From Secularism to White Nationalism: Islamophobia and the Highroad to Extremism
Undercover reporter Ben van der Merwe witnessed the final transformation of a once liberal politician, Anne Marie Waters, into full-blown white supremacism.
Anne Marie Waters has long been a politician on a journey. From Labour to UKIP to For Britain, Waters has spent the past five years shifting allegiances with the political wind. Now her growing links to the Identitarian movement suggest deeper, potentially dangerous currents within the British far-right.
I was undercover as the official photographer at Generation Identity’s annual conference, where roughly a third of attendees belonged to For Britain. They were there to listen to what had been billed as a historic speech by their leader – the culmination of months of networking by Generation Identity, and the final confirmation of Waters’ conversion to overt white nationalism.
Counter-Jihad and Pegida
Waters began her political journey in the secularist movement, criticising Islam from a supposedly liberal perspective. By 2013, she had risen to be a director of the National Secular Society and was seeking the Labour party’s nomination for a parliamentary seat in Brighton.
Gradually her hostility to Islam eclipsed the rest of her politics. A controversial anti-Islam speech at the Oxford Union precipitated her defeat in the Brighton selection, after which she defected to UKIP and mixed with veterans of the counter-jihad movement.
Europe’s development has been different to the development of other parts of the world, and that has carried on in us biologically.Anne Marie Waters
Like Waters’ own politics, counter-jihad emerged from mainstream political thought. Online, in the months and years after 9/11, Third Way liberalism and neoconservatism combined and distilled one another’s latent Western chauvinism. Adherents came to see Islam and Western civilisation as fundamentally incompatible, locked in an apocalyptic struggle for survival.
In 2011, having obsessively consumed counter-jihad literature online, Anders Breivik killed 77 people in Norway’s deadliest ever terror attack. The movement never truly recovered from this association, although it briefly received a new lease of life through street movements such as the English Defence League and Pegida.
Pegida UK was launched to little fanfare in 2016, by Anne Marie Waters and Tommy Robinson. Having founded the popular blog Sharia Watch in 2014, Waters was by this point a staple of the now moribund counter-jihad movement. Although this had led to her deselection as a UKIP candidate, she nevertheless stood unsuccessfully for the party’s leadership in 2017. Describing her defeat as a victory for jihad against truth, Waters abandoned UKIP to found her own party, For Britain.
For Britain has floundered since its inception, with UKIP’s far-right turn under Gerard Batten sucking the oxygen from Waters’ project.
Forced to find a gap in the market, For Britain has come to associate itself with increasingly extreme elements of the far-right. Last year, Hope Not Hate exposed a For Britain candidate as a former member of terrorist organisation National Action. More recently, the anti-racism charity found that four active members of For Britain are also active central members of Generation Identity.
The Great Replacement
Throughout my time in Generation Identity, members ridiculed counter-jihadists as insufficiently extreme, describing the movement as “boomer-tier civic nationalism” and a “dead-end”.
The Tommy Robinson movement, a direct descendant of counter-jihad, was similarly derided as “civnat”, although also seen as a “gateway” and a pool of “potential recruits”. One member wrote in a private Telegram chatroom: “I’ve followed G.I. [Generation Identity] since it’s UK inception and I’ve seen the patriot/civnat crowd become more and more warm to us.”
For months, GI support group leader David Wright hinted at greater “behind-the-scenes” cooperation with For Britain, telling members to “watch this space.” In her conference speech, Waters revelled in the group’s excitement about her conversion.
“What does the Great Replacement mean?” Water asked the crowd. “I’m going to put it very frankly and very bluntly: it means the replacement of white Europe with non-Europeans.”
The room went silent. She paused, then continued: “Even in a room like this, you can already feel it. You can feel the tension rising when someone says ‘the replacement of white Europe with non-Europeans’, you can already feel it.” She continued: “Europe’s development has been different to the development of other parts of the world, and that has carried on in us biologically.”