Internet platform for studying Xenophobia, Radicalism and Problems of Intercultural communication.



The problem of rising hate crime continued to be a serious problem for the UK in 2013-2022. The growing xenophobia of much of the population toward refugees, migrants, and foreigners is cause for concern, as it suggests an increasing intolerance of "others" in general.

Xenophobia, racism and extremism are badly solved problems in any society. The UK is no different in this respect. Thus, the policy recommendations below aim to break down the edifice of xenophobia, from the simpler to the more complex, global, local, and online offline solutions:

  1. One of the key obstacles to better reporting hate crimes in the UK is the online space. Unlike other European countries (such as France, Germany, and Belgium), the U.K. lacks a legal framework that allows online companies to be held liable for online harm that could have real offline consequences. More effective online intervention and regulation in the U.K., as well as international agreements and conventions that sanction inaction by Internet companies, would help mitigate the spread of hate speech online. The U.K. already has an online harm bill ready for consideration, but there are significant delays in its passage. Legislation is needed that would oblige social media companies to respond strongly to hate speech on their platforms.
  2. An additional legislative stumbling block when it comes to racial and religious hatred in Britain is the lack of a government-backed definition of Islamophobia, since the main hate narratives from Britain deal specifically with hatred against Muslims. While many extra-parliamentary organizations have pressured the British government to accept a version of Islamophobia (similar to the International Holocaust Remembrance Association's definition of anti-Semitism) Concerns about violations of freedom of speech and (even) the ineffectiveness of counter-terrorism operations in the Muslim community prevented it from happening. However, the adoption of such a definition by the authorities, including free speech provisions, would allow the British government, law enforcement, online companies, and government agencies to control anti-Muslim criminality and prejudice.
  3. Turning to the issue of definitions, another problem that continues to hinder a better response to right-wing extremism in Britain is the lack of a clear conceptualization of what the dangers of this ideology are. While Germany's Basic Law is very clear that "radical" right-wing groups (which are hostile to the democratic order but accept it) and "extremist" right-wing groups (which reject liberal democracy and seek to overthrow the system, often by violent means) should be treated separately from the democratic political system of the state, there is no such law in Britain. The biggest thing the government of this country has done is to only approach this problem by formulating a definition of extremism (i.e., "overt or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance for different faiths" and beliefs). Even so, this definition is vague and has been criticized in many expert and political circles as unhelpful. In this regard, the government's Commission on Countering Extremism has expanded the government's recommended definition to include the definition of "hateful extremism. It refers to "conduct:

    • that may incite hatred, or exhibit persistent hatred, or speak ambiguously about violence and articulate moral grounds for violence;

    • that is based on hateful, hostile or racist beliefs directed against an alien group that is perceived as a threat to the well-being, survival or success of an internal group (defined as a victim);

    • which causes or is likely to cause harm to individuals, communities, or society as a whole.

    However, even this definition is still too vague to reflect the specific threat of radical right-wing extremism and to combat it. What is needed is a definition of extremism that takes into account the distinction between radicals and extremists, as well as reflects the broad constellation of contemporary radical groups (an example of conceptualizing cultural, ethnic and racial nationalism). This will ensure a more effective fight against them. In addition, a law on hate extremism similar to the one adopted in Scotland in 2021 should be adopted.

  4. In addition, it is necessary to enact a law on hate extremism, similar to the one that was passed in Scotland in 2021.
  5. Going down from the macro level to the micro level, better community-based initiatives are needed to combat the polarizing, stigmatizing and racial biases that British extremist groups have exploited at the local level. Beyond COVID-19, efforts to reach out to the community through collaborative initiatives and cultural activities, based on the results of experiments in group contact theory, may be the best means to combat forms of religious and racial prejudice. Moreover, a more proactive response by local officials and politicians to those who are at the "tipping point" of supporting radical nationalist or Islamist groups can help neutralize their sense of "disconnection" from the prevailing systems of the state. In addition, policymakers and government officials should be very careful about the language they use to refer to different communities and radical groups when engaging in local initiatives. For example, using the words "white working class" or "Muslims" may be unhelpful to such diverse communities, with different social and religious backgrounds, as stigmatization can lead to further radicalization. Instead, we need to keep in mind a more detailed picture of the "community" that reflects the complexity of the problems and vulnerabilities that can lead someone down the path to extremism and similar basic actions that can keep bigots in the cycle of radical activity.
  6. The penultimate recommendation - on a more cultural level - is elitist rhetoric on issues of race and religion. In Britain at the moment we need to be more restrained in our public racial and religious discourse in order to reduce the potential tensions that can arise from distorted commentary. Recent campaigns by UK parliamentarians have shown that "the politics of hate and division have given audacity to racist and sexist abuse on a scale that none of us thought we would ever see again. By signing a code of conduct or promising to use more responsible and compassionate language, elites can demonstrate their efforts and participation in reducing attacks on religious and racial minorities, which often escalate dramatically in response to caustic comments from the top. Moreover, both major parties in Britain need to take more responsibility for racial and religious hatred within their ranks, with the Conservative Party showing particular intransigence in this regard. Both major parties need a full commitment - beyond proposals in leadership contests - to combat such prejudices and to implement credible and transparent internal disciplinary systems to deal with such destructive threats.
  7. A final and related suggestion would be more effective research and funding for programs that mitigate the damaging effects of right-wing extremist narratives circulating in the online space. Although research has just begun, it has already shown that such counternarratives must be emotional, powerful and change-oriented to be effective for the target audience. They also need to be inserted by practitioners and researchers into difficult to navigate (and sometimes closed) online ``echo-chambers'' to assess the possibility of such actions puncturing the kind of group opinion that legitimizes prejudiced (and sometimes violent) ideas against certain minorities. Such tools may be crucial in the future to mitigate polarization and, in the first place, to prevent people from taking the risk of taking the path of extremism.

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