It came from the bowels of the internet. In the early 2000s, countless disaffected young men flocked to online subcultures like the alt-right, the manosphere and the red pill movement to vent their frustrations with feminism, LGBTQ rights and racial diversity. With so much rage and resentment at the modern world simmering away online, fed by conspiracies and steadily growing more extreme, it was only a matter of time until it bubbled over and spilled out into the wider world.
Today, many of those ideas and beliefs have filtered through into the mainstream. They have inspired terrorist attacks across the world that have taken hundreds of lives. Politicians repeat their talking points. Their most prominent proponents, like the British-American media personality and alleged human trafficker Andrew Tate, have global audiences.
But Tate, who converted to Islam in 2020, is part of a new wave of far-right figures who have ditched the movement’s traditional Islamophobia for admiration. As New Lines magazine’s Lydia Wilson and Rasha Al Aqeedi wrote in their recent piece “Tate and the ‘Red Pillers’ of Islam,” many on the new right have come to see Islamists not as enemies but potential allies in their shared battle against feminism, LGBTQ rights, so-called “globalism” and secular modernity.
“Even before he converted back in 2020, he said that Islam has the solution for modern society,” Al Aqeedi says. “His interpretation of Islam vindicated his pre-existing beliefs.”
“You had Ku Klux Klan members in the United States say, ‘I wish our men had the balls to conduct an attack like that.’”
Moustafa Ayad, executive director for Africa, the Middle East and Asia at the Institute of Strategic Dialogue, noticed the same thing.
“We’re now in 2023. We have a group of youth, or young people, who have essentially been online their entire lives, who have witnessed massive, drastic shifts in the way that social media platforms have pushed cultures or broken down boundaries,” Ayad says. “And the same has happened in extremist communities. You have Islamists in white supremacist communities watching or listening or even taking part. And you have the same white supremacists in Islamist communities.”
But while it may now be far more widespread than in the past, that mutual admiration and cross-pollination is not necessarily new. “I mean, this has been going on since 2017 and before,” says Ayad. “If you look at, for instance, the September 11th attacks, you had Ku Klux Klan members in the United States say, ‘I wish our men had the balls to conduct an attack like that.’”
Produced by Joshua Martin