Is COVID-19 responsible for facilitating extremism and terrorism?

On 14 January, the Bussola Institute held a webinar entitled “Is COVID-19 responsible for facilitating extremism and terrorism?” with experts Dr Orla Lynch, Ms Sara Zeiger and Dr Richard Burchill.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic throughout the world in 2020 has been profound. 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 and 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 much uncertainty to the world. With uncertainty comes feelings of distrust, dissatisfaction, grievance, and division among and between societies. Together with this, with workplaces, shops, public places being shut, more 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 by exploiting 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. The webinar 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.