‘Counter-Jihad’: What’s in a name?

A Hope Not Hate report released this morning provides a thorough analysis of the new face of the American/European far right-wing. It claims to identify over 300 “organisations and key individuals” who make up this collective movement. It dubs this movement the ‘Counter-Jihad’ movement, and suggests that at its core is the idea that there is a plot by some significant group of Muslims to take over Europe/the world, and that they have an authority, duty and/or right to organise in resistance to this (mythical) plot. The HNH report correctly identifies that the core error here (although that this is in fact erroneous is left implicit in the text of the report) is to fail to identify any of the significant distinctions between radical, extremist Muslims, and the entire faith of Islam – an error so stupid that it begs questions of the extent to which the organisers of this ‘movement’ know that their message is false and are using it as a veil for a resurgence of nationalist, xenophobic politics.


EDL supporter giving Nazi salute

Something which has always bemused me is the tendency of the media to acquiesce to giving people the tags which they desire. As such, we see newspapers, even very lefty ones, frequently referring to the Republican party by the Republican’s arrogant pet name for themselves – the GOP (although it has been pointed out to me before that ‘GOP’ has almost lost any meaning because it’s so frequently used.) Why do this?

This particularly struck me in this case. Why are Hope Not Hate using this name?

It is not a “Counter-Jihad” movement. A counter-Jihad movement would be established solely in response to a significant, real and identifiable set of actions orientated towards a religious conquest, and it would target only those who perpetrated those actions and have a scope limited to resisting them. It would also, had it any logic, be perfectly willing to work with the political mainstream, who (even if this perceived threat wasn’t a myth) would be far better placed to achieve these things. Counter-Jihad is a tag invented by the neo-Nazi movement to attempt to legitimise and mainstream its vile politics, and the really worrying thing is that it might, to some extent, be successful.

One serious part of my concern about facilitating the mass adoption of that tag to describe the far-right is that it shares a lot of foundational ideological ground with actors on the far-right who are less (at least, less obviously) extreme and therefore far more influential and popular, such as Marine Le Pen. The potential path development of a unified, broad movement on the extreme right-wing is a literally terrifying thought.

At the least, HNH refer to it always as the ‘Counter-Jihad’ movement (their quote marks – suggesting they share my scepticism that it’s a fair name). The Guardian casually refer to it as the counter-jihadist movement: small letters, no quote marks, as if counter-jihadist is an accurate adjective. What on earth are they playing at?


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About Jon Robinson

Lefty ex-politics student turned med student, interested in current affairs, economics, gender politics and health issues. Occasionally pretends to understand philosophy. @jon__robinson

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