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The white extremists attack in Christchurch, New Zealand on March 15th came as a rude shock to the world. The brutal killing of 50 Muslims while they were the most vulnerable, in prayer, signifies the radical shift in the global far-right movement. The attack took place after careful planning, the targets were fixed after deliberate research, and the attacker even got the blessing of Knight Justiciar Breivik, a Norwegian rightwing extremist group before the attack. Though the attacker, Brenton Tarrant was not a part of any organisation, his views and actions resonate among far-right parties of Europe. The New Zealand attack was a manifestation of the identitarian ideology and its belief of a broader white European ethnic identity prevalent in the Western world that transcends national borders.

However, this attack must not come as a shock since Europe has become a hotbed for far right, extremist activities in the past few years. Amid an influx of migrants and refugees from conflicts in the Middle East and Africa, there has been surge far-right violence in the west. This attack was a result of the hatred brewing against the immigrants which has been systematically fed by populist leaders. The media has also played a great role in shaping the anti-immigrant narrative in the west.  The Identitarian Movement represents so-called “new radical right” and has been a base for the far right parties and white extremist groups. White extremism reinforces the idea of white race being in danger of extinction due to a rising “flood” of non-whites, who are controlled and manipulated by Jews, and that imminent action is needed to “save” the white race. “The Great Replacement” the manifesto of the Christchurch attacker propagates a far-right conspiracy theory.  It paints a picture of immigrants invading the western land, replacing ethnic- European population and thereby destabilising Europe. Anyone who is a white, Christian and culturally European is under threat by immigrants especially the Muslims and therefore white extremists take it as their responsibility to protect the “white race”. This “protection” often comes at the expense of the immigrants, who mostly civilians, becomes the prime targets in the white terrorist attacks.

By mapping out far-right groups, it has come to notice that there is an Identitarian movement brewing in the west. The populist leaders have reignited this movement by exploiting the concerns of the white majority. The idea of European culture being diluted by the immigrant has resonated in other white extremists group across Europe. In France, Generation identity a far-right group, calls out for the unification of Europe and going back to pre-national boundaries. It rejects the authority of the European Union owing its pro-immigration policies are responsible for Europe to lose its essence, culture and therefore identity. Germany's Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) a political party in Germany lament the influx of Muslim immigrants, which they claim weakens the German culture and quality of life.  AfD has gone so far as to claim that Islam is a danger to Germany. In Britain, a banned neo-Nazi group called National Action has started recruiting and operating again. The group, whose members believe that “Britain should be for British people,” reportedly operates training camps where recruits learn hand-to-hand combat in preparation for “white jihad.  In March 2018's Italian parliamentary elections, the far-right, anti-immigrant Lega Nord ("Northern League") party succeeded in becoming the third largest party in Italy's parliament. In June 2018, League leader Matteo Salvini assumed the role of Italy's interior minister. He has since refused a migrant aid ship permission to dock in Italy and called for a national census to address "the Roma question." In Hungary and Poland populist leaders have used the white supremacist narrative to stem immigration on their land and rise to power.

In the US, the history of white extremists attack dates back to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in 1865 by John Wilkes Booth- a vocal white supremacist. According to the global terrorism database by the Washington Post, out of 263 domestic terrorism incidents in the US, 92 were carried out by far-right attackers as compared to 38 by jihadists. According to the FBI, there has been a surge in violence by far-right attackers since Trump became the US president (Levin, 2019). Trump’s anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim policies validated the concerns of the white extremist and they took it as a “green light” for violence (No safe places, 2019). In fact, the Christ church attacker named Donald Trump as a true symbol of white supremacy and identity (Tarrant, 2019). As Trump said, “a white extremist are a small group of people that have a very very serious problem”. 

For the first time, Trump is correct. By neglecting the concern of the white majority, it has led to the rise of white extremism. One of the major concerns of the white supremacist is that the "invasion" of immigrants will dilute the culture and ethnicity of Europe. They want people to live in one's origin's country. However it is through European colonial expansion; new countries were discovered and dominated. Owing to the European need and greed for power, various cultures’ of colonized countries were deemed to be inferior and attempts to westernise and modernize were made which resulted in the loss of their native cultures and ethnicity. It is ironic that the cry for the loss of "European culture" which started in the last decade, formerly colonised countries are facing the same threat but at the hand of Colonial power. 

The Identitarian movement has called for the reinforcement of white European identity. Though it may appear positive on the surface, the darker outlook of the movement promotes fear and xenophobia against immigrants. It instils hatred against anything which is not considered white and ethnically European. Drawing inspiration from the Identitarian movement, the far-right parties in the west postulate that hardworking European natives are suffering economic and cultural losses due to immigrants and ethnic minorities who want to replace national, religious, and cultural identities with foreign values. This narrative is very similar to the ideology of Nazism wherein the Jews were blamed for the sufferings and misfortunes of Germany during the world wars. Taking lessons from the past, an exclusion of minority will lead to its oppression. A climate of populism fuelled with hatred and expulsion will propagate and validate any violent attacks executed under the illusion of saving the “white race”.

Thus it will take political will to change the anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant narrative. The west should use the same measures it used to counter Islamist terrorism though it would be much harder to pick out far-right groups since most of the far right violence involves loose groups of individuals radicalized on social media. White extremist’s attacks and harm the social fabric of Europe, a land which is known for its human rights values, democracy and liberty. In an age where the world is coming closer, people are migrating to developed countries (mainly Europe) to avail job opportunities or escaping cruel regimes. This movement will inculcate a system of exclusion as oppose of assimilation and multiculturalism. The end goal of an ethnically or culturally homogenous state will undo the progress of many civilisations which strived to create a free, vibrant and safe Europe.


Tarrant, B. (2019, March). The Great Replacement. Retrieved from Ilfoglio:

Retrieved from: https://www.ilfoglio.it/userUpload/The_Great_Replacementconvertito.pdf

European Ethno-Nationalist and White Supremacy Groups. (2019). Counter Extremist Project.

Retrieved from: https://www.counterextremism.com/sites/default/files/European_Ethno-Nationalist_and_White_Supremacy_Groups_040119.pdf

Kingsley, P. (2019). New Zealand Massacre Highlights Global Reach of White Extremism. The New York Times.

Retrieved from: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/15/world/asia/christchurch-mass-shooting-extremism.html

Levin, S. (2019, March 16). Retrieved from The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/mar/15/donald-trump-denies-white-nationalism-threat-new-zealand

No safe places. (2019). The Economist, 50.

Vejvodová, P. (2014). The Identitarian Movement – renewed idea of alternative Europe. ECPR General Conference.

Image Credit: NBC News

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Written By Simran Galipothu

I try to weave a story through my words. A story often unsaid and unheard by others.

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