What's Next for Non-Islamist Terrorism Globally?

Hello from my visit to the Sphinx... along London's River Thames(!), Readers, 


Islamist terrorism continues to evolve globally, with the rise of al Qaeda 3.0, ISIS 2.0 and the clash between certain extremist groups. But are there other types of terrorism to be concerned about? You bet – here are a few notable non-Islamist terrorist threats to watch around the world:

1) Buddhist Extremism Spreading in Southern Asia

Buddhism is under threat from Islam – at least according to an extremist contingent of Buddhist monks in both Myanmar and Sri Lanka who, back in 2014, publicly formed a global anti-Islamist pact. In 2018, Buddhist-led violence against Muslim minorities has escalated, facilitated in part by social media in southern Asia. In Myanmar, reports of genocide of the Rohingya Muslim minority have been quickly dismissed by leader Aung San Suu Kyi as a “huge iceberg of misinformation”. The arrival of a militant Rohingya group – the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army – to “defend” Rohingyas from “Burmese state-sponsored terrorism” has complicated matters, as has the March 10 return of anti-Muslim Buddhist monk Wirathu after a one year government ban. In Sri Lanka in March, Buddhist mobs’ anti-Muslim riots led to a state of emergency on the island, which already has a legacy of Buddhist-Tamil tensions. Yes, some Buddhist monks have rallied against such anti-Muslim violence and the government did arrest a leader of a hardline Buddhist group, but local police and certain politicians also facilitated the anti-Muslim riots. In Thailand, in September, Buddhist monk Apichart Punnajanto threatened to burn down a mosque and launch an anti-Muslim movement. He was condemned by prominent monk, Ashin Issariya, detained by government and disrobed at his temple in Bangkok. But could his followers pick up where he left off?

2) Far Right Extremism Competing with the Islamist Extremist Threat in the West

Far right extremists are increasingly active in the US and EU, strategically leveraging social media to spread their anti-Islam, anti-minority views and even launch attacks. In the US, an Anti-Defamation League report reveals right wing extremism today is “an equally serious threat” compared to Islamist extremism – in fact, in the past decade, domestic right wing extremists were responsible for 71% of fatalities compared with 26% carried out by Islamist extremists. The Southern Poverty Law Center reveals the number of hate groups has increased by 20 percent since 2014 with hate crimes against Muslims soaring in 2016 and 2017. Across the pond in the UK, anti-Muslim hate crimes by far right extremists have risen to “record levels” post-Brexit and the five ISIS-inspired terrorist attacks in London and Manchester in 2017. The British counterterrorism police chief reveals the very “organized” far right terrorist threat is “significant and concerning”, while advocacy group Hope Not Hate notes far right extremists are preparing for a domestic “war against Islam”. Similar trends are appearing in other parts of the EU and also Canada, with an Institute for Strategic Dialogue study suggesting far right groups are building international links. Could far right extremism be evolving in a similar way to Islamist extremism? 

3) The Return of the Ecoterrorist Globally?

Ecoterrorism may be making a subtle comeback. In Brazil in 2016, days before the Olympics, Sociedade Secreta Silvestre detonated a pressure cooker bomb outside a mall in response to construction projects damaging the environment. In Nigeria in 2016 and 2017, the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) attacked oil producing facilities over their lack of share from oil wealth and oil pollution in the swampland region; NDA ended its 2017 ceasefire, with plans to launch the “most deadly attacks” this year. In Greece in 2017, the ecoterrorist group Blackgreen Arsonists threatened to put hydrochloric acid into certain supermarket products in Thessaloniki and Athens to protest consumerism. In the US in 2016 and 2017, activists protested against the Dakota Access Pipeline project over its impact on drinking water; this led to clashes with police, arrests and even legal action by oil and gas company Energy Transfer Partners. But the larger concern now is that the Diamond Pipeline project between Oklahoma and Tennessee could be an ecoterrorist target – at least according to a Department of Homeland Security Report. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s job may be in jeopardy over his alleged spending (e.g. over $2 million of taxpayer money on his security detail, raises to his favorite aides), but he and his family have received “unprecedented” death threats compared to his predecessors. Who made these ecoterrorist threats and will they materialize this year?

Stay tuned.

Prof Aziz

London: the 140-year old Sphinx keeping an eye on the River Thames and London Eye