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Far-Right Extremism And Islamic Extremism Are Helping Each Other Grow

The rise of extremism in the early 21st century, characterized by the sudden increase in violence, has dominated global politics. Forces of globalization have brought non-state actors to the centre stage, whereas states are becoming less influential, giving way to a new kind of identity politics. Furthermore, the attack on the U.S.A on September 11, 2001, brought a paradigm shift in international relations. It is not just the collapse of the World Trade Center which makes the event noteworthy, but it is what had followed. The U.S.A’s war on terror engendered more terror and fostered extremist groups.

The very first thing that comes to mind when someone talks about extremism is Islamic fundamentalism, which contradicts Muslims’ own view of Islam. A general meaning of extremism, which is “the holding of extreme political or religious views”, under the weight of existing narrative often fails to explain the different sources of extremism. Extremism not only stems from Islamic fundamentalism but from its two complementary nodes i.e., far-right groups and Islamic fundamentalism. On one hand, far-right groups such as the English Defence League and National Action Network claim that Islam is at war with the West, and on the other hand, terror groups such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda attest that West is at war with Islam. They are two different faces of the same coin, playing the same game wearing a different uniform. Their identity politics is based on a dichotomous relationship of “us versus them”. Blaming them for every problem, these extremist groups have normalised “terror” with the identity of their counterpart. The bottom line is, far-right extremism and Islamic extremism feed off one another and help each other to flourish and nourish.

The conflation of the ideology of the rival group with the broader community has always been one of the main characteristics of these extremist groups, thus helping the prophecy of the clash of civilization turn into reality. Widening the gap between Islam and the West, this sense of “being at war” has fostered the disdain for each other. Globalization, with its homogeneity, integrity and universal appeal along with localization and heterogeneity has further fueled this.

The recent independence march of more than 60,000 people in Warsaw Poland, with chants like “pray for an Islamic holocaust”, clearly indicates anti-Islamic sentiments and unwillingness to live with Muslims. The so-called “War on Terror” and “Humanitarian Intervention” has created resentment, and in some cases led to terrorism. This animosity and fret have resulted in the rise of disturbing incidents of Islamophobia and deadly terror attacks claiming lives of innocents, fueling more hate and fear against each other. Thereby, helping these extremist groups to strengthen their narrative when the opposite groups engage in such terror activities. The more chaos there is in the society, the more the groups have chances of galvanizing support from their respective community. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) released a report showing a 57% increase in anti-Muslim incidents in 2016. A report from FBI’s Hate Crime Statistics confirms an increase in the number of reported hate crimes in that year as well. On the contrary, a report published by Europol claims there were around 142 terror attacks in EU states in the same year.

Terrorist attacks create a divide between communities, while people become more vulnerable to extremist narratives. Whenever an attack happens, it serves the groups’ interest and gives them a chance to strengthen their perspective and demonize another group.

These extremist groups are interdependent on each other, their narratives are mutually reinforcing, neither can fully exist without the others. Their competing narratives are morally and politically equivalent, they are very similar both in terms of their ideologies, moral deductions, and potential political impact. Both are based on the victimization of an “in-group” and the demonization of an “out-group”; both blame the “corrupt political establishment” and the “other” for all that is going wrong and aim to bring about radical societal change by creating counter-cultures. They both yearn for purity and a desire to establish homogeneous societies, united either by religious beliefs or ideological convictions. It has resulted in a worldview that frames everything through the lens of two inherently opposed homogeneous blocs — in both cases, “the West” and “Islam,” or “Muslims” and “non-Muslims.” Their stories amplify each other because they use the same plot of an imminent or ongoing war between those two fronts as well as the same oversimplified depictions of its protagonists.

A communication gap arising from the stigma transforms itself into a vicious circle of rage, where fear feeds fear, hate generates more hate and violence leads to more violence. The globe is shrinking but the gap between communities is widening, making it difficult to achieve peace and stability. Rather than a vertical model of communication, there is a need for a horizontal communication structure, a need of strong civil society which educates people and develops the values of democratic life: tolerance, moderation, compromise, and respect for opposing points of view.

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  1. Krishna Singh

    Yes, far right ideologies feed each other’s need, which is by way of polarisation of the society on religion, caste, region, etc grounds! But they never polarise people on class line, that is Exploited vs Exploiters!
    Capitalism (Monopoly capitalism) is in deep in crisis, production level is down (In India, its 70% of its capacity), as there are no buyers of products, employment is shrinking and so is real wages directly (Like Jet Airways has reduced its staff pay by 25%) or indirectly due inflation.
    Workers and other exploited class are revolting world over, so in India, though on divided lines, for reservation, for MSP by the farmers, for employment or against rising crime and corruption in government departments.
    The so called GDP in reality is half of what it claims, as the data has been doctored in India and in other countries. Even though the produced wealth of the society is pocketed by the big capitalists (In India 73% last year), their rate of profit is dwindling, despite all loot, legal & illegal, and “need” to fleece the working class even more severely.
    Seeing both sides in crisis, the exploited class survival is becoming impossible, while the exploiters growth base is crumblin due fall in profit rate, especially post 2008 global crisis, we infer, there are only TWO path ahead for the mankind! First was burying capitalism and creating socialism in leadership of a revolutionary party of the working and other exploited class!
    Second option is what you have described very well, the ruling class, that is, big capitalists with its own government and a section of the people itself destroy the productive forces through internal fight of the masses on religion, national chauvinism grounds!
    The second scenario is FASCISM and is different than previous dictatorships witnessed by us and is more akin to Italian or German fascism!

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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