Scandinavian far-right exploit livestreams to spread Islamophobia around Israel-Hamas war

Katrina Biele
Intelligence Analyst – Livestreams, Resolver
May 1, 2024 · READ

Overview

Anger, grief, hate speech and racism—the online discourse about the Israel-Hamas war is fraught and highly charged. In Denmark and Sweden, far-right activists are exploiting live stream video to stoke sectarian hatred and Islamophobia.

The playbook includes provocative broadcasts of Quran-burning demonstrations, intertwined with graphic media from the Israel-Hamas war to demonize Muslim immigrants in both countries. Then they litter the comments on mainstream social media with coded anti-Palestinian rhetoric to evade content moderation, garner support from sympathetic viewers and fundraise further off-platform activities.

Below is a deep dive into the tactics these actors use to spread their hateful rhetoric and the reach they are able to generate on main stream media. If you’d like to learn more about our Live Stream Threat Defense and our ability to identify and mitigate emerging threats using live video, please reach out.

Scandinavian extremists exploit livestreams amid Israel-Hamas war

Since the October 7 attack by Hamas on Israel, far-right activists in Denmark and Sweden have attempted to leverage a broader growth in sectarian and Islamophobic discourse on mainstream platforms to amplify harmful narratives demonizing Muslim immigrants in both countries. In particular, such actors have grown increasingly adept at harnessing the “live streaming” feature available on mainstream and alt-tech platforms to broadcast provocative Quran-burning demonstrations held by them outside various embassies in the region.

An open-source analysis of the verified social media accounts of several prominent far-right extremist groups across mainstream and alt-tech platforms from June to November 2023 highlighted how they incorporate graphic media depicting violence from the ongoing Israel-Hamas war into their regular content as a means of portraying Muslim immigrants living in Sweden and Denmark as supporters or sympathizers of Hamas actions in Israel. Other posts employ anti-Palestinian rhetoric including categorizing pro-Palestinian protesters as “pro-Hamas Muslim protestors” and allege that both countries will be “invaded” should the demographic population of Muslims increase.

Saliently, posts that demean Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza are interspersed alongside regular live streams that show the right-wing groups burning Palestinian flags and tagging Palestinian media outlets as part of their Quran burning demonstrations helping blur the distinction between the two issues. The same actors also employ coded anti-Palestinian rhetoric in a bid to evade content moderation and tag pro-Palestinian outlets in their live streams as a means of expanding the reach of this provocative content amongst Muslim users on these platforms. The analysis reveals the symbiotic nature of such extremists’ on-and-off platform operations with such incendiary broadcasts helping them grow in popularity and crowdsource donations to fund further off-platform activities.

The Scandinavian far-right landscape

Since January 2023, far-right activists in Denmark and Sweden have regularly staged Quran-burning events where activists burn the religious book outside various foreign embassies in both countries. These burnings have been primarily conducted by a group of far-right Danish activists calling themselves the “Danish Patriots” who organize events to promote Islamophobia and campaign for the expulsion of foreigners from Denmark.

Other prominent Islamophobic activists with a large following online include Danish-Swedish far-right politician Rasmus Paludan and Iraqi refugee Salwan Momika, both of whom have been conducting Islamophobic demonstrations across Sweden. Paludan has been previously charged guilty of racism in Denmark.

The act of burning the Quran remains legal in Sweden, while a law banning the burning of all religious scriptures was passed in Denmark in December 2023. The events have attracted criticism from governments, religious activists, and extremist groups in several-Muslim majority countries who have condemned the events, including groups holding retaliatory demonstrations outside Danish embassies abroad. In July 2023, thousands of protesters took to the streets in Iraq, Iran and Lebanon to protest the Quran burnings. In Baghdad, Iraq, protestors stormed the Swedish embassy and burned the Swedish flag forcing the diplomats present there to relocate.

Over the same period, al-Qaeda, a proscribed international Islamist terror network, issued several written and video statements that called for the beheading of those who insult Islam and highlighted Sweden as a country that was maintaining war on Islam. The terror group went on to urge its supporters to kill the organizers of Quran burnings and bomb Swedish and Danish embassies worldwide. The national terror threat level in Sweden has been raised in response, with both countries now assessing the threat level as significant.

Far-right extremists exploit the Israel-Hamas war

On October 8, 2023, a day after the Hamas attack, Rasmus Paladan uploaded several posts on mainstream platforms commenting on the attack by claiming that it represented “what Islam always does to the infidels” and alleged a similar attack would take place “soon in Denmark too”. The messaging that equated Muslims with foreign invaders received significant support from the politician’s fanbase on the platform, accounting for over 700 likes, 120 comments and 300 shares, marking this as Paludan’s most liked and shared post in October.

 

Example of post by rasmus paludan that alleged that denmark would soon suffer a similar attack as israel.

 

Alarmingly, Paludan’s supporters expressed further calls to action against the Muslim population in Denmark on the same platform, stating that the Danes should fire rockets towards their lost territories, starting with Flensborg (Germany) and Malmo (Sweden). The approximate Muslim population in these cities is estimated between 20% and 25%.

Example of comment by a supporter of paludan that referenced pro-palestinian protests to call for attacks against danish cities with significant populations of muslims.

Graph showing the number of social media followers accrued by accounts belonging to far-right extremists in sweden and denmark.

The Danish Patriots maintain a network of several accounts across mainstream social media and videosharing platforms where they broadcast hostile narratives targeting Denmark’s Muslim population to a combined audience of 5.1K supporters. The group has also held multiple Islamophobic demonstrations since the Hamas attack. These demonstrations have featured large members brandishing posters with derogatory slogans targeting Islam and the burning of a copy of the Quran.

Still from livestream of danish patriots that shows them burning the quran.

On October 20, the Danish Patriots conducted a Quran burning in Copenhagen and tagged a Palestinian news outlet with a large following to their live broadcast of the demonstration. It is likely that the tagging of the footage increased the exposure of the incident among Muslim communities. The broadcast attracted over 600 comments. Up to that point, the total of comments surrounding past broadcasts on the group’s account in October was 384 suggesting the tagging of Palestinian accounts helped expand the reach of this content on the platform.

Scandinavian extremists tagged high-reach palestinian outlets in their livestreams in a bid to expose their narratives to a larger audience on the social media platform.

Two days later, the group conducted another demonstration in the city, live streaming the event via their social media accounts. This broadcast was accompanied by misuse of anti-Palestine rhetoric, highly likely utilized to evade content moderation on the platform. During a follow-up broadcast on the same day, the group shared their payment information for a regional mobile payment service, likely to receive supporter donations.

Example of posts amplified by the far-right extremists that employed coded anti-palestinian rhetoric to evade content moderation on the social media platform.

The group attracts up to 5,000 views per broadcast, and the amount of comments varies significantly, from less than 10 to over 1,000 replies per broadcast. Since July 2023, the group has nearly doubled their social media following by providing regular social media live stream coverage of Islamophobic demonstrations and Quran burning incidents. Alongside death threats throughout the year, the group has continuously received harassment from Muslim individuals.

The misuse of the “live stream” feature on mainstream platforms by such far-right actors also poses a serious challenge to user safety, with the repeated exposure to violent imagery likely to desensitize users who consume such content. Meanwhile, the adoption of coded anti-Palestinian rhetoric to promote the live streams and tagging of pro-Palestinian media outlets with large followings will further complicate the efforts of platform officials to both identify and manage the reach of such problematic content.

Graph highlighting how the danish patriots were able to grow their online followings on the social media platform since the onset of the israel-hamas war.

Example of livestream by salwan mornika that attempts to leverage narratives around the israel-hamas war to expand his popularity on the platform.

In Sweden, Iraqi refugee Salwan Momika continued conducting Quran burnings following the October 7 attack. In response to the war, Momika aligned the demonstrations to be in support of Israel, with the additional burning of Palestinian and Iranian flags.

Momika in particular has increasingly gained popularity by broadcasting the demonstrations across social media channels. Momika expresses similar sentiment as the Danish Patriots, however, the activists have not done joint demonstrations. Several attempts to harm and attack Momika have taken place during past demonstrations, leading to localized riots in Swedish Muslim-majority locations. Momika has since received worldwide condemnation of the Quran burnings and has been served a deportation order due to no renewal of his residence and working permits.

Quran burnings inspire terror attacks

Quran burnings and Islamophobic demonstrations have repeatedly caused widespread condemnation from Muslim-majority countries, who have urged the Danish and Swedish governments to reconsider their laws around freedom of speech. The demonstrations have also led to wider socio-political debate, with the Danish government passing a bill banning the burning of religious scriptures, in December, 2023.

On October 17, two Swedish nationals were killed in Brussels, Belgium, by a known terror suspect Abdesalen Lassoued, who was killed by the police following the attack. Media outlets later reported on previous statements made by the perpetrator indicating that Swedish Quran burning incidents had been part of the motive behind the attack.

In response to the far-right demonstrations, both Danish and Swedish activists have received several death threats from Muslim individuals via private correspondence. In October, Momika received a threatening letter delivered to his home, further increasing the risk of physical attacks carried out against the far-right activists. Off-platform violence and counter-attacks will likely be used as a source for radicalization by Islamist extremist actors in the long term.

Conclusion

Scandinavian far-right actors will almost certainly continue sharing Islamophobic social media content combined with pro-Israel, anti-Muslim and anti-immigration sentiment in order to gain popularity among far-right supporters. It is likely that significant anti-Muslim stance will persist as long as the war continues, contributing towards increased segregation of the Scandinavian immigrant population.

Further provocations by burning Palestinian flags and tagging Palestinian media in posts sharing the burning of the Quran is also likely to trigger further calls to action by Islamist terrorist organizations. If left unchecked, it is highly likely that the interplay between both sides will grow more conflictual, undermine regional security and provoke further off-platform violence in the coming year.

For Trust and Safety teams, Platform Risk Intelligence and Live Stream Threat Defense provides an ideal intelligence solution to mitigate against emerging threats. Gain a holistic view of problematic networks on their platform powered by AI and intelligence sourced from an experienced team of human analysts with native speaking expertise across 50+ languages including Swedish and Danish.

Request a Demo

I'd like to learn more about
  • I'd like to learn more about
  • Enterprise Risk Management
  • Incident Management
  • IT Risk
  • IT Compliance
  • Investigations Management
  • Security Operations Management
  • Compliance
  • Security Audit
  • Loss Prevention
  • Brand Protection
  • ESRM
  • Internal Audit
  • Internal Control (SOX)
  • Third Party Risk Management
  • Threat Assessment

I agree to receive promotional email messages from Resolver Inc about its products and services. I understand I can unsubscribe at any time.

By submitting this form you agree to Resolver's Terms Of Service and Privacy Policy.