Ferguson
Members of the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan hold a cross-burning ceremony.http://www.traditionalistamericanknights.com

Just a few days ago the world remembered the Selma protest march in 1965, a crucial moment in the civil rights struggle led by Martin Luther King. Many people were quick to herald the progress we have made in the last 50 years. President Obama, who led the tributes at Selma, described it as a place where the idea of a just, fair and inclusive America emerged victorious.

Yet Obama also struck a cautious note, telling America that "our work is never done...we can afford neither complacency nor despair." This tinge of trepidation was certainly justified, given the racial tension which has blighted America over the past year.

Just this morning, news broke that two people had been shot in Ferguson, a reminder to America, and to the world, that the turmoil of that city is far from over. The shootings of Eric Garner and Trayvon Martin show that this is far from an isolated issue; the entire country is criss-crossed by racial fault-lines.

Underpinning all that hatred, all that bile, all that fear, is the Ku Klux Klan. Some experts have suggested the Klan, an organisation of which I was once a senior leader, is dying out. It's not relevant anymore, they say. But the reality is far different; the death of the Klan has, sadly, been greatly exaggerated.

There are no accurate figures to gauge the precise number of Klan members in America. But the insiders I speak to tell me that they are actually growing in strength, drawing on new recruits in the military, and among veterans.

Personally, I would estimate that there are currently between 5,000 and 10,000 paid-up, card-carrying Klansman. Then there are many, many more 'silent members', people who don't attend rallies or make their affiliation public, but support the Klan with financial donations. It's certainly not the disorganised rump some people have described.

Even more alarmingly, the KKK is evolving. Its leaders are adopting the tactics of Islamist terror groups in the Middle East, the tactics of stealth and precision, to pursue their perverted goals.

When I say this, I am referring to three key strands of the KKK's modus operandi, which we can call method, material and meaning. In all these areas the Klan is clearly evolving and becoming a 21st-century terror organisation.

Let's look at the method first. By that, I mean the method by which the KKK carries out attacks and manifests itself as a violent organisation. In the old days, of course, the KKK was very much a wandering pack, carrying out attacks on mass and at random. But now, everything is more targeted.

These days the attacks are generally carried out by lone wolves, strike teams whose identity is not even known to the rank and file of the Klan. These individuals are brought in and brainwashed by the senior leaders of the KKK, turned into a pet project for the wizards and dragons at the apex of the hierarchy.

ferguson protests
The crisis in Ferguson has thrown America's racial problems into sharp relief.Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

There's much more method these days. We've already seen targeted assassinations in Texas and Kansas, both of which have been traced back to white supremacists. They are targeting people more clearly, members of both black and Jewish organisations. They also plan and target federal federal facilities. The era of the random, spontaneous orgy of violence has gone.

Now, let's move on to the material: in other words, the weapons used to carry out the attacks. Nowadays it's more shootings and stabbings, even grenades – attacks which are sadly familiar to anyone with a knowledge of Middle East politics.

In a sense, this isn't a particularly new problem. The KKK, of course, was behind the appalling bombing in Birmingham, Alabama which killed four girls back in 1963. But now these arms are more readily available to the Klansman than ever, because they're recruiting a lot of military and ex-military people, who have access to these materials and have the knowledge to make them lethal.

Recently, a group of gentlemen were arrested in the north-west for plotting to blow up buildings and contaminate water systems. Thankfully the plan was botched and they were caught with explosives before they could put them into effect. But I fear this is the sign of things to come; big attacks on major public buildings, alongside the targeted assassinations.

Finally, let's look at the message, the creed being espoused by the Klan. This area shows the closes similarity between America's white supremacists and the terror groups which have cut an appalling swathe across the Middle East.

They claim their attacks are sanctioned by God

The Klan aren't calling for a racial war anymore; they're calling for a racial and a religious war. In fact, they're calling for a Christian Jihad, nothing more, nothing less, and they claim their attacks on anti-whites and anti-Christians are sanctioned by God.

We've seen examples of Klan members having stakes in their local churches. Indeed Thomas Robb, National Director of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, is also well-known as a minister in the Christian Identity movement – an extreme branch of the church which preaches that white people are the true Israelites.

Recent events have been twisted to suit the KKK's Christian sales pitch. In Ferguson, we've seen Klan supporters use the religious message to try to elevate the Michael Brown tension into a wider conflict. And, of course, they've latched onto the massacres perpetrated by Isis, a message which seems somewhat ironic when you think about it.

Make no mistake, the KKK is every inch a terror group. In fact, I've even heard and read people describing it as the American Taliban. But, in reality, they're just as similar to Isis and al-Qaeda, albeit their attacks are thankfully less horrific – for the moment.

Americans are preoccupied with the terrorists committing atrocities in the Middle East, and with plenty of justification; no-one could see those bombings and beheadings and not tremble a little inside. But, in waging war against militant Islam in the Arab world, we mustn't forget about the militant Christianity being waged in our backyard.

Scott Shepherd is a former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan in Tennessee. Now he is one of America's foremost anti-racism campaigners, striving to educate young people about the evil of racial hatred. He runs his own blog, which you can read here, and you can find him on Twitter @reformedracist.