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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 18 November 2018

Far-right exploits upheaval as attacks on Muslims rise

Charity monitoring hate violence says Russian-based users have stirred trouble in multicultural Britain

Muslim women and children in the UK demonstrate against Islamophobia. Photofusion.
Muslim women and children in the UK demonstrate against Islamophobia. Photofusion.

Far-right extremists in the UK are exploiting Islamophobia as a lucrative platform to build support amid a sharp increase in anti-Muslim abuse and violence, according to a hate crime report published on Monday

As the UK lurches towards exiting the European Union, the resurgent far-right has taken advantage of the political instability to win new supporters with hardline anti-Islam messages to boost their coffers from donations, said crime monitoring group Tell Mama.

“Manufacturing anti-Muslim hate has become a lucrative business for some, is sadly here to stay and will continue to have real-world impacts in our country,” said Iman Atta, the director of Tell Mama.

Russian online ‘troll’ farms are sowing further division using disinformation campaigns on social media networks to promote hate messages that are having a profound impact on Britain’s estimated 2.7 million Muslim population, said the group. It cited the case of one user who appeared to condone the torching of a mosque but was later identified in The Times newspaper as a suspected Russian-based account.

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The group said that Twitter had failed to act against material that glorified anti-Muslim hatred and showed a “wanton lack of desire” to understand and deal with the nature of hate crime on its platform. Twitter said the group's claim was inaccurate.

Accounts reported to Twitter and "found to be in violation of our rules, will face ... range of enforcement actions," it said in a statement.

The Tell Mama report pointed to an increase in more aggressive, street-based attacks in 2017, mostly carried out by teenagers. It said it was a sign that anti-Muslim hate “may be bleeding out into wider society” from a hard-core of white supremacists.

The attacks have increased over the last six years with 1,201 verified cases in 2017. The figures included a rise in vandalism triggered by a series of terrorist attacks in Britain.

It saw a 700 per cent increase in the anti-Muslim incidents following a suicide bomb attack on a concert venue in Manchester in May 22, which left 22 people dead. The charity reported that a surgeon travelling to a hospital to treat victims of the attack, and a Muslim man going to donate blood were both called terrorists.

The charity received one report that a London bus driver insisted on checking a Muslim family’s pushchair for “explosives” when they got on the bus. “This country is on a high alert for terrorism,” the bus driver reportedly told them. “Your people are killing children in our country.”

In another case, a nurse refused to let a Muslim family visit a sick relative. “I don’t know who you are, you might plant a bomb or something here,” the nurse reportedly said.

The release of the Tell Mama report followed a weekend poll that suggested a new far-right party in the UK running on an explicit anti-migration, anti-Muslim platform would secure significant support amid growing disenchantment with mainstream politics.

The far-right, emboldened by backing from the US alt-right movement, has become increasingly vocal and confident after backing the winning side in the 2016 referendum to leave the European Union.

One prominent extremist on the far-right, Tommy Robinson, has received strong backing from the US including former Donald Trump strategist Steve Bannon who has called for his release from prison where he is serving more than a year for interfering in a criminal court case. Mr Bannon has reportedly met with senior Brexit leaders in the UK to plot a new far-right movement.

The far-right has been on the march across Europe with the countries such as Hungary, Italy, and Austria all opposed to the EU’s migration policy and demanding greater barriers to migrants arriving in their countries.