Fear of far-right cyber threats turning violent

Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles
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Experts monitoring the internet activity of the far-right warn of a worrying call to arms from frustrated splinter groups is soon to spill on to the streets – with West Yorkshire the area of greatest concern in the country.

The Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks (MAMA) campaign, which was launched by Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles earlier this year to encourage the reporting of hate crimes, says it is now witnessing thousands of racist tweets and messages inciting violence every day.

Many are believed to be from disaffected members of the British National Party and English Defence League who have joined smaller more radical organisations.

The rise in online threats is being mirrored by a spike in hate crimes against Muslims – 490 have been reported to MAMA since March, about 15 per cent of which have been in West Yorkshire, the highest concentration in the country by far. Now on the third and final day of a Yorkshire Post investigation into cyber crime, groups monitoring extremist websites say the lines between what is said on the internet and racist attacks are becoming dangerously blurred.

Fiyaz Mughal, director of Tell Mama Campaign and a former city councillor and expert in community relations, said: “When we started we did not realise the scale of it and the endemic racism and hatred of the far-right – we just cannot keep up. It is very significant and in the thousands of tweets a day.

“On Facebook we are seeing a lot more pictures being put up of their antics, we have seen at least eight pictures of pig’s heads being placed outside mosques since the end of March this year.

“What we are seeing is they are acting out the things they discuss and that is scary.

“These are groups of really hardened activists and there is money behind them. This is an organised network doing this day in, day out.

“We are heading towards a situation where we are going to have some sort of united action. I hope I am proved wrong, but clearly we are going in this direction.”

It is understood there are five main splinter groups in operation, including the Casuals United and North West Infidels, with smaller clusters starting to shoot off from them.

In April this year, suspected extremists with links to the North West Infidels were arrested by counter terror detectives in raids across the North after race hate material was posted online.

Experts say the rise of the far right has coincided with a sense of resentment about more resources going to preventing extremism in the Muslim community in the wake of the 7/7 suicide attacks by four bombers who originated from West Yorkshire.

John Parkinson, Deputy Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police who led the investigation into the 2005 London bombings in which 52 people were killed, said: “The rise of the far right is a worry and a direct consequence of events that we have seen.

“I don’t think they are any less serious or the implications of their threats any less worrying than those inspired from an Islamic perspective.

“We know material is being distributed by the internet. Some of their thinking and organisation has been inspired through the internet.

“The events of 7/7 have continued to have a major affect on our communities. The scars of that are still tangible.”