Stephen Lennon – aka ‘Tommy Robinson’ (the pseudonym he adopted from a Luton soccer hooligan) – is the most high profile figure on the UK ‘Counter-Jihad’ scene and has been central to the international efforts to launch foreign branches of Pegida. In preparation for the relaunch he has travelled to Dresden to meet with Pegida’s leadership as well as events in the Czech Republic, Denmark, Holland and Ireland. His aim has been to encourage a Europe wide day of action on 6 February under the Pegida banner.
Lennon has long been involved in organising ‘counter-jihad’ street protests. In June 2009 he co-founded the anti-Muslim English Defence League (EDL), building it into the premier street protest group within the far right. His central role in the expansion of the EDL has seen him lorded and emulated by counter-jihad activists across Europe and North America, with copycat foreign ‘Defence Leagues’ emerging with varied success.
In 2011, Lennon announced a pact between the EDL and the British Freedom Party (BFP), a counter-jihad group led by Paul Weston (one of the Pegida UK leaders). Lennon became joint vice-chairman of the BFP, with his cousin Kevin Carroll, and the idea was to target local elections. However, he soon split away to refocus his efforts solely on the EDL.
Lennon has a checkered past that involves a period in the far-right British National Party (2004) and a series of spells in prison. He has served 12 months in prison for actual bodily harm for assaulting an off-duty police officer during a domestic incident in 2004. During the assault he kicked a police officer in the head. In July 2011 he was convicted for his football hooliganism after leading a brawl involving 100 football fans. He received a 12-month community rehabilitation order and a three-year ban from football. In November 2011 he was again convicted but narrowly avoided another custodial sentence, this time for assault for head-butting another EDL member at a demonstration. That same month he was also arrested following a protest on the rooftop of the FIFA headquarters in Zurich which resulted in him being detained for three days and fined £3000. In 2013 he was jailed for 10 months after entering America on someone else’s passport. He went in using a passport of the name Andrew McMaster and then returned on his own passport which bears the name Paul Harris. In 2014 he was imprisoned for 18 months after being found guilty of mortgage fraud.
In October 2013, Lennon announced that he, and his cousin Kevin Carroll, had left the English Defence League. The announcement came at a press conference held by the London-based ‘counter-extremism’ think tank, Quilliam. For a period after his exit he seemed to be deradicalising, even apologising for some of his blanket statements about Muslims and accepting that the EDL was ‘part of the problem’. He claimed that in the future he intended to tackle extremism on all fronts, including the far right.
However, his withdrawal from anti-Muslim activism was short lived and in October 2015 he travelled to Utrecht, Holland to address a rally of PEGIDA Holland. At the event he declared that he was ‘proud’ to have set up the EDL and described EDL activists as ‘brave and fearless’. Following this he took control of Pegida UK, which had been inactive for some time.
Speaking at a Pegida demonstration, in Dresden, Germany, at the start of December 2015, Lennon announced that he was going to hold a big anti-Islam march in England on Saturday 6 February as part of a European-wide day of action.
Of course, when Lennon talked about ‘anti-Islam’ he meant ‘anti-Muslim’. He told the crowd that he wanted a Europe “free from Halal food”, “free from Muslim rape gangs”, free from “the visual scars of minarets” and the “sounds of call to prayer” and free from people “who cover their faces, walk around our streets and refuse to integrate.”
He effectively told the crowd that Muslims have no place in his Europe.
His extensive work over the last few weeks to build Pegida internationally has seen him once again become a central figure in the international ‘counter-jihad’ scene.
Anne Marie Waters has been recruited by Stephen Lennon to join the leadership team for his relaunch of Pegida UK.
Waters spent many years as a Labour Party member, running twice as a candidate. She was a spokesperson and co-director for the One Law for All campaign, and was a council member of the National Secular Society. In 2013 however, Waters shifted dramatically to the right, writing regular blogs for the International Free Press Society’s Dispatch International on subjects such as Sharia law, immigration and ‘Muslim crime’. In May 2014, Waters joined the populist right-wing party, UKIP.
In April 2014, Waters launched Sharia Watch UK in the House of Lords. The group campaigns ‘for recognition of the dangers posed by sharia law in the UK, particularly in relation to women’s rights’. At the launch a new report, ‘Sharia Law – Britain’s Blind Spot’, was published. The report attempts to portray the extremism of all Muslims, analysing the beliefs of apparently ‘mainstream’ Muslim organisations.
Sharia Watch UK primarily functions as an internet resource. Contributors to articles include Sam Solomon, a key player in the UK’s anti-Muslim scene and Alan Craig of the right-wing Christian People’s Alliance, who campaigned against the building of a new mosque in east London. Despite Waters’ links to extreme anti-Islamists such as Lars Hedegaard and Alan Ayling (one of the original financial backers of the EDL), Sharia Watch UK has been used as a credible source for stories about ‘Islamic extremists’ allegedly ‘infiltrating’ schools, universities and ‘even Scout groups’ by both the Daily Mail and the Sunday Telegraph newspapers.
The organisation has worked closely with the Lawyer’s Secular Society and has links to the highly controversial International Civil Liberties Alliance. Waters has refused to release information surrounding Sharia Watch’s funders, stating ‘it isn’t the EDL, or Lars Hedegaard, or Nick Griffin, or Mossad, or Peppa Pig’.
Sharia Watch UK was one of the key players in organising the cancelled Muhammad cartoon exhibition in London in September 2015.
After being announced as a member of the leadership team for Pegida UK, Waters accompanied Lennon to Copenhagen in January 2016 to help build support for a Danish Branch of Pegida.
Paul Weston is chairman of Liberty GB, an anti-Islam, anti-immigration political party. While his party is tiny and has little to no impact, Weston himself is quite an influential player on the international ‘counter-jihad’ scene, with extensive links with leading anti-Muslim activists.
He has been a regular contributor to one of the most infamous counter-jihadist blogs, the Gates of Vienna, since 2007, writing frequently about impending civil war with Muslims and ‘White Genocide’ in Britain. He has also been president of the International Free Press Society in England and spin off from the International Free Press Society (IFPS) led by Lars Hedegaard in Denmark.
He had previously stood as a parliamentary candidate for UKIP in London in 2010, and for the British Freedom Party (BFP) in 2011 alongside members of the EDL and former BNP members. After the abject failure of the BFP he launched Liberty GB in 2013 alongside George Whale. With Weston today is Jack Buckby. In his early 20s, Buckby, a former BNP member and founder of the short-lived National Culturists, was for a period tipped to be a serious player on the British far right but has faded into obscurity along with Liberty GB.
Unlike Stephen Lennon, Weston was involved in Pegida UK during its first incarnation attended the inaugural demonstration in early 2015. He has now been brought into the new leadership team while his colleague from Liberty GB, Jack Buckby, has joined as well, now acting as Pegida’s press officer.