A reply to Neil Erikson on Islamist Extremism

This morning we were treated to a rather strange sight on our Facebook page. The question in a comment to one of our posts reading, “Do you guys ever expose Islamic extremism? If so, link me” was reasonable enough. The Online Hate Prevention Institute works on all forms of online hate and that includes Islamist Extremism, which is what the poster clearly intended to ask about.


The surprise was that the question came not from one of our supporters but from Neil Erikson. The answer to the question follows, but Neil must clearly be banned under our “no platform policy“.

OHPI on Islamist Extremism

Our report “Je Suis Humain” discussed the Charlie Hebdo attacks in France and the attacks on the Jewish community which followed it. The report discusses Amedy Coulibaly who killed police woman Clarissa Jean-Philippe near a Jewish school and synagogue, then his murder of four French Jews at a kosher supermarket. It also mentioned the murder of Daniel Pearl in Pakistan in 2002, also by Islamist extremists, also because he was a Jew. The report explains how Pearl’s killed claimed that “killing a Jew would make for powerful propaganda andincite his fellow jihadis”. The report warns “targeting of Jews in terrorist attacks is not accidental, but rather ideologically driven” and that this “growth of antisemitism must therefore be tackled to safeguard not only the Jewish community, but society as a whole”. The report warns that “the importation of a culture of antisemitism from the Arab world into France,and Europe more generally” must be addressed. The report quotes Anshei Pfeffer who said, “The connection between the radicalization among large Muslim communities in western Europe and the wave of anti-Semitism cannot be ignored”.  The report also quotes France’s Chief Rabbi who warned of the danger months before the attack pointing to a wave of antisemitic incidents from “French youths radicalised by Islamists”.

Our article “Violent Extremism on the rise in Australia” speaks of media claims of a “rise in content on social media promoting violent extremism to Australians, particularly from radical Islamic groups from the UK”. In the article we strongly support the messages against violent extremism coming from Australian Muslim community leaders. We note that “religious messages on social media often come from people outside Australia and with different value sets. Even where a leader is legitimate, and their message relevant in their local context, that doesn’t always make it right for Australia. Add to that the problem of self appointed authorities, leaders from fringe groups well outside the mainstream, and the use of social media by extremists claiming to act in the name of religion, and religious content from unknown sources on social media becomes a minefield”.

In an article “Daesh (ISIS) lies about Islam on Social Media” we shared part of the New Year message from the Grand Mufti of Australia, Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohammed, which stated, “[W]e warn our youth regarding the deceitful propaganda that ISIS uses through social media such as Facebook and Twitter. We remind our youth in Australia that social media and the medium of the Internet cannot be a trusted means regarding religious knowledge.” We also noted how “his comments support a religious ruling against violent extremism and Daesh (ISIS) in particular made by Australian Muslim religious authorities”. We state that his words are applicable “not only to Daesh but also to other forms of violent extremism. From Islamists like Daesh who claim they have a religious mandate for war, to neo-Nazis justifying their hate crimes on the basis conspiracy theories and hate propoganda, the violence is first supported by words”.

In a response to attacks on Paris and Beirut, we note how “the attacks were clearly Islamist terrorism” but that it is unclear if it was organised by Daesh or the work of lone wolves who were inspired by them. We noted how “Daesh supporters promoted the attack on Paris through Twitter with #ParisIsBurning, also the name of an influential 1990’s documentary” and how other cities were appearing in similar tags suggesting other potential targets. “Such propaganda, whether centrally coordinated or not, promotes Daesh’s agenda. That agenda includes creating a climate of fear in the general population, generating hostility to Muslims in the West, and making Muslims feel excluded and therefore easier for ISIS to recruit through social media.” We stated that, “we deplore the murders being committed by these extremist groups, we urge all our supporters to stand with the people of Paris and Beirut against this terrorism” and also that “those who are responsible should pay the price, but others who may share a religion, nationality or ethnicity with them should feel safe and welcome in the broader community as they go about their daily lives”.

In a Statement on September 11, 2015 we wrote, “We remember the devastation and human tragedy that extremist ideology can cause. We reflect as today Daesh (ISIS) with its brutal extremist ideology attacks civilians in Iraq and Syria causing an international refugee crisis as large numbers of people flee to save their lives. Daesh also threatens us at home, it grooms Muslim youth through social media both to join it in the Middle East and to carry out acts of violent extremism at home.”  OHPI’s CEO, Dr Andre Oboler, explained, “Today as we recall the victims of the 9/11 attack, we also reflect on the backlash and vilification against the Muslim community that occured in its wake. We must stand strong against Daesh’s campaign of terror both locally and globally, but we must equally stand strong against the vilification of a section of our own communities and the vilification of asylum seekers who are themselves fleeing a brutal and extremist regime. Social media provides a platform in which such hate can and is being used to vilify communities and normalise targeted hate in mainstream society. The vilification is spreading rapidly through social media and starting to appear in conversation at work, at home and on public streets. It starts online, but it doesn’t stay there”

Writing about ISIS Terror Hacking, where the “Islamic State Hacking Division” published the names, e-mail addresses, phone numbers and passwords from 1400 people from around the world,  we said: “The purpose of the leak is clear; it is designed to cause fear. With the Australian Government not commenting, in line with established policy, some experts have been whipping us fear, furthering Daesh’s (ISIS’s) objective. At the Online Hate Prevention Institute we have already dealt with two cases of ISIS related social media accounts seeking to threaten specific targets in Australia earlier this year. We have also dealt with a number of cases of hacking. While concerning for the individuals, in our opinion this media storm is playing into the hands of those who wish to threaten Australia and our free, democratic and liberal society”.

In an article on the passing of Prof Robert Wistrich, one of the world’s leading antisemitism experts, we shared some of his thoughts expressed at a recent conference. He said “The driving force, the spearhead, of Israel hatred and Jew hatred around the world, is radical Islam. I don’t think we are going to get anywhere as long as we feel, for political or other reasons, that we have to circle around this with a kind of excess caution because we might just conceivably upset somebody’s feelings. Because we might be accused, as we are all too familiar, with the charges that are made so casually, and so immediately, of racism, Islamophobia, of stigmatisation, of other minorities or majorities, on the grounds that we are attacking a religion. We are not attacking a religion. It should be clear, and I am sure it is clear to everyone in this room, that the problem is not Islam as such, as a religion, as civilisation, as a code of morality, the problem is and has been now for many decades, Islamism. The problem is the misuse, the abuse, the exploitation, even the hijacking, of one of the great universal faiths, for purposes of holy war, of Jihad, with all of the horrific excesses that we read about every day.” We added that “we believe this was critical contribution to the discussion on tackling not only antisemitism, but the risk to all peoples from radical Islamist extremism”. We added that, “in the Australian context, particular in light of the rise of ‘Reclaim Australia’, the clear distinction Prof. Wistrich made between the religion of Islam which he respected, and the perversion of radical Islamism which he spoke out again, needs to be highlighted. Those who rightly want to take action against radical Islamism, but wrongly choose to incite against Muslims, or attack Islam generally, are not only missing the point, but potentially pushing more people towards extremism. Our national response to counter violent extremism should keep this distinction in mind as well.”

We also wrote about the Indian response to @shamiwitness, a popular pro-ISIS Twitter account which shared links to beheading videos and interviewed foreign fighters before they left to join ISIS and after they arrived. The account was traced to an Indian man, Mehdi Masroor Biswas, who was arrested by Indian police. In the article we note that, “he was clearly a key node in the promotion of pro-terrorist propaganda”.

Why must Neil Erikson be banned?

Our policy is that we don’t allow people on our page who are supporters of hate pages. That is, we ban them when we see them. Our “no platform policy” explains why. In the case of Neil, he is not only a supporter but a well known leader of such groups.

Neil was big in the Reclaim Australia movement, then became one of the founders of the United Patriot Front (UPF). He recently claimed to have left the UPF and his allegiance seems to have shifted to Pauline Hanson. At the same time, his NeilErikson.com site is now redirecting to an “Oz Conspiracy” site with the tag line “United Patriot Front – Originals”. It says it is run by UPF co-founders Neil Erikson and Shermon Burgess. The site features a hit list. It also includes a list of conspiracy theories including antisemitic ones that can be traced back to the “Protocols of Elders of Zion” the most well known antisemitic forgery in history. His own Facebook account likes pages such as: “Reclaim Australia”, “The Great Aussie Patriot”, “Pauline Hanson’s Guardian Angel’s”, “Aussie Pride – No Islam – No Shariah Law”, “The True Blue Crew T•B•C”, “Australian Liberty Alliance”,  “Pauline Hanson’s One Nation – Victoria”, “Rise Up Australia Party”, “Australians Resistance Network” and of course his own page “NeilErikson.com”.

In 2014 Neil was convicted for making a series of threatening phone calls to a Rabbi. Speaking of his actions, the Magistrate found there was “no other explanation except that they were motivated by prejudice, if not hatred, toward the victim because of his race”. Last month Neil himself  told journalist Paul Toohey, “I originally started out in the neo-Nazi movement when I was about 16, until about four years ago… If you wanted to show pride in Australia, there was no other place to go… In hindsight, it’s appealing to join something like that. But there are darker sides to neo-Nazis – lost kids, lost people. Until this patriotic rise of Reclaim last year, there was no one to hang out with apart from neo-Nazis.” The claimed separation from neo-Nazis has clearly not stopped him peddling hate as seen by his current website.

The problem is that Neil doesn’t yet get it. Speaking of a Vietnamese man he explained to Paul Toohey, “It’s not his fault he’s here. He’s come here for a better life. It’s our government’s fault for letting him in.” Neil, if the Vietnamese man came to Australia legally, either as an immigrant with a visa, or as a legitimate refugee, he has as much right to be in Australia as you do.

The White Australia policy is a sad part of our history. We are a multicultural country with people from all over the world and the vast majority of us like it that way. In fact about 40% of Australians are either born overseas or have at least one parent who was born overseas. We like our authentic Japanese sushi when we can find it. We like our authentic Chinese take away, though we also know significant parts of the Australian Chinese community have been here since the gold rush days of the 1850’s. We like our authentic Italian restaurants, Lygon Street in Melbourne is one of our leading dining districts. We know the positive impact on community, business and the cultural life of our cities is huge. Immigrants from across the world also contribute in areas of sport, the arts and public service. They have been elected by the people to represent us in our parliaments.

The danger of the far right

The peddling of hate has to stop. In side or outside a neo-Nazi group, the peddling of conspiracy theories which promote hate against minority groups creates a danger to those groups. The presence of large far-right hate groups also poses a danger to minority groups and society at large. This article is not supposed to be public yet, but it highlights the danger of the far right social media presence in more detail than our recent comments in the media.

For now, as the only space we control is our own Facebook page, we will continue to provide a space as free as we can make it from those promoting hate. That means banning people. Right now, that means banning Neil Erikson from our Facebook page. Neil, if you want to reply to any of this, e-mail us via our website. Other people can comment on this article at this Facebook post.

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