The Islamic State called it the "grayzone" – where Muslims can be loyal to their religion and identity while still fitting into wider society. Islamist terrorists want to destroy this grayzone and give Muslims a black-and-white choice: become an apostate or become an extremist.
All over the internet and throughout the country, a phalanx of right-wing hate preachers are ready to take every monstrous event and blame it on all Muslims, perpetuating that false black-and-white idea. In doing so, those who profess to care the most about defeating terrorism continue to contribute directly to the exact spiral of alienation and division the terrorists want.
While the words of these right-wing hate preachers may be snake oil bullshit, they have real consequences for communities across the UK who are subjected to a spike in racist incidents after every attack. Our special investigation – Hate Island – is a guide to the movements, individuals and subcultures that incubate this hatred and unleash it on the world.
The recent trial of far-right terrorist Darren Osborne gave proof – if proof were needed – of the impact of this toxic discourse. Before ploughing a rented van into worshippers outside the Finsbury Park Mosque, Osborne had printed out tweets written by Tommy Robinson – the former EDL leader, turned far-right gonzo journalist – and placed them on his dashboard.
Sadly, Osborne is far from the only person whose online obsession has quickly manifested itself in a murderous act, as evidenced by our look at IronMarch, an obscure neo-Nazi forum that took its members on a shared journey of radicalisation that resulted in an international wave of terror attacks.
Alarmingly, thanks to the current global political climate, this rhetoric is not confined to online spaces. As interest in the so-called alt-right continues to grow in America, we look at its self-declared UK home: the London Forum, where unhinged racists give talks asking, "Was Jesus a Nazi?" From its beginnings as a meeting of cranks interested in head measurements, the forum has become an organisational and ideological hub for far-right street protests, and a link between white supremacists on either side of the Atlantic.
The people we discuss in these articles may exist on the fringes, but that doesn't stop some of their ideas finding acceptance in society. They filter down, perhaps even subconsciously.
Take, for example, Prime Minister Theresa May: she was accused of using the language of the fascist National Front when she was Home Secretary, after telling undocumented migrants to "go home". Or Jacob Rees Mogg – the PG Wodehouse character many grassroots Tory campaigners would love to see at the helm of the Conservative Party – who has had to repeatedly distance himself from the Traditional Britain Group, an organisation where conservatives rub shoulders with the far-right.
None of this makes these people far-right agitators, and we're not suggesting they have Nazi or neo-Nazi sympathies, but it does demonstrate that it is not enough to simply cast the far-right as a bunch of obsessive weirdos, or far-right thought as an isolated aberration. What we must do is understand how it relates to the mainstream and prays on common concerns.
There is always a way of legitimising the ugliest of ideas – whether it's a dinner jacket or a victimhood narrative, as in the case of Generation Identity – and it's time we faced up to these preachers of hate before the idea that we can live side-by-side recedes entirely.
Get stuck into our special investigation with these articles: