Far-Right Extremism and Youth: Has the COVID-19 Pandemic Become a “Perfect Storm” for Radicalisation

Tue, 22 Jun 2021 18:00 in Discussion Forums

Venue: Online
Date: Tuesday, 22 June 2021
Time: 18:00-19:00


  • Dr Chris Allen, University of Leicester
  • Dr Natalie James, University of Nottingham
  • Dr Bethan Johnson, Doctoral Fellow at Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right
  • Iysha Arun, Research Fellow, Dialogue Society


In a recent interview he gave to the LBC, the UK’s top counter-terrorism police officer, Neil Basu was quoted saying that the COVID-19 pandemic has created the “perfect storm” for radicalisation. Although reiterating that the primary threat of terrorism to the UK was from Islamist terrorists, Assistant Commissioner Basu highlighted that far-right extremism is growing rapidly. Official figures show that the number of far-right terrorist prisoners in Britain has hit a new record high with one in six terrorists being held in jail on accounts of far-right extremism, these include Thomas Mair (who was convicted of murdering Jo Cox) and Jack Renshaw (a member of the banned National Action who admitted plotting to murder MP Rosie Cooper with a machete). The politics of such inspired ideologies include white supremacy, antisemitism and genocide anticipation, and, Islamophobia.

So where do youth come in? And how has the pandemic contributed to this rise?

Far-right extremism poses a detrimental risk for youth with “10 out of the 12 under 18s who were arrested for terrorism last year [being] linked to extreme right-wing ideology”. A growing number of young people in Britain are being drawn into hateful ideologies online, with predators deliberately targeting vulnerable youth, who are now spending more time indoors and online due to the pandemic. This discussion event will aim to unravel some lingering questions that arise on the topic of youth and far-right extremism. For instance,

  • What are the most influential factors in radicalisation? How is the internet posing a useful tool for predators?
  • When does radicalisation turn into terrorism?
  • How can we protect our youth? What signs should carers, friends, and families look out for?
  • And, who should we turn to if we’re worried about a child?

Speaker Biographies

Dr Chris Allen is an Associate Professor in Hate Studies at the Centre for Hate Studies, which is based in the School of Criminology. For almost two decades, he has been researching Islamophobia, counter-extremism and counter-terror, and wider issues relating to the ‘problematisation’ of Muslim communities. This has included but not been limited to undertaking research seeking to understand the experience of Muslim women victims of street-level hate crime, anti-Islam ideologies of the far-right, the impact of counter-terror legislation, and governmental engagement with Muslim communities. His research has also focused on wider issues relating to the role of religion and faith in the contemporary political and policy spaces as also issues relating to Britishness, cohesion, integration and identity. In doing so, he has been funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council, the Economic & Social Research Council, British governmental departments including the Department for Communities and Local Government, local authorities, the European Union and a wide range of state agencies, third sector organisations and charitable bodies. Chris has published widely both in the UK and elsewhere including Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, Serbia, Spain, Switzerland and Turkey among others.

Dr Bethan Johnson is a graduate of the University of Cambridge and a Doctoral Fellow at the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right. She specialises in the interlocking threads of identity, nationalism, and terroristic violence. Her doctorate examined the ideological foundations of violent ethno-nationalist separatist movements in Western Europe and North America in the mid-Cold War era. It explored how leaders of violent movements constructed nativist and counter-hegemonic narratives through the exploitation of socio-political tensions about globalisation and inequality to spur violence. Dr Johnson is currently researching the contemporary far-right in Western nations, with a particular emphasis on terrorism. She has produced work for the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism and the European Commission, been awarded the Terrorism Research Award, and is the commissioning editor of the forthcoming book series Analyzing Political Violence.

Dr Natalie James holds a PhD in Politics from the University of Leeds, a Masters of Science in Politics and Research Methods and a Bachelor of Arts with Honours in Politics, both from the University of Sheffield. Her doctoral thesis examined the conceptualisation of threat through the implementation of Prevent Duty within Greater Manchester's Further Education sector. Natalie is currently Assistant Professor of International Relations within the School of Politics and International Relations; she is also Head of the Counter-Extremism Research Unit at the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right. Her previous posts were as Guest Lecturer at the University of Salford, Module Leader at the University of Sheffield and as Module Tutor at the University of Leeds and the University of Sussex, where she taught a broad range of modules including Terrorism, Security Studies, International Relations, Power, Conflict, Oppression, British politics and Far-Right Political Parties in Europe. She has a range of publications including journal articles, book chapters, book reviews and media posts and is currently working on a monograph and a number of peer-reviewed journal articles.