Appraising the Islamist extremist landscape after 7/10

8 March 2024

Hamas’ attacks on 7 October 2023 marked a step change in the pattern of Islamist violence, after a period of relative decline. 7/10 and the subsequent Israeli military response are also fuelling further Islamist extremism around the world, manifesting in physical violence and online abuse. This in turn has strengthened and emboldened other extremist voices. There is a serious risk of a vicious cycle of recriminations and attacks.

Islamist extremism is a dynamic and cyclical phenomenon with surges of global violence followed by more muted periods where the ferocity subsides, and the methodology evolves. From 2017 the Islamic State suffered a major set-back with the collapse of its territorial core in Iraq and Syria. Just a few years later, on 7 October 2023, Hamas launched Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, its largest military action, which culminated in the murder of 1,200 Israelis and the kidnap of hundreds more.  While ideologically distinct phenomena, such ebbs and flows show the dynamic nature of the contemporary Islamist threat.   

Available figures suggest Israel’s military response has led to more than 25,000 Palestinian deaths at time of writing, with a huge death toll among civilians including children. The scale of the humanitarian disaster led the UK’s most senior counter-terrorism officer Matt Jukes to warn of an “unprecedented” rise in the overall terrorism threat, including Islamist extremists being “energised by this conflict”. ISD has previously examined the far-right response to the conflict.    

The Islamist extremist landscape after 7/10 has been marked by both increases in acts of terrorism and antisemitic behaviour, but also by extremist discourse targeting Muslims. Accurately identifying and effectively countering Islamism (across its different ideological manifestations) is thus imperative to support all communities affected by the repercussions of this current conflict.  

Impact on terrorism

In the UK, there has been a marked uptick in intelligence related to potential terrorist attacks since the start of the conflict, with a 25% increase reported by Counter-Terrorism Police, while the number of calls to the confidential Anti-Terrorism Hotline deemed “useful” quadrupled in the two weeks immediately after the attack. The Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit (CTIRU), run by the Metropolitan Police, received 3,000 referrals for online material in the period, 700 of which were regarded as potentially in breach of terrorism or other laws.   

The events of 7/10 and the Israeli military action have also been linked directly to terrorist actions around the world.  IS launched a campaign in the wake of 7/10 called “kill them where you may find them,” with the group’s ‘Khorasan Province’ being especially active. An Islamist attack in Paris last December left one person dead and two injured, with the attacker telling police he was upset because “so many Muslims are dying in Afghanistan and in Palestine.” At the start of 2024  a gunman was arrested in Turkey after taking hostages at a premises owned by US company Procter & Gamble in protest at the war in Gaza. Both Islamic State and al-Qaeda have used Gaza in propaganda videos, calling for attacks on Western capitals including London, Paris and Washington, while ISIS has also denounced Hamas and its linkages to Iran, highlighting rifts in the Salafi-jihadist spectrum. Reportedly articulating that he was ‘heeding the call of the Islamic State to target Jews, Christians and their criminal allies’, a 15-year-old Swiss boy has been arrested for stabbing a Jewish man in March.  

Another direct effect of 7/10 is that large amounts of graphic, violent and terroristic content have been posted and are readily accessible across social media platforms. Institute for Strategic Dialogue analysis performed in the immediate aftermath of the attack found 111 posts on X with branded terrorist content, which received more than 16 million views in 5 days. Three weeks later, just 7% of posts had been proactively removed; when reported to the platform, only three additional posts were taken down. 

Separate work by ISD analysts surfaced more than 300 posts containing extremely graphic, distressing or violent imagery relating to the conflict on Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat available to children. These were accessible even with age filters, showing the limitations of platforms’ current systems. While it has long been a strategy of extremist networks to use graphic or distressing imagery such as pictures of children caught in conflict as recruitment materials to violent causes, the sheer scale of this content currently available on social media presents a radicalising potential of a scale not yet known. 


The Community Security Trust’s (CST) annual Antisemitic Incidents Report found 4,103 instances of anti-Jewish hate recorded across the UK in 2023, a record high. The CST said this was primarily driven by 7/10, with two-thirds of all incidents taking place on or after that date. The vast majority of these were examples of abusive behaviour, although there were also 266 assaults, 182 cases of damage and desecration of Jewish property and 305 threats to Jews.    

ISD’s own research, based on a sample of 1,000 antisemitic YouTube comments, found that 12% explicitly incited violence against Jews in the name of an extremist cause. In total, we identified approximately 190,000 comments between 7 October and 24 December 2023, equalling roughly 23,000 calls for violence.   

Although white nationalists are highly antipathetic to Islam, which is often seen as a threat to a Christian West, many have opportunistically seized on both Hamas’ attack and the Israeli Defence Forces’ response as a way to push antisemitic conspiracy theories.  

The overlap between white nationalist and Islamist voices is highlighted by fringe Muslim news website 5Pillars’ decision to host three notorious far-right figures on its Blood Brothers podcast: former BNP leader Nick Griffin, founder of Britain First Jim Dowson, and Patriotic Alternative leader Mark Collett.   

Separately, 7/10 and the Israeli military response have galvanised far-left antisemitism, which sometimes intersects with support for hostile regimes or organisations. Marches, while largely peaceful, have seen the coming together of diverse far left and Islamist movements – including the Houthis – under the same umbrella. The CST has also identified multiple occasions of individuals associated with socialist groups celebrating the October 7 attack.  

Broader dynamics and the long tail impacts of 7/10

In the broader context, it is also worth noting that there have been a number of efforts to normalise other Islamist states which took place even before 7/10. In early 2023, a delegation of UK imams and activists were hosted by the Taliban in Afghanistan; on their return, numerous events were held in which the Islamist and unrecognised government were praised. Following the visit, Prosper Afghanistan was founded as an organisation that describes itself as a community initiative dedicated to furthering understanding of Afghanistan and whose social media posts are often sympathetic to the Taliban, despite the repressive laws imposed by the regime including the removal of women’s rights and education.   

Another hostile state which provides cause for concern is Iran, a major provider of support to Hamas, the Houthis and Shia militant group Hezbollah. Recent media reports suggest that Iran has made efforts to target children in the UK, using militant propaganda videos to push antisemitic chants and videos from members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.  

The impact of the growing normalisation of Islamism, coupled with acts of political violence from other movements, is having a chilling effect on UK politics. On 21 February 2024, a Parliamentary vote calling for a ceasefire in Gaza descended into chaos when the Speaker broke from Parliamentary protocol. His actions were reportedly triggered by a desire to protect MPs from violence and threats, the level of which led to the recent resignation of a Conservative MP in a constituency with a high Jewish population.   

Far-right extremist opposition to ‘Islamism’

As is often the case, Islamist attacks also engender a backlash against the Muslim community. TellMAMA, an organisation that monitors anti-Muslim hate, has recorded a 335% increase of anti-Muslim hate since Oct 7. ISD data has mapped a similar 43-fold increase in anti-Muslim YouTube comments on videos about the conflict. This situation is not only untenable but feeds into the grievance narratives exploited by Islamist groups, and is likely to be used as a recruiting tool.  

Beyond its mainstream proliferation, one key source of anti-Muslim hatred is from the far-right. Although elements have opportunistically voiced support for Islamism in the wake of 7/10, many others instead used the attack to push anti-Islam arguments, arguing from a perspective that Islam is inherently violent, expansionist and mutually exclusive with Western civilisation. In recent public debate, ‘Islamist’ has been used by some mainstream politicians as an essentialised descriptor of Muslim communities writ large, rather than as a technical term describing a specific supremacist theocratic project.   

Over the past two decades, a number of movements have sought to capitalise and stoke anti-Muslim hate, most notably the now largely defunct English Defence League. In November 2023 there were suggestions of a fuller throated far-right revival when pro-Palestinian protestors marched near the Cenotaph in London on Armistice Day.   

A group of 1000 far-right activists tried to enter Whitehall claiming to ‘defend the Cenotaph’. Amongst their frustrations were a perceived inaction by the government and Metropolitan Police to prevent the disruption to London and explicit antisemitism that has featured in pro-Palestinian marches. While mobilisation capacity has significantly weakened since the EDL’s heyday, recent warnings from former leader Tommy Robinson could, if they come to fruition, lead to clashes and social incohesion.   

There is also a risk of increased clashes between Islamism and the Hindu nationalist ‘Hindutva’ ideology, which is closely linked to India’s ruling Bharata Janata Party (BJP) and which views Islam as an invading religion imposed on India through the Mughal conquest. The clash of these ideologies became apparent in the 2022 Leicester riots, with Islamist activists visible on the streets of Leicester while Hindutva activity came primarily from online extremists, many of them abroad. The BJP has been staunchly pro-Israeli, and it is likely that there will be continued friction as a result.   


The events of 7/10 have cast a long shadow over politics around the world and it is highly likely that they will continue to fuel extremism. Significant policy work is needed to counter this trend. In the UK, research on the role of antisemitism in radicalisation and extremism is nascent, but has been thrust into the centre of the threat landscape. Parallel conversations around anti-Muslim hatred have barely even begun.  

Recent events have highlighted threats to our democratic systems, where the threat of both Islamist terrorism and other threats have impacted Parliamentary procedures, with MPs fearing for their safety; a pernicious development that demands gravity when viewed in the context of the murders of the MPs Sir David Amess and Jo Cox.  

The UK’s counter-terrorism apparatus was set up to address the sharp-end of Islamist radicalisation and terrorism. But the threat today requires an approach to addressing the mainstreaming of extremism within society, and confronts the diverse manifestations of extremism-related harm beyond terrorist violence (including threats to human rights).  

Wrapped together, this presents a whole of society challenge: urgent investments in inter-community initiatives are required in a context where relations have been profoundly challenged; there is a need for clear language amid growing politicisation of definitions around hate and extremism; and over-securitisation must be avoided when the impacts serve to spur polarisation. If 7 October is indeed a 11 September moment, then now is the time to show we have learned the lessons of the last 20 years.