'Lone Wolves' pose terror threat
Published 24/07/2011 | 13:18
The atrocities in Norway will prove to be a watershed moment in the way far-right groups are dealt with, an expert predicted today.
So-called lone wolf extremism poses a challenge to Europe that has been dismissed as irrelevant for too long, Dr Matthew Goodwin of the University of Nottingham argued.
But the horrific events of Friday will change the way it is perceived, he said.
"We need to accept that this is not an exclusively Norwegian issue," he wrote on his blog in the wake of the attacks. "Right-wing lone wolves have emerged in different contexts and at different times."
Anecdotal evidence suggests such violence is on the rise, he said, although a lack of data on the subject made it difficult to measure.
Dr Goodwin, an expert in far-right politics, recommended that data on far right violence across Europe should be collected "to assess the scale of the challenge".
He said: "We need to understand that while activists like (suspected gunman Anders) Breivik act in isolation, they represent a set of ideas that are shared by many (even if most would not endorse the use of violence).
"If the internet posts left by Breivik are indeed his, then they reveal an obsession with issues that are of concern to many within what we might term the broader right-wing subculture: a preoccupation with the effects of multiculturalism; the perceived cultural (not only economic) threat posed by immigration and Muslim communities; criticism of a lack of effective responses to these threats from established main parties; and strong emphasis on the need to take radical and urgent action."
While most voters in Europe would distance themselves from violence, large numbers do express concerns over these issues, he pointed out.
"They are certainly not all lone wolves, or would-be wolves," he noted. "But there is clearly a wider pool of potential recruits should the main parties not respond to their grievances."
Meanwhile anti-extremist group Hope Not Hate called for the English Defence League (EDL) to be "formally classified as a far-right organisation".
Director Nick Lowles said: "Incredibly, the EDL are not currently classified as an extremist right wing group.
"That severely limits the capacity of the police to gather intelligence on the EDL, its members and its activities.
"Given the mounting evidence of connections between the EDL and alleged violent extremists like Anders Behring Breivik, we don't see how this situation is sustainable".
The EDL has denied any links to Breivik and condemned Friday's attacks.