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Book Review: A Tale from the British Far Right

Hate: My Life in the British Far Right
by Matthew Collins (London: Biteback, 2011)

Matthew Collins was a teenage fascist who became disillusioned and decided to quit the scene. That’s not so unusual. Agreeing to work undercover as a mole for the anti-fascist magazine Searchlight is. His new book, Hate, chronicles his journey in and out of the world of far-right extremism.

The book has much to teach us about three dynamics of radicalisation in Europe: an environment of vulnerability that gives extremism its chance, a transformational encounter with extremists on the prowl, and a legitimating ideology or “frame” that constructs frustration as violation.

The environment of vulnerability

Mediating a Conflict Between Two Rights (or Two Wrongs)


Chaim Weizmann, Israel’s first president, once said that Palestine-Israel conflict was so intractable precisely because it is not a conflict between right and wrong, but rather a conflict between two rights. (The Israeli novelist Amos Oz added that, sometimes, it is a conflict between two wrongs.)

What does that mean for the international community gathered in New York to consider the Palestinians bid for recognition as the 194th state?

‘Winter Is On My Head’: Israel’s Predicament

“Winter is on my head, but eternal spring is in my heart,” wrote the novelist Victor Hugo. That pretty much sums up Israel’s current predicament.

President Shimon Peres spoke for the county’s heart in April, back when the Arab Spring was, to use Rilke’s zestful words, “blooming most recklessly” and everyone marvelled at that “unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night.” Peres was elated:

A great revolt has been initiated by young people and women, to gain freedom, bread and hope. Israel is watching with great expectation. … Those reactionary forces, that would hijack their countries back down the path of radicalism, are also the enemies of peace with Israel. That is why we hope our neighbors will choose to join the family of democratic nations.

After Oslo: the Radical Loser and the ‘Vital Center’

It was a question of which kind of radical loser would get the decent people of Norway first.

For a while it seemed it would be the AQ type. Only last year, the scholars Thomas Hegghammer and Dominic Tierney asked in the Atlantic, “Why Does Al-Qaeda Have a Problem With Norway?” The pair reported on a suspected AQ cell rolled up in Oslo in July 2010 that had been plotting chemical attacks. In 2006, the AQ theoretician and preacher Abu Yahya al-Libi called on Muslims to attack Norway. “Send rivers of blood down their streets ... hone your swords and shake the ground beneath their feet.”

Entebbe and the Dueling Legacies of the New Left

Thirty-five years ago this week, German leftists Wilfried Böse and Brigitte Kuhlmann hijacked Air France Flight 139 along with their comrades Fayez Abdul-Rahim Jaber and Jayel Naji al-Arjam. They demanded the release of Palestinian and Baader-Meinhof terrorists, flew the plane to Entebbe in Uganda, separated the Jews from the non-Jews, and prepared to execute them.

Enough ‘Eurabia’ Talk. Let’s be Optimistic.

I am not a regular reader of Lesbilicous, “the web’s tastiest lesbian magazine,” but I was drawn to this headline: “Poll reveals Muslim support for gay rights.”

Needed: A Leitkultur to Counter Radicalization in Europe

European societies need a leitkultur to defeat radicalization and violent extremism. The Muslim democrat and scholar Bassam Tibi first introduced this idea of a “leading culture” in Europa ohne Identität? in 1998. Multicultural European societies needed some glue if they were not to fragment, he argued. They needed a core culture built on the values of “modernity, democracy, secularism, the Enlightenment, human rights, and civil society.” However, the concept was soon turned into a political football by opportunistic German parties playing to their bases. Tibi declared the debate a failure and retreated.

For three reasons, we Europeans, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, should try again.

The British Muslim Voices We Need to Hear

Here is a fact that might surprise you. In 2009 a Gallup poll found 77 percent of British Muslims identified “very strongly” or “extremely strongly” with Britain, a higher percentage than the British public as a whole (at 50 percent).

Here is another. In 2010 a group of British Muslim women in partnership with the Armed Forces Muslim Association (AFMA) attended a memorial event. They were responding to a miniscule group of Islamists that had, by disrupting the now-traditional parade of soldier’s coffins through the town of Wootton Bassett, dominated the national news.

As Kalsoom Bashir put it, “Other organizations—that represent nobody—have tried to hijack the message from UK Muslim communities. We are here to claim it back.” She added, “There was a strong feeling of disgust in the Muslim communities that anyone would try to exploit the grief of families at Wootton Bassett.”

How Soft Terror Works In Europe

Let us talk of the glorious Piazza del Duomo in Milan.

Across Milan’s public square the citizens of the Italian republic meet, drink, eat, love, argue, shop, and pray. Look up and the eye sees the Gothic Milan cathedral, five centuries in the making, topped by the polychrome Madonnina statue designed by Giuseppe Perego. Look down and, this being Italy, all is la bella vita.

As part of Israel Week, the Piazza was to provide the setting for 15 towers of Israeli culture, technology, agriculture, economics, and art “to present the unfamiliar Israel.”

Not any more.

Bin Laden, Just War Thinking, and the European Mind

The European reaction to the death of Osama bin Laden prompts a question: Why do so many of us refuse to take our own side in a fight? Why was it that, as Douglas Murray acidly observed, “when the worst enemy of the West was dead, Europeans failed to display any emotion above a truculent annoyance at the manner of his passing”?

One reason for our (historically unprecedented) failure to stand shoulder to shoulder with ourselves is that we do not believe we are engaged in a war (the 9/10 syndrome). Another is that we do not believe the action we take to defend ourselves is just. For the academic-media complex in the West, the very idea of a just war against terror is a logical contradiction.

WikiLeaks and the Legacy of ‘Londonistan’

It seemed like a good idea at the time, but then appeasement usually does. When jihadis and extremist preachers drifted into the United Kingdom from the early 1980s, our security forces and politicians decided to give them a safe haven. We struck a squalid little deal, dignifying it with the fancy title “covenant of security”: you don’t bomb us, and we won’t disrupt your activity.

And so Abu Hamza, Omar Bakri Mohammed, Abu Qatada (a.k.a. OBL’s ambassador to Europe), and the rest got to work, radicalizing many British Muslims and turning the UK into the global hub for radical ideology and foreign terrorist activity. In 2008, Richard Watson, a journalist with vast experience in researching Islamist extremism in the UK, summed up the consequences. “For more than 20 years, the Government and security services have stood back while extremist preachers twisted generations of recruits.”

The Mind of the Pro-Tyrant Left

“The US war effort is failing to create an effective puppet regime in Afghanistan. The Taliban is slowly but surely eroding US influence. In the face of major strategic losses, as evident in the astonishing assassination of top military officials, Obama had to mount a political spectacle—a ‘military success story’—the killing of unarmed bin Laden, to buoy the spirits of the American public, military and its NATO followers.”

— James Petras

Defining Extremism Down in Europe

Let me tell you how we roll in Europe.

Let us begin with Sheik Raed Salah, leader of the Islamic Movement in Israel. He has a crazy article up on the website of the London-based, anti-Abbas, pro-Hamas Middle East Monitor (MEMO) alleging that “Israel has never negotiated with the Palestinians” and is engaged today in their “ethnic cleansing.” It gets worse. The good Sheikh likes to talk of what Jews do with the blood of little Gentile children. Haaretz reported in January 2008:

David Miliband and Exit-Strategy Fetishism

There is a contradiction at the heart of the NATO strategy in Afghanistan: calendar vs. conditions. Jennifer Rubin has put the matter bluntly: “You can’t promise to be both attuned to facts on the ground and begin bugging out.” Well, former British Foreign Secretary David Miliband tried to do just that last week in a speech at MIT and an op-ed in the New York Times.

The Iron Dome and the Flotilla

I spent last week in Israel and the West Bank talking to actors from both sides of the conflict. On the final day I visited the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) at Tel Aviv University for a round table. As a friend of Israel and a supporter of a negotiated two-state solution, I was in a gloomy mood and I tried to explain why:

Israel is about to deploy the Iron Dome [a missile shield]. The Palestinians are about to deploy another flotilla. Each seems to symbolize something important. The Dome is defensive, reactive, militarised, high-tech, and most likely ruinously expensive. The flotilla is dynamic, offensive, civil, politicised, cheap, and media-friendly. It leverages global network power. The Israeli “Dome-approach” is tactical and local while the Palestinians’ “Flotilla-approach” is strategic and global.

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