Thursday, April 30, 2015

Anne Marie Waters: UKIP bigotry comes to Lewisham

When I started my series on my election priorities, with a post on the need to eliminate the far right, I illustrated it with an infographic from UK Aktion on the current far right landscape in Britain. The map had Nigel Farage and UKIP on it, showing their irregular contact with Britain First, the Dad's Army comedy Mosleyites who are rising stars of the far right, as well as its proximity to the English Defence League and Liberty GB, who have floated around its orbit. In some ways this was a mistake, because it is wrong to call UKIP far right.

Many people to whom UKIP appeals are drawn from the Tory base ("a swelling coalition of small businessmen, lone traders and hyper-Atlanticist cowboy capitalists", as Richard Seymour aptly put it). There are even some in UKIP who might have more in common with Old Labour, or who might even be called of the left, as this brilliant piece of writing by James Meek about Grimsby shows. Some of its concerns resonate with ordinary working class people left out by the turbulence of global capitalism.

And yet, somehow UKIP can't stop getting tangled up with the far right. Whether it's chatting on Twitter with Holocaust denying Hitler fans, posting racist cartoons on Facebook, winning the endorsement of Nick Griffin, commenting on Jews' hooked noses, or linking up with fruitcakish European parties, well, UKIP keeps on getting embarrassingly right-wing. This series of tweets gives about a dozen examples of UKIP straying close to fascist territory.

Unfortunately, the candidate UKIP has chosen for Lewisham East* is kind of in this category.

Her name is Anne-Marie Waters. I first noticed her in mid-2013 when she tried to get selected as a Labour Party candidate in Brighton (although she had earlier tried to get selected in Swindon South). Andy Newman of Socialist Unity had attacked her then, and my instinct was to defend her. Newman objected to her strident secularism, arguing that she promoted Islamophobia. At the time, although there were examples of some unsavoury memes in her narrative, I felt Newman's evidence was pretty thin. Waters was associated with One Law For All, a campaign against Sharia law that I strongly support, led mainly by ex-Muslim women. OL4A have a very clear policy that the counter-Jihadi right is their enemy not their potential ally.

However, around this time, Waters seemed to start moving further to the right, away from a secularist campaign against Islamism towards a blanket loathing of Muslims. Worryingly, she started associating more and more with far right activists around the English Defence League and its founder Stephen Yaxley-Lennon. Around the time Yaxley-Lennon left the EDL, Waters left Labour (oddly, she made the announcement on a far right Scandinavian website).

Before long, she had joined UKIP. It took a while before her associates in OL4A distanced themselves from her, but eventually, as her association with EDL became more and more blatant, they did so quite unambiguously, using the words "racist hate politics".

For a while it seemed as if she would be selected as UKIP parliamentary candidate in Billericay. To court the swivel-eyed Essex men that would be UKIP's base there, she widened her animosity from Muslims to Travellers.

Hilary Aked of SpinWatch wrote a profile of her for IRR in January. I think that sometimes SpinWatch, in describing a well-funded "neoconervative" counter-Jihadi conspiracy around people like Waters can stretch their web a little too thinly to mean much. But Aked's core allegation, of Waters' links with the far right, is strong and damning, and it is important to ask where Waters gets her funding from. I hope neither you nor Aked mind if I quote at length:
In June 2014, Waters shared a platform in Copenhagen with Lars Hedegaard, the man behind the anti-Islam organisation the International Free Press Society. A video of the event- the launch of a Swedish edition of Hedegaard’s book Muhammad’s Girls: Violence, Murder and Rape in the House of Islam - shows her sitting next to the Dane, who was convicted of hate speech in 2011 after stating that ‘Muslims rape their children’, though he successfully appealed this conviction, on ‘free speech’ grounds, the following year. Chairing the event was Ingrid Carlqvist, a key member of the Swedish counterjihad network. Also on the panel was psychologist Nicolai Sennels of the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party, a prolific purveyor of Islamophobia dressed up as science. The video was produced by Dispatch International (DI), a mouthpiece for the counterjihad movement – for which Waters has written extensively – founded by Hedegaard and Carlqvist. 
In her speech, Waters linked Islam to child abuse, saying (16:08) ‘it’s all linked to Islam’, which she characterised as a dangerous ‘ideology’ being ‘appeased’, adding (17:45): ‘it is exactly the same appeasement that is allowing young girls to be raped in Britain, it’s got nothing to do with race, it’s got to do with the fact that we will not confront the misogyny at the very, very heart of this religion’. 
Waters also seems to have another far-right admirer, of more significance in the UK context. Alan Ayling (aka Alan Lake) helped set up, fund and strategise for the EDL, as an investigation by The Sunday Times revealed. A millionaire evangelical Christian, Ayling’s links with the counterjihad movement led Scotland Yard to interview him after Anders Behring Breivik’s 2011 massacre in Norway
In a series of videos taken in October 2014 at Speakers’ Corner in London’s Hyde Park, which show Waters and others delivering diatribes against Islam, Ayling (wearing a black jacket and black t-shirt with yellow writing) can be seen in the group that appears to be supporting her between 1:08 and 1:19 in this video and from 4.40 in this clip.
Ayling may have showed up uninvited or coincidentally. Though Waters’ various online links to the EDL have been documented, there is no definitive evidence of any offline connection. Ayling, in fact, is believed to have parted ways with the EDL, though his views have not changed. He now runs the website ‘Four Freedoms’ and has links to the far-right Sweden Democrats party. Waters did not respond to repeated requests to clarify her relationship with Ayling or to comment on other matters raised in this article.
Around this time, Waters seemed to fail in her bid to stand in Basildon and Billericay (a UKIP target seat), and got the consolation prize of multicultural Lewisham East.

The Mirror filmed her and another UKIP candidate speaking at a far right rally; they describe her as spouting anti-Muslim bigotry: “a lot of people need to be deported”, she said, and “many mosques need to be closed down”. And after the election, she is launching a right-wing "thinktank" with Stephen Yaxley-Lennon.

South London Anti-Fascists have called for a picket of the hustings where she will appear tonight. Although, as I said at the start of this post,  I don't think UKIP is a fascist party (and, in fact, although very hard right, nor is Waters), I agree that Anne Marie Waters should not be welcomed in Lewisham East.



***

*Note: Lewisham East is about as safe a Labour seat as it gets, so the question there is who will come second. UKIP did come second in the 2014 council elections in a lot of outer South East London, including one ward in Lewisham East, so some people have suggested UKIP could be the contender there. However, as Clare points out, across the constituency they came sixth in the vote share, with their 8% of votes. So, they don't constitute an electoral threat here.

Previous posts: #GE2015 - Lewisham West's anti-Muslim bigot; Are UKIP a threat in London?; Weighing into the Tommy Robinson debate.
Topics: EDL, Islam, Lewisham. Elections 2015.

18 comments:

Sarah AB said...

I find Anne Marie Waters a difficult case. As you know, I had doubts about her a while back - as far as I remember I first heard about her when Andy Newman wrote that post about her Labour candidacy. I remember thinking he raised some valid concerns, although (as with Aked's piece) I was irritated by his sensitivity to anti-Muslim bigotry when contrasted with his apparent indifference to some Islamic extremists with much worse views.

I agree that she has extremely dodgy links - and takes some dodgy positions herself. The fact that she's a UKIP candidate is just one example, even though it's not 'far right'. Sharia Watch covers some valid issues - bus one could say the same of Jihad Watch - and it runs alarmist stories about halal and finance. The root of the problem for AMW is 'Sharia', whatever that may involve - this means grouping huge problems with trivial problems and non-problems. But I'd be inclined to give her the benefit of the doubt and hope that the reported comments about deportation referred to extremists, rather than large numbers of Muslims. One more positive point about AMW is that she does acknowledge liberal Muslims whom she can work with - e.g. Maajid Nawaz. By contrast, Robert Spencer will go to tortuous lengths to find some reason to disapprove even of Quilliam.

However, like Robert Spencer, she does seem to see Islam as the problem, not just extremists/some strands of Islam. Charlie Klendjian, an associate of hers takes a similar line. How should one respond to such a position? I don't take that line, but a strong dislike of Islam need not be racist. I think Maryam Namazie probably has a strong dislike of Islam. I wrote this post (as Lucy Lips) and then posted a rather irritated response from Charlie Klenjian.

http://hurryupharry.org/2014/11/11/university-of-west-london-cancels-presentation-on-campus-extremism/

It was an experience which left me feeling somewhat confused - I guess I still agreed more with CBinTH but could sympathise with CK's sincere frustration.

bob said...

I've made a couple of minor changes to the post since I published it last night, mainly to correct typos I spotted, but also a couple of more important things. I originally said that Aked's piece on AMW reached too far. I had blurred it in my mind with a piece by her colleagues David Miller and Tom Mills about terrorism experts, which started off strongly but cast its net so widely that it undermined its argument. I don't think anything in this Aked piece stretches too far. I also slightly edited what I wrote about Newman and Waters, noting that she was already drifting right by this time - see his post linked to there to judge for yourself.

Re Sarah, I agree AMW is not a fascist. (To be clear: I don't think she should be "no platformed" or denied the right to free speech, just not welcomed in our community.) Obviously jihadi violence is a problem, and some of the things she says about Sharia are true, and we do need to work out the right way to stand up against the Islamist far right as well as the old-style British far right. But I don't think she's that difficult a case: I don't see how the Stephen Yaxley-Lennon/Anne Marie Waters approach offers us anything to help that, apart from stoking up tensions and divisions that make the problem worse.

Sarah AB said...

Perhaps she is not, where and as she is now, a 'difficult case' in that I would not see her as an ally or as a helpful force. But whereas some people seem to latch on to secularism as a cover for xenophobia, I think her starting point genuinely is a passionate and sincere commitment to secularism/feminism - however distorted and mistaken a direction one thinks she may have gone in. And I still maintain that *some* of those opposing her are inconsistent, and ignore worse problems WRT Islamic extremism.

Anonymous said...

Good article.

UKIP in my area (West Yorkshire) have up close and personal links to the remnants of the BNP in the region, who had grown steadily over a decade-long period of Labour govt.

Saw them canvassing together in the Barnsley by-election a few years back, all matey, perhaps they don't fit the formal defintion of fascism but in the rank and file there's a lot of fash, people should be aware

Anonymous said...

I had the displeasure of witnessing the very dangerous views of Ann Marie who mentioned both fgm and sharia courts in her opening speech at a hustings. I was astonished that she was left unchallenged apart from my insistence where all candidates had to answer a question on how to tackle Islamaphobia. I cannot believe that UKIP are allowed to misquote and add fuel to the fire of all the myths surrounding the Muslim community. I have been a Muslim all of my life and in my 40 +years I have never met any woman who is circumcised or anyone who thinks circumcision is ok on women. I have asked Anne marie to come and meet some real Muslim women. Which brings me to the point that I have heard so much rubbish and condescending sh*t from people about Muslims but have not seen much evidence of these same people trying to engage with us. None in fact. It is ok to write on the back of others opinions but you have so many muslims on your doorstep, has anyone ever heard any of the stuff you read about come from them? Has anyone ever bothered talking to them? Ann Marie resorted to scare mongering people about so called secret sharia courts. What a load of rubbish, Islam requires people to follow the laws of the land as 99.9% of Muslims do. This propoganda tactic is so dangerous, it makes people vulnerable and easier to control, I equate it to pre-Nazi Germany. I cannot believe that people such as Anne Marie are able to get away with this. I hope she accepts my invite, as a politician why wouldn't you. Unless you have your own organisation that is equatable to the sharia council and the doctrine advises against engaging the Muslims - you are just the same as the people you are trying to change!

Anonymous said...

I had the displeasure of witnessing the very dangerous views of Ann Marie who mentioned both fgm and sharia courts in her opening speech at a hustings. I was astonished that she was left unchallenged apart from my insistence where all candidates had to answer a question on how to tackle Islamaphobia. I cannot believe that UKIP are allowed to misquote and add fuel to the fire of all the myths surrounding the Muslim community. I have been a Muslim all of my life and in my 40 +years I have never met any woman who is circumcised or anyone who thinks circumcision is ok on women. I have asked Anne marie to come and meet some real Muslim women. Which brings me to the point that I have heard so much rubbish and condescending sh*t from people about Muslims but have not seen much evidence of these same people trying to engage with us. None in fact. It is ok to write on the back of others opinions but you have so many muslims on your doorstep, has anyone ever heard any of the stuff you read about come from them? Has anyone ever bothered talking to them? Ann Marie resorted to scare mongering people about so called secret sharia courts. What a load of rubbish, Islam requires people to follow the laws of the land as 99.9% of Muslims do. This propoganda tactic is so dangerous, it makes people vulnerable and easier to control, I equate it to pre-Nazi Germany. I cannot believe that people such as Anne Marie are able to get away with this. I hope she accepts my invite, as a politician why wouldn't you. Unless you have your own organisation that is equatable to the sharia council and the doctrine advises against engaging the Muslims - you are just the same as the people you are trying to change!

zeca said...

Thanks for the article. I've reposted it on the CEMB forum:

http://www.councilofexmuslims.com/index.php?topic=28703.0

Robin Bowman said...

I found your post balanced and helpful. Thank you.
But I really would like to object to these catch-all phrases such as 'far right', 'far left', 'fascist', etc. They are outmoded and often little more than shorthand for views that don't concur with those of the person using the labels. Can't we move towards engaging with the substance of people's arguments more and away from these, to me, rather fatuous, labels?
My view is we should reserve terms like 'fascist' and 'scum' (not used here), and especially 'racist' for people of truly ill intent who back up bigotry with detailed ideology. Intellectually, it can take effort to deal with such people and just shutting them up is not the answer.
I have met true racists in my time and they are far more disturbing than the average bigot who really is just someone who rants because they don't like what they don't understand. Let's not devalue these terms by overuse. Regards to all.

bob said...

Thanks Robin.

Just to be clear, I explicitly say in the post that neither UKIP nor Anne-Marie Waters are fascist or far right, and I do not call them or her racist. Bigotry is exactly the word I use.

However, I don't think that words like far right and fascist are outmoded or meaningless. It's true it is hard to achieve consensus on what they mean, but they remain important useful terms if used carefully - for instance by recognising that not all of the far right is actually fascist. For example, there is no way that anyone sensible could dispute the fact that National Action is fascist or that LibertyGB and Pegida are far right. What is worrying about UKIP in general is that it constantly drifts into contact with the far right, including even at times with fascists. Waters in particular is smart enough to know what's what and yet she consistently maintains links with groups on the far right.

I also disagree that we need to reserve the word "racism" for those who are ideologically committed to a violent, totally racist worldview. There is something of a continuum from the soft, casual, everyday racist assumptions, prejudices and narratives that probably all of us slip in to from time to time, on the one hand, and hard, violent, deliberate, ideological racism on the other. But there is no firewall between them: ideological racists supply the narratives that filter out to soft bigots, and soft bigotry provides the ideological sea in which hardcore fascists swim.

What is interesting about people like Waters is how we can see the emergence of a new detailed ideological worldview based around a paranoid vision of Muslim supremacism and absolute cultural and moral difference between Muslims and the West. This is different from and obviously less malignant than the ideological worldview of classical fascists, but it's more than just ranting average bigotry.

I agree just shutting up any of these views is not the answer. We need to confront them politically and intellectually. But that doesn't mean they should all be welcome in our communities and simply left unchallenged in the name of free speech.

Anonymous said...

Have the events in Cologne and other German towns on NYE led anyone to consider that Walters may actually be right regarding Muslim attitudes to women? This was as big a wake up call as any fair minded person needs. What is now being imported into Europe is deeply troubling made all the more sinister by muted media coverage and police inaction. Protests against this behaviour from "moderate" muslims is predictably non existent. No wonder the far right is so attractive. Nobody else seems to view this growing problem with any realistic perspective.

bob said...

I don't have the energy or the interest to have a debate about Cologne here. Of course anti-Muslim bigots will use it to say their wildest fears were justified - even though the perpetrators can't have been that Muslim as they were all drinking alcohol. It is worrying if the police tried to brush it under the carpet, but they were no more representative of Muslims or of migrants than the hordes of Brits who descend on Amsterdam and Prague for stag parties are representative of Brits. 85,000 women and 12,000 men are raped in England and Wales every year (that's 11 rapes of adults an hour). Does that mean all English and Welsh men are rapists? Of course not.

And it is actually not true at all that "Protests against this behaviour from "moderate" muslims is predictably non existent". What about these people and these people?

Yes, the rest of us can't leave this issue to the far right, but if you think the far right has a credible response to the issue you're not paying attention.

Anonymous said...

Pathetic that the author and some commenters here cheaply refer to those of different views as "bigots". The word actually speaks for itself of their own crude demonisation of others, such that anyone who uses this word is the very person who most surely merits recognition as a fact-avoiding knee-jerking prejudiced hater themselves. A more accurate word for Anne-Marie-Waters is "honest and courageous" - though that's three words of course. -r

iain said...

“even though the perpetrators can't have been that Muslim as they were all drinking alcohol”

bob, sincerely, this statement is indefensible, especially as a dismissal of evidence of mass gangs of muslim men repeatedly attacking women. It's ignorant of Islam, and of muslim behaviour in general (I say this as someone who isn't one but has been close to several muslims, and like any large group of people, you'll see a wide spectrum of behaviour). Also, purity tests? Come now. Are you going to join with ISIS and claim the authority for takfir? No, I don't think so, but that's the logic you're espousing.

I hope you take the time to consider what prompted you to come out with something like that, and please, don't allow it again. Are you *really* being vigilant enough with your thought process?

In light of that statement, it would be also indefensible.

iain

iain said...

Hi again, bob

I think, in the interests of fairness, you should post up the response to that Spinwatch piece, it's enlightening:

http://www.shariawatch.org.uk/articles/hilary-aked#.VMJCZ0fF-UY

I found all this, including your blog, because I was researching Anne Marie Waters as someone else was using her words in an Islamaphobic manner, so it seems she gets misrepresented by both sides. Ironic, but sadly, not surprising.

regards
iain

Hang On a Mo.... said...

I'm in the process of watching videos about Anne Marie's thoughts and I can't agree with anything you've said with regard to her being part of the far right. I find myself drawn to her arguments and conclusions, they seem balanced and well thought out. Anne Marie is constantly voicing her opinions against sharia. I can't see anything wrong with that at all. I find it bemusing why religion should not be criticised. I honestly have no time for the argument that such criticism might offend people. It isn't up to Anne Marie to lie about her feelings towards the injustice and inhumanity that sharia perpetrate. Personally I'm glad that the subject is discussed.
What I find completely unacceptable is that instead of trying to refute Anne Marie's argument, some people would try to somehow claim that her argument carries less weight because she may or may not be left, right, up or down. It is completely irrelevant.
To the person who claims that Anne Marie's position is reminiscent of pre- Nazi Germany, no - it isn't. Your claim is trying to shut down an entirely valid view of a practice that is not acceptable in British society. The fact it is allowed to be practiced at all, beggars belief. I do not want a parallel system of arbitration that is practiced by religion in this country. That isn't bigotry.
What difference is it that you can produce real Muslim women that haven't had FGM practiced on them when doctors in the NHS can produce plenty of casesof Muslim women and children that have? Does your argument mean that it should be allowed to continue, just because you haven't witnessed it? Or do you want me to take comfort in the fact that not all Muslim women and children have had the procedure?

bob said...

Apologies to those of you who got stuck in the spam queue and for my slow reply. Here are some responses.

Re Anonymous:
Pathetic that the author and some commenters here cheaply refer to those of different views as "bigots". The word actually speaks for itself of their own crude demonisation of others, such that anyone who uses this word is the very person who most surely merits recognition as a fact-avoiding knee-jerking prejudiced hater themselves.
Not sure why calling me a "prejudiced hater" is any less pathetic than calling AMW a "bigot". Checking back, although "bigotry" is in the title, I'm not sure I do call AMW "a bigot"; I describe her message as bigotry. That might seem like hair-splitting, but I think it matters. I'm not interested in calling names at people; I'm interested in taking seriously what they say. Saying that Muslims should be deported en masse (as AMW has said) is worrying; saying that Muslims shouldn't be allowed to hold public office (as Weston has said, with AMW refusing to disagree with him) is worrying. That's all.

Re Iain:
“even though the perpetrators can't have been that Muslim as they were all drinking alcohol” bob, sincerely, this statement is indefensible

I'm not sure I get why it's indefensible. The Cologne attacks were pissed up thuggish blokes; those are the relevant facts about them. We might make a guess that they're culturally Muslim, or something, because some of them might come from Muslim countries originally, or look like they might do - but those are our inferences, inferences which are kind of contradicted by one thing we know about their behaviour, that they were drinking alcohol. Avoiding alcohol is not some obscure theological point that takfiri ideologues might pick up on; it's pretty fundamental to normative Islam as almost every Muslim understands it. It's like if a crowd of people were eating bacon sarnies - jumping to the conclusion that they're Jewish would be bizarre. My point is, why make this about Islam, when it's about masculinity? Only a ready-made ideological matrix which predisposes you to paranoia about Muslims (the ideological matrix which Waters, Yaxley-Lennon and co promote) would make my comment "indefensible".

bob said...

Re Iain:
Just looking at ShariaWatch's response to SpinWatch. A lot of AMW's issues with Aked are valid; Aked's "Israel lobby" investigation smacks of conspiracy theory and she is a defender of some pretty odious Islamists. However, when AMW actually finally gets to Aked's allegations about her, it gets a bit flimsier. She insists she doesn't know Alan Ayling; it was just some weird coincidence he happened to be at Speaker's Corner when she was. Even if that account is true, they were soon working together. Along with Yaxley-Lennon and Jim Dowson, they got together to plan an exhibition of Mo toons, where (as she concedes in an article for Breitbart) they talked about starting a civil war:
That meeting did take place – to talk about building a website (which I believe the writer does for a living). If there was any talk of ‘civil war’, then it will have been by way of conversation, not some cartoon-like plot.
So, when she says she doesn't work with the EDL, that's also a bit disingenuous: Yaxley-Lennon was its founder, Ayling its main funder. Britain First’s Paul Golding and Jayda Fransen were also at the meeting; they make the EDL seem liberal.

She says Lars Hedegaard is her buddy. He's the guy that said “girls in Muslim families are raped by their uncles, their cousins, or their dad.”

bob said...

Finally, re Hang on a Mo:
I don't really understand your points. On the FGM thing, I don't think the earlier commenter was denying that FGM exists, just that it is not a feature of the life of most Muslim women in Britain. The reality is that FGM is not theologically mandated in Islam; it's a cultural practice that has taken root in some majority Muslim countries. Specifically, it is practised in a number of West and East African countries, but by Christians (and even Jews in Ethiopia) as well as Muslims, as well as in parts of Kurdistan (again, by non-Muslims as well as Muslims) and in Yemen and Indonesia. It is not practised in the Indian subcontinent. As most British Muslims have a family origin in Pakistan or Bangladesh, most British Muslims don't experience FGM. So, FGM is a serious problem, which we need to eradicate, but it is not a uniquely Muslim problem.