Far Right-Wing and Radical Islamist Groups Are Exploiting Coronavirus Turmoil
Extreme right-wing organizations and radical Islamist groups are seizing on the turmoil and panic created by the coronavirus pandemic to advance their violent agendas, often using similar tactics and the same messaging apps, security officials and experts say.
In recent weeks, racist and anti-Semitic organizations, as well as the Islamic State, al-Qaeda and radical Shiite networks, have ramped up recruitment efforts, encouraged attacks and advanced hate-filled conspiracy theories about the virus.
Far-right extremist groups have called the pandemic a hoax and floated the falsehood that the crisis is being orchestrated by Jews or China. In the United States, they are exploiting the state of anxiety, including massive job losses, by scapegoating Jews, blacks, immigrants, politicians and law enforcement, according to security officials.
Radical Islamist groups are similarly using the pandemic to push their extremist credo, calling the virus an act of God against the enemies of Islam. They are also trying to stoke violent opposition to leaders in the Middle East, describing those who have discouraged religious and other large gatherings as defilers of the faith.
Security officials warn that extremist groups may become emboldened during a time when governments and authorities are focused on the sweeping changes to societies and economies brought on by the crisis.
“The online messages of right-wing or jihadist terrorist organizations about covid-19 to incite hate and the call for attacks are finding a receptive audience, and we cannot ignore the possible threat this might cause,” said a European intelligence official, who like other officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.