This weekend’s long read pick comes from Gurwinder Bhogal at Rabbit Hole magazine. He examines the symbiosis between neo-Nazi and Islamist movements in the UK and elsewhere, arguing that their objectives are more aligned than they are antagonistic. Bhogal argues that both ‘sides’ in this escalating conflict are part of ‘a growing movement furthering a single grand scheme’, namely the destruction of society as we know it.
Bhogal describes witnessing the emergence of this symbiosis at close quarters in Luton, where Islamist groups such as al-Mujahiroun and football hooligans engaged in a dialogue of escalating hostility by, on the one side, vandalising examplars of Western culture and on the other attacking mosques, throwing bacon and punching visibly Muslim people.
Both sides cultivated this exchange of grievances, carefully noting the most egregious offences of the other ‘side’ and exaggerating them as justification for revenge. Over time this dialogue has escalated from localised violence to suicide bombings, machete attacks and mass shootings.
The mainstream tends to depict this escalating dialogue as the actions of ‘lone wolf’ actors, or — depending on partisanship — as the fault either of Right-wing bigotry or toxic Islamism. Bhogal suggests that it is more like a pas de deux between two variants of the same vision: “These competing mythologies […] ultimately teach the same thing: that there once existed an Eden where everything was pure. For jihadis this Eden is the “Salaf,” the first three generations of Muslims, who allegedly lived pure Islamic lives. For neo-Nazi accelerationists the Eden is “Thule” or “Hyperborea,” a lost civilization of whites who allegedly lived pure Aryan lives.”
Indeed, so similar are the two ‘sides’ that members even pass back and forth:
Worryingly, the neo-Nazi accelerationists that are taking over the role of anti-Islamist antagonist from averagely violent hooligan groups such as the EDL are increasingly mirroring the tactics, violence and apocalyptic vision of the jihadis:
Bhogal argues that the two groups are engaged in a paradoxical ‘symbiotic war’ in which they only appear to antagonise each other but in fact are consciously collaborating via this apparent antagonism on a common goal, “to destroy a common enemy – the liberal order”. The two sides, he argues, are “engaged in a tug-of-war to tear civilization asunder so their Eden can be built on the ruins.”
This troubling piece has little to offer in terms of countering these destructive forces. But the nightmare vision it offers, of a society riven asunder by a calculated, coordinated dance of Islamist and neo-Nazi violence, should give us pause whenever we are tempted to dive one-sidedly into the culture war.