A 17-year-old from Loughborough, England appeared in court last week after planning a “Columbine-style” massacre on a mosque, school, and several other targets. The individual on trial has been identified as a neo-Nazi supporter of the English Defence League, a far-right populist group known for their anti-Muslim rhetoric.
The teenager has been accused of stockpiling an array of weapons including guns, knives, and homemade bombs. Along with the weapons, his diary was uncovered which highlighted his potential targets and was filled with drawings of Nazi swastikas and EDL logos. His hatred and fear of Muslims was also revealed in the diary with one excerpt in particular that stated: “There’s too many Muslims in the UK and Europe, so we must stop them coming over here and send the ones already over here back home before they take over European governments and put Sharia Law in place.”
It is important to note that the accused Loughborough teenager has Asperger’s syndrome, which is being factored into the trial and cannot be overlooked when examining his ties to white nationalism. According to clinical psychologist Mickey Fitzgerald, members within the organized hate movement often aim to use mental illness to deter blame from themselves and their groups by saying one’s mental state is responsible for their actions – such as when a violent tragedy occurs – and is not the result their bigoted agendas and messages.
Fitzgerald explains mental illness does need to be taken into consideration when examining these cases, however, because it is often used to vilify the person as the “Other” and deter blame from the influence of doctrines of white racial and other forms of extremism. “The root problem, however, is not the Other – whether they are people with so-called ‘mental illness’ or immigrants, etc,” Fitzgerald stated. “The cultural and structural conditions of violence underlying such tragedies transcend these issues.”
It is unsurprising the young man on trial held such beliefs after associating with the EDL, as they are known for their neo-Nazi ties and extreme nationalist thinking. TBritish nativists Tommy Robinson and Kevin “Kev” Carroll head the group and regularly hold rallies and marches seeking to disparage Muslim communities.
Despite the EDL’s ongoing ties to neo-Nazis, they continue to be supported by North American Islamophobes. Most notably is the alliance between them and anti-Muslim activists Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer who have their own connections to violent extremism. Both were quoted by Anders Behring Breivik who, in 2011, went on a killing spree in Norway killing 77 people. Breivik, similar to the aforementioned Loughborough teen, was influenced by anti-Muslim rhetoric and believed he needed to stop Muslims from invading Europe.
Geller and Spencer have previously invited Tommy Robinson and the EDL to speak at past rallies. The American duo were also recently banned from attending an EDL event in England after the UK Home Department deemed their visit unconducive to the public good due to their relationship with the group and their own brand of hate speech. The EDL has also been promoted by others in the U.S., such as Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade who had Tommy Robinson on his show. During the interview, Kilmeade told Robinson “we got your back” and stated he believes the EDL is doing great work.
The teen’s planned massacre at a mosque and other targets reminds us of what can result from extremist groups like EDL having a platform to broadcast their bigoted agendas. Fortunately, law enforcement officials were able to interrupt these plans before any lives were lost, something that has not always been the case in past tragedies. The all too serious threat that can stem from nativist rhetoric needs to be recognized and dealt with accordingly by continuing to expose the true nature of these groups and their intentions.