Considering what the mainstream media says about him, why on earth would a 21 year old mixed race girl want to march alongside Tommy Robinson in a Unite Against Hate march? On the other hand, why not? Here, Country Squire Magazine asks Jonaya, a participant in the recent Manchester March, about her motivations, opinions on Robinson and about how the UK Government is reacting to the Islamist threat, which saw so many innocent lives cut short in the Manchester Arena suicide bombing.
CSM: Looking at your Twitter timeline, you have stated that the march in Manchester was your first march. What made you want to get involved?
Naturally, I have always been concerned about terrorism. However, when the attack in Manchester happened I was surprised by how much this affected me despite not personally knowing any of the people involved. So, I decided it was time to do something about this. Having been involved with politics since the age of 13, I have always been of the opinion that the major parties are not really tackling the issue of terrorism. In my opinion, their lack of action is due to political correctness; for the fear of seeming racist and losing votes. We weren’t there to stereotype a whole group of innocents but to encourage the government and other citizens to get behind this movement to make our streets safer.
CSM: The activist Tommy Robinson gets labelled by the mainstream media as an extremist. He was a key organiser of the march. What are your views on him?
Personally, I like him. I had quite a lengthy conversation with him a few years ago on Twitter when I was 17. I asked him all of the usual questions I guess anyone would ask him. I found him to be very genuine and honest, yet simply frustrated that the government weren’t listening. The EDL was a stepping stone for him but ultimately I do think it was wise of him to distance himself from the EDL because of what the movement was becoming as opposed to what it was supposed to be. It’s nice to see someone who is brave enough to speak out. Without Tommy, I think this movement would be lost. The threat is getting greater every day with our governments refusing to take action we need someone to put pressure on them, we need Tommy.
CSM: The march itself was presented in the media as being far right/ED. Can you describe the reality of what it was actually like?
Despite the couple of usual suspects present; the energy was incredible; everyone was focused on the issue at hand. I didn’t hear any racist comments and no-one looked at me funny. In fact, a few times, as the march was very crowded, a couple of people stepped on my foot and were instantly very apologetic as well as polite. A world away from the far-right thugs you hear about in the media.
CSM; Why do you think the media misrepresented the march?
I think the media misrepresented the march simply because it fits their agenda to do so. It is that simple. What we are saying, though nothing more than concern and pragmatism, doesn’t fit with the politically correct narrative and therefore the mainstream media will do anything and everything to make sure movements like this are smeared at every opportunity.
CSM: Andy Burnham tweeted that the march was made up of ‘EDL-types’. Then, when challenged, he said he didn’t care if participants were EDL or not, and took a highly critical attitude. How would you respond to him being so dismissive of the march?
I met Andy a few years ago, he’s a friendly chap but I really didn’t expect anything other than this attitude from him. He clearly had no interest I finding out what the march was truly about, who it was organised by or why people were attending. Something he should have been very interested in, as this was quite a high profile demonstration and he is the mayor of this great city. All I can say is that he cannot truly have understood the nature of the march or he certainly wouldn’t have been against it. This march was against the rise of Sharia Law, Islamist extremism and the increasing amount of terrorist attacks we are seeing across our country. People are sick of feeling unsafe, we don’t want to live like that. How anyone can be against a march with those aims is beyond me.
CSM: What do Andy Burnham and other politicians need to do differently to counter the dangers of Sharia and radical Islam?
First of all, we need to get past this ridiculous pedestal we hold religion on – particularly Islam- where we aren’t allowed to criticise them because we might hurt people’s feelings. Second of all, we need to get beyond political correctness and stop calling everyone racist. Then we can have a mature, honest and open debate amongst ourselves and with the Muslim community to see how we can all tackle this problem to make our country safer for us all. But we must stop labelling everyone who has genuine concerns about these issues as “far-right” racists and dismissing them as unintelligent bigots. Acknowledgement, understanding and integration are serious keys to tackling the rise of Sharia and radical Islam in our own country. I would also like to see a Trump-like travel ban and far stricter immigration laws.
CSM: Are there any politicians or political parties who are dealing with these problems effectively?
Apart from UKIP, I would say no. The main parties are too politically correct and are afraid of offending people and, even more to the point, they are afraid of losing votes. The Islamophobia bill that Theresa May is bringing in is one step too far. She is quite literally taking away our free speech. Not only do such actions not address the problem but they inflame the situation. This is the opposite of dealing with these issues effectively! And sadly, all other parties are failing just as miserably.
CSM: Why do we need to be concerned about Sharia? What kind of threat does it present?
Sharia Law is something we need to be concerned about because it presents a direct threat to our way of life and civil liberties. As I’m sure many people are aware, the punishment for being gay under sharia law is death. A female who is raped under Sharia must provide 4 male witnesses, if she cannot provide these she is found guilty of adultery and, sadly, the penalty for that is death by stoning. I have heard Muslims say that these are spiritual deterrents and are not supposed to actually be carried out, however, we can see in many countries in the world where this legal system is in place that this is not the case. The list of atrocities this backwards system brings with it is extensive and should not be ignored.
CSM: While the majority of protesters were peaceful, it appears from video footage that there were a minority of troublemakers present. Were you aware of them?
Yes, there were a minority but they remained a minority. They were dealt with quickly and Tommy and the other speakers had made it clear during the lead up to the march that anyone who was there to get drunk or cause trouble was not welcome. I’m sure we have all seen the men with the pig head, I certainly didn’t agree with that. I thought it was provocative for all the wrong reasons and didn’t help our already struggling reputation. But, I guess there are trouble makers at every march, it can’t be helped, you just have to deal with them the best way you can.
CSM: Do you think there’s a problem with far-right extremists joining protests, and if so, what can be done about that?
As far as this goes, I don’t think that much can be done. We will never be able to keep every single bad egg out of our basket, just as our opposition can’t and I don’t think it is fair that the majority are judged on the actions and views of the minority. However, I certainly think having speakers of different ethnicity and teaming up with other groups such as Gays Against Sharia deters many far-right members from wanting to take part. I can’t imagine someone like Richard Spencer wanting to take part in a march with ethnic minorities and gay people!
CSM: On the other hand, it also appears that there was a far-left/antifa counter-presence, who were causing problems. What was your experience of them?
When my boyfriend and I arrived in Piccadilly Gardens waiting for Tommy and the other speakers to arrive they were chanting ‘Off our streets, Nazi scum!’ which was expected but laughable. There was a noticeable number of Jewish men and some black men. I thought it was very ignorant. These people had no interest in learning what our march was about. They just wanted to hurl insults because of their pre-conceived notions they had of us in the media. Throughout the protest they continued to call us Nazis and threw smoke bombs and bottles. I noticed many of them were covering their faces as though they were out to cause trouble and didn’t want to be identified which I found quite unsettling.
CSM: It seems like there are a lot of people who were supportive of the march’s aims, but are worried about voicing that support, for fear of being slurred as racist/Islamophobic/far-right. What would you say to those people?
My advice to those people would be that they should stop caring. We have spent a lot of time in the West fighting for the rights of the gay community, women and other minorities. Islamic extremism threatens all of this. It threatens our very way of life and the defining qualities that make the West great; such as our right to freedom of speech and individualism. Not only this, but with the rise of Islamic extremism we have seen a rise in grooming gangs and terrorism. Our society is becoming increasingly unsafe. So I would say to those people, is this the kind of society you want your children and grandchildren growing up in? I certainly don’t. That was one of my prime motives for attending the march.
CSM: You’re 21. What kind of feeling do you pick up from other people around your age- are they concerned about the threat posed by Sharia and radical Islam?
There certainly is a growing concern. However, this seems to be coming about at a slower rate than it did with my parents’ generation. My peers just don’t seem to be able to get their head around how you can criticise an ideology without despising an entire group of people or being racist. Political correctness and ‘one love’ seem to be the main focus right now. I do love that about my generation, that we can be who we want to be, but it seems to be overpowering any sense of pragmatism and practicality and that makes me fear for the future because you cannot run a strong nation on emotions. This could very well be our downfall.
CSM: Are you in favour of Brexit, and do you think it will help in the battle against Islamism?
I am a hardline Euro-sceptic. I have always backed Brexit and I still think a hard Brexit is only beneficial for the country. The Humans Rights Act is causing us so many problems when it comes to this issue because it is failing to protect the individuals it was designed to protect in the first place. Instead, it is protecting terrorists and all other kinds of abhorrent people. If we hard-Brexit and are able to scrap this legislation this will help tremendously as we will be able to take necessary action on issues such as Islamic terrorism as we won’t be restricted on what action we choose to take. For instance, deportation is a popular option for these kinds of people. But they often fight deportation claiming it violates their human rights. This can be seen right now with the case of the Rochdale grooming gang, we are struggling to deport them because they are taking it to the European Court of Human Rights. We will also be able to control our borders, which we unfortunately have no control over whilst in the EU, which means we are able to implement stricter immigration and travel laws.
CSM: What are your plans for the future? Are there any more protests coming up?
My immediate plans are to attend the next march with Tommy in London and then the Gays Against Sharia march in September. Long term, I just intend to keep dedicating as much of my time as possible to political activism. Focusing on other issues as well as radical Islam, although this is one of my main focuses at the moment.
Photos provided by: https://www.facebook.com/LOPPhotographs/