For all the talk of global and domestic conflict that continued through 2017, many of the internal social and existential issues faced by both the Western and Muslim worlds in the last year were similar, if not almost identical. Across different societies and civilisations, we share a global culture – particularly an online culture – where atomised, isolated and disaffected youth are vulnerable to radicalisation, whether by Isis or the far right.
These two ends of the “extremism spectrum” are similar and feed off each other. Some would say they even need each other to function, like the two blades of a pair of scissors: apparently pushing in opposite directions, but ultimately working together to perform the same purpose.
The stats speak for themselves: just as 2017 was tragically the year global terror become an almost daily and unremarkable occurrence for many, the same could be said of Islamophobia and the associated far right prejudices. We have known for some time that Islamophobia and prejudice rise after a terrorist attack, and more recently, hate crimes against Muslims increased fivefold in the wake of the London Bridge terrorist attack this year.
In the face of all these pull factors for far-right recruitment, Security minister Ben Wallace announced a renewed focus on far-right terror grooming, which is now using almost exactly the same techniques as Isis recruitment. The two blades on the scissors grow ever closer – and sharper.
I believe that the best remedy to extremism in the Muslim world is the correct understanding of traditional Islam. I’m not alone: former US National Security Council director, Quintan Wiktorowicz, spoke directly to extremists and found that those most prone to radicalisation also had the weakest understanding of the Islamic faith. And MI5’s behavioural science unit found that “a well-established religious identity actually protects against violent radicalisation”.