In recent years, Europe has experienced the growing popularity and influence of ideologies that promote aggressive nationalism, populism and xenophobia. This has resulted in the sharp rise of far right extremism as embodied by the electoral successes of right wing parties and increasing acts of violence against Muslims. Having recourse to a set of common features across Europe, the far-right’s rhetoric builds upon the global and European financial crisis and its impact on national economies and social fabric, the recent migrations and refugee crisis and crystallized into violent hate speech and practices which is increasingly appealing to larger audiences. Xenophobia, racism, homophobia and general intolerance for diversity are recurrent characteristics in the articulation of far-right hate speech across the EU.
Cultural anxiety, along with anti-immigration and anti-refugee rhetoric has fuelled xenophobia in France, Italy, the UK, Germany with right wing groups strategically exploiting the rise of the Islamic state and the string of post 9/11 Islamist terrorist attacks in Europe. Central European countries like Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic have followed a similar trend, with xenophobic attitudes on the rise. In Greece, one of the consequences of both the financial and refugee crises has been a sharp rise in xenophobic and racist attitudes that is expressed by many different parts of society and primarily -but not exclusively-cultivated by far-right groups that have spectacularly gained power and exposure since 2010.
To illustrate, the infamous neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn still enjoys popularity despite its members being on trial for criminal activity. The past two years were marked by Golden Dawn’s activity even in elementary schools: refugee children were violently prevented from accessing schools and radicalized parents prevented their own children from attending classes to stop their interaction with refugee children. In the same vein, parents and teachers sympathetic to refugees have been targeted and threatened. What is perhaps even more worrying is how charismatic leaders of such parties have acted as taboo-breakers, thus normalizing openly racist attitudes and eroding the centrist discourse. In addition, since 2013, a plethora of new far-right political formations have sprung whose hate rhetoric ranges from aggressive nationalism, a discourse of ‘threat against Greek identity,’ to outright racism, xenophobia and homophobia. National public opinion seems to be rather receptive to such messages: according to the survey conducted by Dianeosis on wide array of public attitudes in Greece published in 2018, the public seemed to hold rather negative views on a range of xenophobia-related indicators. For example, 90.3% of respondents think that the number of migrants in the country is excessively high; 72.1% think that the presence of migrants in the country increases criminality; while 65.4% think that the presence of migrants in the country increases unemployment.
Taking into account the need for a prevention mechanism within social conditions that allow for the spread of far right ideologies, a standardized measure has been developed to identify, quantify and analyze the protective factors that are associated with resilience to violent extremism.
The measure, called Building Resilience Against Violent Extremism (BRAVE), is a brief questionnaire tool, which was developed and validated as part of a collaborative research initiative between the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation, Deakin University (Australia) and the Resilience Research Centre, Dalhousie University (Canada). The measure consists of a brief number of statement items which are responded to using a 5-point scale. The measure has been used in projects to assess resilience to violent extremism within Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, Germany, Mozambique, and is currently involved in studies in other parts of the world.
Focusing on building community resilience rather than on repression, surveillance or counter-terrorist techniques alone, Code on the Road (COR), in collaboration with the BRAVE team, is implementing the BRAVE standardized measure in Greece and collecting reliable and large-scale data to document the factors that promote resilience to far-right radicalization.