University’s new centre to study rise in anti-Islam far right

Teesside University HMD (1)A British university has established a dedicated centre to study the extremist far right, with a particular focus on the increase in violent anti-Islamic sentiment and the possibility of a lone, Anders Behring Breivik style attack.

The Centre for Fascist, Anti-Fascist and Post-Fascist Studies at Teesside University will be formally launched later this month at an event marking National Holocaust Memorial Day. Beginning with two academics, Professor Nigel Copsey and Dr Matthew Feldman, the centre will specialise in both the history of far-right radicalism in this country, and current trends and dangers.

The two main UK public fronts for far-right sentiment, the British National party and the street-based, anti-Islam English Defence League, are both in apparent decline. The BNP has lost almost all its council seats, and last autumn one of its two MEPs, Andrew Brons, publicly quit, saying the party had shed 90% of its membership. The leader of the EDL, meanwhile, was jailed this month for travelling to the US using someone else’s passport.

Feldman, a historian by background, said organisations such as the EDL, which began in Luton in response to anti-armed forces demonstrations by hardline Islamist groups, tended to fizzle out: “You can only mobilise people to come out on a Saturday and shout slogans for a couple of years. Then people will say, I’ve been to five of these demonstrations, they’re getting smaller, my chance of getting arrested is getting bigger. Then you get fragmentation.”

However, he argued, this should not obscure a more gradual shift from race-based far-right activism towards “cultural nationalism”, notably against Islam. He said: “For the first time since, I believe, the National Front in the late 70s and early 80s, the far right is really going for popular support. It’s moving out into the mainstream, with some success.”

Guardian, 13 January 2013

See also “Teesside University to open study centre of far right”, BBC News, 11 January 2013

And “Britain’s first research unit into study of extremist politics launched by Teesside University”, Northern Echo, 11 January 2013