Across the UK 24 different far-right groups are said to be currently attempting to whip up hatred towards Muslims. Leading the charge, according to a report by Hope Not Hate, is Britain First, who like Trump, also suggested banning Muslims and mosques as the answer to tackling terrorism.
This year Britain First clocked-up over one million “likes” on Facebook, using the site, and a steady-stream of often doctored and misleading content, to ratchet up public fears, something another former far-right favourite, Tommy Robinson, has also capitalised on.
The English Defence League founder, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, has this year come back into the spotlight as the “adviser” to Pegida UK.
Harnessing the power of social media (he has over 100,000 Twitter followers), Robinson has created waves of anti-Islam sentiment which he’s used to surf his way up the far-right ranks, and on to stages where he’s addressed the biggest crowds of his political career. In November, Robinson used his power to align anti-Islamic groups across Europe, and on February 6 next year over a dozen will march simultaneously under a single banner: “Save our Country. Save our Culture. Save Our Future.”
Nick Lowles, Hope Not Hate’s chief executive told the Guardian this month: “The very fabric of our multi- racial and multifaith societies is going to be severely tested in the next few years and it is incumbent on us all to strengthen the bonds that unify liberal democracies.”
Below are the 10 moments of 2015 that showed how far-right sentiment has crept into mainstream consciousness.
Donald Trump: ‘Stop Muslims entering the US’
Islamophobia went mainstream in December when US Presidential hopeful Donald Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims” entering the US, in an attempt to protect the country in the aftermath of terrorist attacks in Paris and California. The plan was globally condemned and Trump was compared to Hitler. The Republican candidate said: “Where this hatred comes from and why we will have to determine. Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in Jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life.” Trump went on to fan the flames of hatred to the UK where he claimed Muslims had created “no go zones” which even police were scared to enter. Police and London Mayor Boris Johnson rubbished the assertions, and Jeremy Corbyn later invited Trump to come to London to see how “multicultural, multi-faith” Britain works. Hillary Clinton later said in making his policy statement Trump had become Islamic State’s best recruiter. A petition launched to ban Trump from the UK gained over 500,000 signatures.
Britain First: Ban Islam from the UK
A day after the Paris attacks, on November 14, Britain First held their national conference in a room above a pub in Sheffield where they passed a policy to ban the religion of Islam within the UK and all of its associated practices. The policy included the “prohibition” of halal slaughter, sharia courts, religious publications (such as the Koran, Hadiths) the operation of mosques, madrasas and “cultural centres” and the public preaching and/or teaching of Islamic scriptures and doctrines. A subsequent policy sought to ban the use of Islamic face coverings in public, such as the burka. Other policies passed at the conference included preventing the media from using the word “racism” and making it an act of “treason” to implement any policy that led to significant “numbers of foreigners entering the country”.
Why Jayda? Why?
While observing the annual conference this reporter caught the attention of party leader Paul Golding and his deputy Jayda Fransen whose personal security team manhandled me out of the Sheffield pub where it was being hosted. There she was, Fransen, with guards to her left, right and rear. Big white men, with thick tattooed-forearms, and fat stomachs. “Good, he’s leaving,” she said. I was moving quickly now. Arms on either shoulder, driving me towards the exit. There was no time to farewell Golding’s mum. There was no explanation.
Paul Golding for mayor – traitors to hang
In September Golding announced he was standing for London mayor and in typical, take-no-prisoners Britain First fashion, he announced the party would hang their adversaries. On the group’s Facebook page Fransen wrote: “They think they can get away with ruining our country, turning us into a Third World country, giving away our homes, jobs and heritage, but they will face the wrath of the Britain First movement, make no mistake about it! We will not rest until every traitor is punished for their crimes against our country. And by punished, I mean good old fashioned British justice at the end of a rope!”
National Action – neo-Nazis cower in lost property depot
Neo-Nazi group National Action threatened Liverpool will “go up in flames” and only “bullets will stop us” when their planned ‘White Man March’ looked set to be cancelled in August. However, when it went ahead it was the group who needed protecting. National Action was overwhelmed by counter protesters and members had to take shelter in the lost property depot at Lime Street Station after coming under attack by a “barrage of projectiles”. These appeared to be coffee cups and rubbish.
He’s back! Tommy Robinson joins forces with Pegida
Sean Gallup via Getty Images
October marked the return of former English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson, who due to a few stints in prison and court imposed orders, had largely kept his views on Islam and immigration to himself, well, at least away from a microphone. Robinson emerged back into the spotlight at an event in Holland to help Pegida launch a Urecht chapter. Less than a fortnight later, in a sign of an emerging alliance, Robinson commanded arguably the biggest crowd of his political career when he took to the stage in front of a 40,000-strong crowd at a Pegida anniversary event in Dresden. There he implored supporters to “not let Germany be dragged back to chaos and destruction”. He said: “This current immigration is an invasion. Our borders are being overrun. There is little or no control. A country that cannot control its borders will soon not be a country.” Days later, on November 17, Robinson flew to the Czech Republic where he met with representatives from Pegida, along with a similar local group called ‘Bloc Against Islam’, which grew out of the ‘Czech Defence League’. The rally was addressed by President Milos Zeman, who is also an outspoken critic of Islam.
Doh! Pegida UK reveals new leader, who then resigns
Having established a relationship with Pegida, Robinson in December thrust himself back into the spotlight announcing on TV that he was now “advising” the leadership of the newly formed Pegida UK and that a dozen countries across Europe were to take place in a simultaneous action on February 6, 2016, marching under one banner: “Save our country. Save our culture. Save our future.” Former army veteran Timothy Scott was revealed as the new face of Pegida UK, but after, in his own words, an “epic fail” first interview with Channel 4 he stood down. In two subsequent statements he pointed out that he was not “used” by Robinson and did not have “PTSD”. Scott was savagely mocked over the interview one Twitter user dubbed, “comedy gold”. In December Robinson also released his first book entitled, ‘Enemy of the State’. In it he revealed that the Quilliam Foundation paid him thousands to leave the EDL and claimed that police tried to “blackmail” him into spying on Britain First leader Paul Golding.
English Defence League sinks to new low
In December the English Defence League finally announced it had elected a new leader after a two-year hiatus. But there was a catch – members now needed to fundraise to keep him out of jail on a “truumped up (sic)” violence charge. The EDL, which was left leaderless when Robinson deserted it in October 2013, elected Ian Crossman, who also goes by the name Phil Derrin. Announcing the “unanimous” decision the EDL informed its members it needed to raise £5,000 – to “save Ian, save the EDL” – to ensure Crossman does not get “incarcerated” when he appears in court in January 2016. Another lowlight for the group was an embarrassing exchange between a member and his 12-year-oid niece In July. Wayne Knight threatened to delete his relative on Facebook after she challenged his views on she challenged his bigoted views on race and Islam.
Front National’s support surges in French regional elections
Following a year blotted with terrorist action in France the far-right Front National party looked set to rise to power and dominated early voting in the regional elections. The party, led by Marine Le Pen, secured a third of votes, but failed to win any region because governing Socialists withdrew key candidates. Many of their supporters voted instead for Nicolas Sarkozy’s centre-Right party, The Republicans, in order to deny Front National the electoral breakthrough it wanted. In the aftermath of the failure Le Pen announced she was reviving her plans to re-name the party in an effort to discard its “demonised” image, The Telegraph reported. Le Pen believed voters blocked Front National’s rise to power because of the baggage of anti-semitism and racism associated with its name. The party she contended had been tainted by the repeated convictions of its founder, her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, for denying the Holocaust, an offence in France. Le Pen engineered her father’s expulsion from the party four months ago over anti-semitic comments. Le Pen herself is now being investigated by police for tweeting pictures of the decapitated body of Islamic State victim James Foley, in a move his parents said “deeply disturbed” them.