LONDON: Far-right extremists are moving increasingly online as they prepare for what they believe is a "civil war on Islam" in Britain, according to a new report released today by a UK-based anti-racism group.
Hope Not Hate, a campaign group which investigates neo-Nazi groups to combat far-right extremism, warns that the UK must be prepared for more terrorist plots and use of extreme violence from the far-right for the foreseeable future.
"We are facing a surging threat from far-right terrorism and violent extremism. We fear further violence from the extreme right in the months to come," said Nick Lowles, chief executive of Hope Not Hate.
"This rising terrorist threat is the consequence of the increasingly confrontational tone of online far-right rhetoric, combined with the almost universal extreme-right belief that a civil war between Islam and the West is coming," he added.
He called on the police and the government to do more to crack down on the peddlers of hate and those pushing a "civil war rhetoric".
The group's annual State of Hate report said that while traditional groups are weakening, more tech-savvy leaders were driving the far-right cause forward.
It warns that though membership of traditionally-organised far-right groups was at its lowest level for two decades, the threat that they posed has been replaced by new networks which had been developing online.
These new activists have been growing in size and influence and have developed new ways of marketing themselves to would-be followers which differentiated themselves from the stereotypical face of the far-right of the past.
This rise in virtual activity was contributing to more online race or religious hatred, much of it aimed at Muslims, the report notes.
A record number of people are being arrested for suspected terror offences in the UK, with 28 suspects detained for far-right-inspired crimes in 2017, according to the campaign group.
The report said that the view of Islam itself as a threat had spread into the mainstream and the general British population, with more than half of respondents in a public poll taking the position and 42 per cent saying their distrust of Muslims had grown after last years Islamic State (ISIS) inspired attacks.
"With increasingly negative views towards British Muslims and Islam more generally, there is a growing pool of possible recruits for the far right and, with some now having huge social media platforms, they now have ways to reach people that were unimaginable in the past," the report notes.
The findings come just days after Scotland Yard's outgoing counter-terrorism chief Mark Rowley warned of the growing threat from the far right.
He used a speech earlier this week to reveal that the UK had foiled four far-right terrorist plots in 2017.
"The right-wing threat was not previously organised. Every now and then there's been an individual motivated by that rhetoric who has committed a terrorist act but we've not had an organised right-wing threat like we do now," he had warned.
The new report supports this assertion, warning further violence from the extreme right.
"At its heart this report shines a light on the growth of intolerance across the UK and Europe and we should all take a stand against extremism whether it is expressed by far right, Islamist groups or other movements," said UK security minister Ben Wallace.
He said the government was determined to crack down on terrorist recruiters who preyed on vulnerable people, whether by "Islamists, neo-Nazis or other violent extremists".