An investigation by the BBC and the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network demonstrated that Jim Dowson—a far-right millionaire who publicly backed Trump for president and was a financial supporter of the fascist British National party—is also closely linked to the Knights Templar International portal, a group of websites that promote anti-Muslim, Christian nationalism in Europe and deride ethnic minorities, said Newsweek on Tuesday.
After being banned from Hungary, Dowson has set his sights on the Balkans, where he is training far-right Serbian activists in information warfare and providing Serbs with military-style equipment, according to reports.
Newsweek quoted Wired website as reporting in February that “the Knights Templar International uses dozens of Facebook pages and fake news websites to target British social media users with extremist messages and far-right memes.”
The Facebook pages claim that Europe’s downfall is imminent and a war between Christians and Muslim unavoidable. The Knights Templar International was banned from Hungary last year for allegedly joining paramilitary groups that targeted refugees traveling to the European Union from the Middle East and Africa.
Media groups tied to Dowson also spread conspiracy theories about former candidate Hillary Clinton and pro-Trump messages during the U.S. presidential elections in 2016. Dowson himself was kicked out of the country in April last year for being a threat to Hungary’s national security. He is currently appealing the decision.
Newsweek said that the investigations published Tuesday revealed that currently, Dowson and the Knights Templar International, which is named after the Catholic military order founded in 1119, have set their sights on Serbia. It also reported that Dowson and the Knights Templar are training far-right activists in Serbia on how to win an online propaganda war, and are producing propaganda videos from Serbia’s capital Belgrade.
Further, Dowson has sent military-style equipment to Northern Kosovo, an area populated by ethnic Serbs that is technically part of Muslim-majority Kosovo.
Some experts say that the Balkans, with its history of nationalism and separatist conflicts, is an attractive region for populists and ideologues like Dowson who are looking to stir up sentiments about a clash of civilizations.
“We’ve known since the 90s that the broader Serb nationalist mythos about the Yugoslav Wars was very attractive to the Western far-right, constructing the conflict as a struggle between Christendom and Islam, a defense of Europe from ‘invading’ Muslim hordes,” Jasmin Mujanovic, a Balkan analyst, told Newsweek.
“Given the broader resurgence of far-right sentiment in the West, anti-immigrant and Muslim sentiment especially, it’s unsurprising that the Balkans would re-emerge as a central staging ground for both local and international reasons," Mujanovic continued.