The current crisis is a gift for the far right

These groups feed off a growing discontent and mistrust towards immigrant populations. How can they

Extreme right-wing ideology across both sides of the Atlantic has traditionally been rooted by notions of singular identity bounded in place and space. But it today's post-9/11 era and its ensuing war on terror, a clash of civilization-style narrative has fuelled the emergence of a common enemy uniting the various disjointed identities. Commonality in hatred, fear and othering has become a transnational phenomenon in today's information age.

While Europe and the US have dealt with the problem of organised far-right groups for decades, the evolving nature of the elevated identity requires an evolution in approach to overcome what represents a major internal security challenge for Nato nations.

Firstly, the infiltration of Islamophobic narratives in mainstream discourses needs to be noted. It appears to be the strategy of far-right pundits in the US and activists in the UK to highlight, increasingly, the 'failure' of Muslim communities to integrate into mainstream life. They accuse immigrants of being responsible for the creation of ghettos; profiteering from social security systems and taking away jobs that 'belong' to 'indigenous' communities. The proliferation of this perspective, along with increasingly aggressive tactics, particularly in the UK and Holland (such as far-right demonstrations in areas with a high Muslim population) inflames community tension, costs millions of dollars to police and appears designed to provoke a violent response from the Muslim community.

Exacerbated by the current global financial crisis, these groups feed off a growing discontent/mistrust that some American/European whites have towards immigrant populations and government in general. These groups can be exploited by hostile external actors and thus provide platforms for hostile interventions.

The electoral success of the far right in Europe has increasingly legitimised their exclusionist narratives in media circles and, perhaps more dangerously, has led to the open adoption of many of their views by more 'mainstream' right wing thinkers/appeasers. There has also been a recent increase in attacks by such groups, from the notorious massacre by Anders Breivik in Norway to an increase in vandalism towards mosques and harassment of Muslims on streets.

In the US, anti-Muslim rhetoric has been openly used by politicians including some former US presidential candidates. All this activity is correlated with a dramatic increase in the numbers of supporters, funding and visibility for far-right causes, and is linked to greater cross-Atlantic co-operation between far-right groups. This cooperation takes the shape of intellectual exchange, direct financial support and joint misinformation projects.

We must not underestimate the capacity of these groups to exploit the multitude of overlapping crises facing Western societies by funneling populist frustration through this vehicle. In the age of globalisation, the West faces not only a panoply of interconnected global crises - financial instability; environmental degradation; food inflation; energy insecurity; state-failure; international terrorism - there is also an increased propensity for shocks and grievances in one sector to be swiftly transmitted to other sectors due to the power of global communications. Far-right extremists exploit these interconnections by providing simplistic explanations based on identity politics, scapegoating particular communities while obfuscating the real causes of social problems - and, more dangerously, offering a course of action that can potentially lead to mass violence

Our leaders should respond to this threat by actively building cross-Atlantic networks to facilitate co-operation among anti-extremist activist groups, media portals and policy makers. Europe can learn from the success of the US multicultural model, while the US can learn from the challenges Europe faces in integrating diaspora communities, with the ultimate aim of developing a new inclusive vision for a multi-ethnic Western polity.

The next 5-10 years are likely to see a disturbing consolidation of these groups into a political force with the potential to significantly influence and transform the political landscape. It is therefore critical that leaders amongst the transatlantic community begin taking this challenge more seriously. Politicians should seek to address the root causes driving disenfranchisement, while taking active efforts to purge extremist views from their discourse.

Equally, politicians should seek ways of criminalising some of the actions of these groups. More light needs to be shed on the financing of these networks and efforts need to be made to names and shame the individuals that finance their campaigns and actions. Finally, increased financial support is necessary for organisations combating such prejudices, while mainstream right wing parties must concertedly disavow extremist rhetoric and intensify outreach to minority communities.

Muddassar Ahmed is founder and the Chief Executive of Unitas Communications Ltd, a London based international communications agency. Cenk Sidar is the managing director of Sidar Global Advisors, a Washington-DC based strategic advisory and research firm. Sidar and Ahmed are both members of Young Atlanticist NATO Working Group.

CREDIT: CREATIVE COMMONS
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Prostate cancer research has had a £75m welcome boost. Now let’s treat another killer of men

Each week in the UK, 84 men kill themselves – three times the number of women.

The opening months of 2018 have seen a flurry of activity in men’s health. In February, figures were published showing that the number of male patients dying annually from prostate cancer – around 12,000 – has overtaken female deaths from breast cancer for the first time. Whether coincidence or not, this news was followed shortly by two celebrities going public with their personal diagnoses of prostate cancer – Stephen Fry, and former BBC Breakfast presenter Bill Turnbull.

Fry and Turnbull used their profiles to urge other men to visit their doctors to get their PSA levels checked (a blood test that can be elevated in prostate cancer). Extrapolating from the numbers who subsequently came to ask me about getting screened, I would estimate that 300,000 GP consultations were generated nationwide on the back of the publicity.

Well-meaning as Fry’s and Turnbull’s interventions undoubtedly were, they won’t have made a jot of positive difference. In March, a large UK study confirmed findings from two previous trials: screening men by measuring PSA doesn’t actually result in any lives being saved, and exposes patients to harm by detecting many prostate cancers – which are often then treated aggressively – that would never have gone on to cause any symptoms.

This, then, is the backdrop for the recent declaration of “war on prostate cancer” by Theresa May. She announced £75m to fund research into developing an effective screening test and refining treatments. Leaving aside the headline-grabbing opportunism, the prospect of additional resources being dedicated to prostate cancer research is welcome.

One of the reasons breast cancer has dropped below prostate cancer in the mortality rankings is a huge investment in breast cancer research that has led to dramatic improvements in survival rates. This is an effect both of earlier detection through screening, and improved treatment outcomes. A similar effort directed towards prostate cancer will undoubtedly achieve similar results.

The reason breast cancer research has been far better resourced to date must be in part because the disease all too often affects women at a relatively young age – frequently when they have dependent children, and ought to have many decades of life to look forward to. So many family tragedies have been caused by breast malignancy. Prostate cancer, by contrast, while it does affect some men in midlife, is predominantly a disease of older age. We are more sanguine about a condition that typically comes at the end of a good innings. As such, prostate cancer research has struggled to achieve anything like the funding momentum that breast cancer research has enjoyed. May’s £75m will go some way to redressing the balance.

In March, another important men’s health campaign was launched: Project 84, commissioned by the charity Calm. Featuring 84 haunting life-size human sculptures by American artist Mark Jenkins, displayed on the rooftops of ITV’s London studios, the project aims to raise awareness of male suicide. Each week in the UK, 84 men kill themselves – three times the number of women. Suicide is the leading cause of male death under 45 – men who frequently have dependent children, and should have many decades of life to look forward to. So many family tragedies.

I well remember the stigma around cancer when I was growing up in the 1970s: people hardly dared breathe the word lest they became in some way tainted. Now we go on fun runs and wear pink ribbons to help beat the disease. We need a similar shift in attitudes to mental health, so that it becomes something people are comfortable talking about. This is gradually happening, particularly among women. But we could do with May declaring war on male suicide, and funding research into the reasons why so many men kill themselves, and why they don’t seem to access help that might just save their lives. 

Phil Whitaker’s sixth novel, “You”, is published by Salt

This article first appeared in the 18 April 2018 issue of the New Statesman, Enoch Powell’s revenge