Both types of extremism flourish among tormented young people, who become invested in wild, apocalyptic conspiracy theoriesby Julia Ebner / October 6, 2017 / Leave a comment
In December 2016, the words “Deus Vult” were sprayed on a wall outside the Islamic Education Trust mosque in Cumernaud, Scotland. Literally ‘God wills,’ this Latin battle cry was used by Pope Urban II to declare the first Crusade in 1095. In recent years, the term resurfaced among far-right activists, often in reaction to jihadist violence.
When the moderator of the pro-Trump Reddit forum The_Donald posted “Meme Magic Friday: Deus Vult Edition” in May 2016, this set off a series of viral memes used by white supremacists to express their hatred towards Islam. Today, the “Deus Vult” reference comes in many forms, ranging from Islamophobic tweets to explicit calls for a white jihad in dark corners of the internet, and vandalised mosques. Meanwhile “Allahu Akbar” (‘God is great’) has become the jihadist equivalent, since the Kouachi brothers were heard shouting the Islamic prayer term during their attack on Charlie which killed 12 people in January 2015.
The renaissance of these two archaic expressions showcase the concurrent rise of two dangerous counter-cultures that fuel one another. Over the last 12 months, I examined the radicalisation processes of Islamist and far-right extremists—often from a closer angle than I felt comfortable with. What I found in my deep dives was a surprising resemblance between these two (supposedely) diametrically opposed words of extremism.
The pull and push factors that drive individuals into the hands of Islamist and far-right extremists are similar, if not identical. In my conversations with Islamist and far-right extremists I found the same recurring grievance patterns: experiences of perceived discrimination, intimidation and humiliation. In both cases, political failures to respond to resulting socio-economic or physical threats united radicalised individuals from diverse geographic and cultural backgrounds.
Extremist recruiters were paying attention when the moderate establishment wasn’t. They addressed the questions that tormented young people who searched for an identity in an increasingly unrooted world and provided straight-forward solutions to fill emerging political vacuums. Based on the “Crusaders versus Islam” narrative, they created the desire to build a utopian world which would end their victimhood: while jihadists sold their vision to re-establish a caliphate; right-wing extremists advocated a whites-only or Christian-only society as the absolute solution to all societal ills.
“The great war is coming” is a phrase I regularly heard from both…