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Security Brief: Holocaust crime, Islamist extremist conviction, anti-immigration vigilante groups

Updated: Apr 17

April 7-13, 2022 | Issue 3 - EXTREMISM TEAM

Lydia Baccino, Daniel D’Menzie, Asya Kocheva, Extremism Team

Justin Maurina, Editor; Jennifer Loy, Chief of Staff



Holocaust Memorial[1]



Date: April 10, 2022

Location: Canada

Parties involved: Canadian federal government; Canadian citizens; Law enforcement entities; White Supremacist supporters; anti-Semitic groups; Canada’s Freedom Convoy movement

The event: The Canadian government plans to make Holocaust denial a criminal offense. Canada will join several European countries that have already legally banned Holocaust denial, including Germany, Greece, France, Belgium, and the Czech Republic. The Canadian government is prohibiting these narratives to diminish rising antisemitic and white supremacist activities. The penalty for convicted guilty persons breaching the law is unspecified. Reports show that 54% of Canadians are unaware of the number of Holocaust victims, while 57% of respondents believe that people are less concerned about the Holocaust currently.[2]

Analysis & Implications:

  • The lack of specific penalties for people convicted of Holocaust denial will very likely undermine the bill’s legitimacy and perception among the public. Attempts to rapidly modify the criminal code will likely lead to ambiguity surrounding the bill’s meaning, scope, and consequences, making Canadians uncertain of its efficacy. The bill’s failure to convey necessity and legal ramifications will likely fail to be a deterrent in the short term. Far-right groups will likely continue spreading antisemitic rhetoric and Holocaust denial material to test the bill’s limits and protest its drafting.

  • Approving the bill without clarifying specific penalties will likely confuse citizens. People will likely accuse the Canadian government of supporting a law open to interpretations. Canadians will likely question the legitimacy of the law-making process, inquiring why the government hinders the spread of Holocaust denial but not the spread of other conspiracy theories, such as Covid-19 misinformation and climate change denial. Failing to answer these questions will likely increase far-right views developing among people.

  • If the government neglects to explain the reason and importance of banning Holocaust denial, skeptical Canadian citizens are likely to perceive this as limiting their freedom of speech and violating their fundamental right to express themselves freely. Offended people will likely raise concerns about what would happen if the government decides to ban other “deniers” such as climate change deniers and COVID-19 skeptics. There is roughly an even chance these concerns will grow into street demonstrations and “free speech” protests. Canada’s Freedom Convoy movement will likely co-opt such protests using the Holocaust denial bill discourse to recommence nationwide protest and promote anti-government rhetoric.


Date: April 11, 2022

Location: Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, UK

Parties involved: UK; Conservative MP David Amess; Labour MP Jo Cox; Central Criminal Court; Islamic State (ISIS); Ali Harbi Ali

The event: Ali Harbi Ali, an Islamist extremist, was convicted of murdering the Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) David Amess in October 2021. Ali stabbed Amess following his radicalization to ISIS and planned the attack for two years. Ali selected MP Amess as his target during preparations because of his stance supporting Western-led airstrikes on Syria. Ali attacked during one of Amess’ constituency surgeries which allowed him to learn Amess’ whereabouts and gain proximity.[3]

Analysis & Implications:

  • The high-profile nature of Ali's victim will almost certainly result in continued media coverage and political discourse surrounding his attack and conviction in England. This heightened visibility will very likely reach broad audiences, including radicalized British Jihadists who are likely to perceive Ali's conviction as an act of martyrdom for the global ISIS movement. There is roughly an even chance that his attack, and the 2016 murder of Labor MP Jo Cox, will be emulated by these extremists in future attacks targeting politicians, to receive similar coverage as Ali and further push their Islamist agenda into the mainstream. If this eventuates, it is likely that Islamist networks and Jihadi lone-wolves across Europe will also target high-profile outspoken critics of Islam which is likely to initiate a new wave of domestic terrorist incidents in the Western world.

  • Radicalized British extremists will likely emulate Ali’s attack in future incidents and likely create a anxiety and terror in Britain, especially among politicians who are likely to feel vulnerable to an attack. This will likely provoke conservative or nationalist politicians, such as Nigel Farage, to use them to promote hardline policies toward limited immigration. The public political discourse surrounding Islam, Jihadi extremism, and immigration will very likely resonate with Britain’s various far-right groups, such as the English Defence League, who will also likely capitalize on the moral panic to push Islamophobic agenda into the mainstream. This will likely result in these groups recruiting more members, likely framing their far-right operations as attempts to protect British society from the threat of Islam.

  • Ali Harbi Ali’s use of a knife to murder MP Amess was very likely a symbolic decision to signify his allegiance to ISIS. His decision to use a knife was likely because they are cost-effective, relatively untraceable, and easily disposable. These factors almost certainly cause difficulty for law enforcement officials to detect and anticipate, which very likely complicates their ability to infiltrate networks and prevent future attacks. This style of attack was also likely selected to represent the personal and direct nature of ISIS beheadings, which are seen as an attempt to push their agenda of a violent Jihad forward.


Date: April 11, 2022

Location: South Africa

Parties involved: South Africa; President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa; South African Government; South African Police; South African Military; Vigilante groups in South Africa; Migrants in South Africa

The event: South African President Cyril Ramaphosa publicly condemned domestic vigilante groups' anti-immigration rhetoric and violence toward migrants. This follows a recent attack on a Zimbabwean migrant in Diepsloot, who was beaten, set alight, and killed by local vigilante forces. According to Ramaphosa, these vigilante groups blame migrants for South Africa’s socio-economic decline, the rising crime rate, and rising unemployment. This sentiment spread to greater South African society, with protests in Diepsloot and Johannesburg accusing the government and police of failing to address the migrant influx. Ramaphosa has compared the intimidation tactics of these groups to Apartheid-era police and their oppressive mistreatment of black citizens.[4]

Analysis & Implications:

  • South African vigilante groups likely view Ramaphosa's comments as dismissive of larger socio-economic issues plaguing the State, such as rising crime. This will very likely provoke vigilante groups to target local government officials and law enforcement personnel. Targeting authority figures will almost certainly exacerbate regional political instability, as reduced staff, damaged government buildings, and increased focus on vigilante groups will very likely disrupt government efforts to address socio-political issues. This will likely result in South African citizens losing confidence in the government’s ability to protect their safety, likely causing significant populations lured towards vigilantism to force political change.

  • If South Africa’s national crime rate and unemployment continue to escalate, protests in Johannesburg and Diepsloot will likely spread to neighboring regions like Pretoria and Bloemfontein. Local police will very likely struggle to contain nationwide protests and will likely be preoccupied with addressing the high crime rate and vigilante violence. If protests turn violent, South Africa’s military will almost certainly intervene and likely clash with hostile protesters and vigilante groups. This will very likely create a national security issue that will almost certainly mainstream the anti-government and anti-immigration messages of the movement to larger audiences, such as neighboring States whose own populations are likely to import these beliefs and tactics.

________________________________________________________________________ The Counterterrorism Group (CTG)

[1]Mémorial de la Shoah @ Paris” by Guilhem Vellut licensed under Creative Commons

[2] Holocaust denial to be banned in Canada to counter antisemitism, Digital Journal, April 2022, https://www.digitaljournal.com/world/holocaust-denial-to-be-banned-in-canada-to-counter-antisemitism/article#ixzz7QFv8n9jb

[3] Ali Harbi Ali guilty of murdering MP David Amess in terrorist attack, The Guardian, April 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/apr/11/david-amess-verdict-terrorist-attack-ali-harbi-ali-guilty

[4] Ramaphosa likens anti-migrant attacks to apartheid actions, Al Jazeera, April 2022, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/4/12/ramaphosa-likens-anti-migrant-attacks-to-apartheid-actions

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