Jayda Fransen, deputy leader of far-right political party Britain First, told me that Donald Trump gave her and her party a much-needed morality boost.
Fransen was virtually unknown outside of Britain (and, arguably, inside Britain) before the president retweeted three of her anti-Muslim tweets of unverified videos supposedly depicting Muslims attacking people on the streets. Now she is getting international coverage for her anti-immigrant part, which is vying for power inside a Britain that has seen an uptick in xenophobia in its local and national politics.
“We’re absolutely delighted that the leader of the free world, President Donald Trump, whom I am a huge admirer of, has taken the time to retweet some of my content on Twitter,” she told The Root in a phone interview.
Some of Fransen’s recent tweets include “Halal slaughter should be outlawed in Britain!” “Raping your wife is fine in Islam” and “Muslim stupidity at its finest.” Her Twitter and Facebook timelines read like a white supremacist cesspool, rife with the kind of anti-immigrant sentiment that tapped into so many white Americans’ racial fears. (Her Instagram is relatively tame, however.)
The videos on Fransen’s Twitter timeline have murky origins at best, so it is not 100 percent verified that the “Muslims” perpetrating violent acts are even, well, Muslim.
Whether or not the videos are real didn’t matter to Trump, given that he has a penchant for spreading fake news stories anyway. As appears to be the case with Fransen’s Twitter activity, the goal is to incite hate. If it is predicated on lies, so be it. Still, it makes sense that Trump would find her content appealing, since he has supported Nigel Farage, the former head of the UK Independence Party, or UKIP, which spearheaded the anti-immigrant Brexit movement last year.
Fransen and Britain First, comparatively, aren’t major players in United Kingdom politics, so Trump’s Twitter promotion is giving the far-right party a major profile boost that could further evoke more Brexit-style support in the future. During a 2014 parliamentary by-election, Fransen generated a mere 56 votes out of more than 40,000 ballots cast.
When I asked Fransen why she did so poorly, she said that she encouraged her party members to back UKIP candidate Mark Reckless so as not to “split the vote.” (I assume that when she said “split the vote,” she was referring to the racist, anti-immigrant vote.) Reckless won with a near 3,000-vote majority.
The Southern Poverty Law Center points out that Trump has shared Britain First’s content in the past on at least 10 occasions. Trump’s support for the party has the potential to embolden even more racists, some experts say.
“President Trump’s retweet could act as an endorsement that allows Britain First to move further into the mainstream both in the U.K. and in the U.S.,” Julia Ebner, a research fellow at think tank the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, told The Independent.
Britain First is very much a street movement, Fransen told me, but that will soon change. The party plans on fielding a number of candidates in next year’s local elections. When I asked Fransen if she is a racist or Islamophobic, she pushed back, saying that she is a “Catholic” and “devout Christian” who fears that Britain is being taken over by Islam.
“I love every human being on this Earth because they are the sons and daughters of God,” she said. “The followers [of Islam] are victims of that ideology. And let’s face it, I am very familiar with Islamic scripture. I’ve studied them as well as studying the biblical Scriptures. If we are to follow the Bible, we are called to love one another. If we are to follow the Islamic scriptures, they are called to slaughter every non-Muslim.”
Fransen’s take on Islam is very similar to the way white evangelicals here in the United States vilify the Quran without considering that the Bible has its own verses that are open to interpretation. Some argue that the Quran is far less violent than the Bible.
Although Fransen claims to love everyone, her Facebook posts tell a different story—like this one suggesting that immigrants will bring harm to Europe:
Or this one playing on the racist “economic anxiety” rhetoric that won Trump so many voters here in the United States:
And this one is peachy:
I asked Fransen why she thinks Trump is retweeting her, and she went into victim mode.
“I suspect that this is because he is very aware of my plight here in the U.K., in that I am facing jail for giving a speech in which I am criticizing Islam,” she said.
Last year, Fransen was convicted of religiously aggravated harassment after shouting incendiary language at a Muslim woman wearing a hijab who was with her four children at the time in Luton, 30 miles northwest of London. She and party members were on a “Christian patrol” at the time. Fransen also faces trial in December for, again, religiously aggravated harassment. Paul Golding, the party leader, faces similar charges in that trial.
Yet Fransen believes that she is the victim. Not the people she and her fellow party members troll with their perverted interpretation of Christianity. Not the woman or her children at whom Fransen hurled insensitive remarks. Fransen plays the victim in all of this. She continued to tell me that she isn’t racist during our call, saying that the term is used to silence people like her.
“[British] authorities turn a blind eye to children being groomed on a colossal scale by Muslim grooming gangs,” she said. “So ‘racism,’ ‘racist,’ all of that nonsense—that is being used as a silencing technique. I don’t stand for racism and neither does Donald Trump. As for the issue of Islamophobia, well, I have one thing to say on that issue. A phobia is an irrational fear. It is not irrational to fear an ideology that states that every single nonfollower should be slaughtered.”
FYI: Established religious scholars have long said that this is bullshit.
Our interview was cut short (a television crew was waiting for her to sit for an interview), so I didn’t get a chance to ask her a lot of follow-up questions about how her so-called Christian faith informs her racist views or what she feels she has in common with American white evangelicals, even though it is pretty obvious.
But Fransen did explain the significance of Trump’s support for her tweets and what it means for the far-right movement in Britain and around the world.
“Politics throughout the world is changing,” she said. “I think it is very polarized. This public display of support and sympathy for my plight as a political leader who is facing jail for criticizing an ideology, I think that is just showing that world leaders are toughening up and becoming brave enough to address the real issues and the real threat to our people. Our supporters are delighted that President Donald Trump took the time out of his day to retweet me, and I am also delighted.
“God bless Donald Trump and God bless America,” she added.