their policies and decisions.
In addition to the growing Muslim population in Europe due to births and immigration, the growing popularity of Islam among Europe’s indigenous population is a concern for European politicians and churches. Therefore, one of the important functions of promoting Islamophobia in European societies can be to counteract the growing wave of conversion to Islam.
The Success of Far-right Parties in Europe
The results of the recent elections in Germany and Austria show an international pattern. As Europe’s left-wing parties suffer successive defeats, the influence of Europe’s far-right parties is expanding. In Eastern Europe, Hungary and Poland are effectively led by far-rightists.
In Hungary, the Conservative Fidesz Party and Prime Minister Viktor Orban took power in 2010. They took a hard line on the immigration crisis and saw progress in opinion polls. The Hungarian leader has refused to accept even one immigrant by installing barbed wire on his country’s southern borders. Rightists refer to him as a supporter of Christian Europe against the masses of Muslims.
In Poland, the Law and Justice Party is a conservative, nationalist, and Christian democrat party that has the largest number of seats in parliament in the country. It strongly opposes the admission of asylum seekers under the EU programme. The party’s leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, believes that by entering Europe, Muslims are creating problems that are not dangerous in their own country but dangerous for the European population. The uprising of the right is also on the rise in Western Europe.
In Britain , as the leaders of both the Conservative and Labour parties opposed Britain ‘s withdrawal from the European Union, the “British Independence Party” played a historic role in the election. “I hope this is the beginning of the exit,” said Nigel Farage, leader of the British Independence Party. “The European Union is failing, the European Union is dying. This is the first step, and Europe must become a collection of independent countries.”
Consequences of the Rise of the Far Right in Europe
- Weakening Convergence in the European Union
The weakening of convergence and Europeanism, or even the collapse of the European Union, could be an important outcome of the growth and empowerment of far-right parties. In this regard, Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, considers the rise of the far-right as the beginning of the end of the EU project and warns about it; a warning previously voiced by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The far-right believes that the European Union and the process of European integration, like the issue of immigration, is a fundamental threat to the national identity of countries. All far-right parties oppose the creation of a unified political entity called the European Union, and believe that the sovereignty and national independence of governments must be maintained.
European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, warned of the negative consequences of rising disputes in the European Union. Juncker expressed concern about recent developments in the European Union in order to reassure the relatively new members of the European Union about the stability of the European Union and its continued convergence. However, some developments have led to a lack of clear vision in this area. The issue of Britain ‘s withdrawal from the European Union has not only increased the tendency to diverge and secede from the EU in some member states, such as France, but also from the perspective of EU member states in Eastern Europe as a prelude to creating a kind of division between Eastern and Western Europe. It has recently been proposed by Germany and France in the framework of the concept of “multi-speed Europe” and has also been supported by Italy, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. In this context, those countries of the European Union that are united in strengthening convergence must continue on their path, regardless of the countries that do not take action in this regard. Ivan Stefanec, Member of the European Parliament from Slovakia, stated that the realisation of the idea of a multi-speed Europe would only increase the gap between Western and Eastern European countries, and that the people of Eastern Europe felt that they would be “second-class European citizens”.
Tomas Zdechovsky, a member of the European Parliament from the Czech Republic, also stressed that intense pressure from Western members of the European Union could lead to a serious rift between EU member states and many might consider leaving the bloc. This reinforces the prospect of the collapse of the European Union.
- Weakening the International Position of the European Union
The disappearance of unity among European countries will definitely hit the position of this international institution in the international system, and with the withdrawal of Britain from the European Union, it will see its international leadership power and influence diminished . The marginalisation of the common European foreign and security policy and the adoption of a foreign policy independent of the EU framework by European countries that make foreign policy the most important tool for maintaining and fulfilling national interests and the most important and last stronghold of national sovereignty of their respective governments. They know that the EU’s position in the world will be fragile and that the bargaining power of other countries against the various European units will increase.
- Racism and Xenophobia
European countries today are witnessing a dangerous rise in xenophobia and racism, as well as the disappearance of traditional European values through politicians’ prejudices against non-European immigrants. The overall picture of Europe is complex and disturbing to contemporary racism and racial discrimination, and reinforced manifestations of racism and intolerance can be seen in all EU member states. Racial discrimination is on the rise in many European countries on a daily basis, and many immigrants are discriminated against in important areas such as employment, education and health. Al-Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has warned of the xenophobic attitude of a number of candidates in the run-up to some of the world’s leading democracies, especially in the West. The senior UN official stressed that xenophobia among candidates in the world’s democracies is a serious threat to future unity among societies.
- The Growth of Anti-Islam Movements
The sharp edge of extremist right-wing propaganda attacks, both in the United States and in Europe, is now on Islam and Muslims, as former US president Trump called for the expulsion of Muslims from the United States and Muslims in European countries under increasing psychological and social pressure from the far-right groups. The far-right parties and their leaders have sought to capitalise on the growing fear of Islam, which is largely due to reports of violent acts by the terrorist group ISIS. The term Islamophobia first became popular in the West in the late 1980s. The roots of this worrying phenomenon go back to a time when Western society was confronted with the multicultural social theory and political identity, forcing its thinkers to sensitise themselves to xenophobia and rejection of foreign cultures and to ask them for a solution to accept multiple thinks of a culture in Western societies.
The role played by the media, xenophobic political parties and some extremist politicians, as well as some thinkers and intellectual elites in Europe in the spread of Islamophobia and ultimately anti-Islamism on the continent is very significant. Therefore, the activities of these groups in European societies in spreading the phenomenon of Islamophobia and anti-Islamism has had a significant impact on public opinion in their societies, which has led to difficult and unsuitable conditions for some Muslim residents in European societies. For more than two decades, xenophobia in Europe has been completely intertwined with anti-Islamism. The far- right parties are committed to a set of common ideas. A common feature of the far-right is its opposition to the presence of foreigners and immigrants in European countries. From the point of view of the far-right, the identity of European countries is under threat. Over the years, far-right parties have achieved considerable political success by chanting racist and anti-immigrant slogans.
The far right is on the rise in many European countries, and the recognition of Britain ‘s first far-right group in the country as a party has made Europe feel the dangers of the rise of extremist nationalism once again. These political currents are now growing and expanding their influence on two general levels: formal parties, and illegal groups and organisations. In recent decades, far-right parties have been able to attract the attention of many voters, especially young people and workers, by opposing the presence of immigrants and warning of multiculturalism. With an anti-structural approach, these parties take advantage of public dissatisfaction and distrust of the mainstream parties and present themselves as the only alternative to the current situation and the real voice of the people.
The far-right and nationalist parties are now at the forefront of the political and executive equations of various European countries, and the failure of European leaders to contain the social, economic, immigration, security and political crises in continental Europe is on the rise. It seems that the more frustrated European citizens become with the traditional currents, the more inclined they become towards the far-right. Also, some European citizens, who have not participated in the political equations in this area so far, prefer to turn their votes in favour of nationalist and far-right currents. The rise of right-wing parties in Europe and the increase in their seats in the parliaments of Sweden, Belgium, Denmark, Austria, France and Germany could undermine the culture of tolerance in Europe and fuel ethnic-religious conflicts in those countries.
The leaders of the right-wing parties will also have a lot of maneuvering power regarding Islamophobia and xenophobia in order to increase their popularity among the dissatisfied masses. The extremist right is now entrenched throughout Europe, penetrating even the quietest European countries, such as Norway, which are symbols of Western democracy and liberal prosperity; danger is everywhere. It is a discourse of xenophobia and Islamophobia, and all extremist parties emphasizse national culture and identity, independence from the European Union, and resistance to the waves of immigration. This trend is not unrelated to the increase in terrorist attacks in Europe over the past few years, as terrorism and the influx of immigrants are a propaganda tool entirely in the hands of the far-right.
Thus, a combination of factors such as the immigration crisis, the rise of terrorist attacks, the inefficiency of traditional parties, the European economic crisis, the attempt to regain national identity and the Britain withdrawal from the EU in the face of collective identity have intensified public leanings towards right-wing currents and parties. It has somewhat strengthened the context for divergence in the EU.