On January 14th 2021, the Bussola Institute hosted a webinar that examined the impact of COVID-19 and its links to terrorism and extremism. The webinar was based on the research paper produced by Bussola “Extremism in the time of COVID-19” published in July 2020. Across the globe, the day-to-day lives of people have changed dramatically, and it is unlikely that these changes will diminish anytime soon. In these difficult times, terrorist attacks have continued as extremist views persist. From the killing of a teacher in France, to Islamic State’s attacks on educational institutions in Afghanistan, to the recent massacre in Nigeria, it is clear that extremist ideologies continue to fuel violence around the world. COVID-19 and the extensive measures taken by governments to minimise the effect of the pandemic have brought a great deal of uncertainty to the world. With uncertainty comes feelings of distrust, dissatisfaction, grievance, and division among and between societies. Together with this, workplaces, shops, and public places are being shut and people are spending more time online. In this sort of environment, extremism is able to thrive.

The pandemic brings new opportunities for extremists to gain further support for their ideologies. They exploit discontent and uncertainty through fostering victimhood narratives, spreading distrust of government, pursuing disinformation campaigns, fuelling exclusionary feelings, and spreading animosity towards “others”. Extremists have been able to link elements of the pandemic to their overall ideology and continually amplify their messages. Our expert panel examined how the current circumstances have allowed extremist narratives to thrive and the measures that can be taken to counter the spread of extremism and terrorism.