President Donald Trump caused controversy using his Twitter account once again. On Wednesday morning, Trump used his personal account to retweet several videos disparaging Muslims. One of them appeared to show a teenager getting beaten and then shoved off a tall building by a “Muslim,” as the tweet said, while another featured a “Muslim” throwing a statue of the Virgin Mary onto the ground.
Note: Some of the videos Trump retweeted, posted below, contain graphic content.
The videos were first tweeted by Jayda Fransen, a known anti-Muslim extremist in the United Kingdom. Fransen, 31, is the deputy leader of Britain First, a group which has held various events and protests condemning Islam. Fransen was ecstatic to have received the retweets by Trump.
Fransen and several of her associates have been arrested and charged over the years following controversial confrontations with Muslims.
Here’s what you need to know about Fransen’s political beliefs:
1. Fransen Is the Deputy Leader of a Far-Right Group Which Rallies Against Islam
Fransen is the deputy leader of Britain First, a far-right political party in the United Kingdom. For several months, she served as the group’s leader as Paul Golding, its founder, was in serving a prison sentence.
The organization was founded in 2011 by Jim Dowson, an anti-abortion advocate. It split from the British National Party to form its own movement. Political beliefs of the group center around multiculturalism and the “Islamisation” of the U.K. Supporters rally around the preservation of the traditional British culture, and the group has risen in popularity through several controversial rallies and protests outside the homes of individuals it deems as Islamic extremists. It’s also known for “invading” British mosques in protest and has a big following on the internet.
A former member of the group, Matthew Lester, called its beliefs “disgusting,” saying to The Independent he had a change of heart and decided to leave the group.
Lester spoke out against the group when Golding threatened to bury a pig in the ground which was designated for a mosque in Birmingham.
“It wasn’t the sort of thing I joined to be a part of,” Lester told the publication. “I joined because I wanted to attack Islamic extremists and corrupt politicians — not so that I could go up somewhere like Bricklane and incite hatred.”
Britain First was a registered political party beginning in 2014 and was unsuccessful in elections to the House of Commons and the European Parliament. Fransen was nominated as its first parliamentary candidate for the Rochester and Strood by-election in November 2014, with a key component of the movement being opposition to a mosque planned in Gillingham. Fransen and Britain First finished 9th in the election of 13 candidates with 56 votes.
However, the group has since been “statutorily de-registered” as a political party.
2. Fransen Was Previously Part of an Anti-Islam Movement, but Left Because It Became Too Violent
Previously, Fransen was active with the English Defence League, a protest movement which advocated against the spread of Islam and Sharia in the U.K. The group described itself as an “anti-racist” human rights organization. The group has widely been described as being Islamophobic and until 2013 it was considered the “most significant counter-jihad movement in Europe.” Fransen eventually left the group because of its association with violence, she said during an interview in a BBC documentary.
Eventually, the group’s co-founders, Tommy Robinson and Kevin Carroll, also left the group, saying in 2013 they became concerned over the “dangers of far-right extremism.”
3. Fransen Was Recently Charged for Threatening Comments Against Muslims She Made at a Rally
In the weeks prior to Trump retweeting her, Fransen was arrested by detectives in London. Officers from the Police Service of Northern Island arrested her and charged her with “threatening, abusive or insulting words or behavior,” BBC reported November 17.
Golding said that Fransen was taken to Belfast to be interviewed over comments she made at a rally.
The charges related to a speech she made at an event, dubbed “Northern Ireland Against Terrorism,” at Belfast City Hall in August. She is scheduled to appear in court December 14 in regard to the charges.
The Sun reported that Fransen and Golding were in Belfast on August 6 surrounded by about 50 people. The rally took place the same day Republicans marched against the usage of detention without a trial by the British Army in 1971. See a portion of her speech in the video above.
4. Fransen Was Arrested Earlier This Year for Inciting Racial & Religious Hatred Against Muslims
The above wasn’t the only incident which Fransen was investigated for by authorities. In May, she and Golding were arrested and charged with causing religiously aggravated harassment, The Independent reported. The pair were taken into custody following an investigation into videos posted online during a gang-rape trial in Canterbury. That trial involved three Muslim men and a teenager who ended up being convicted of rape and sentenced to prison.
Fransen and Golding recorded several videos outside a number of addresses and used threatening language.
Fransen was charged with four counts of causing religiously aggravated harassment and Golding was charged with three, Kent Police said. They were released on bail and scheduled to appear in court in October.
In September, Kent Live reported they claimed victory after the conditions of their charges were decreased.
Fransen, appearing in a video shortly after her court hearing, said: “Kent Police was in court arguing that we shouldn’t be able to tell you what’s gone on. Now I’m free to tell you what I like. The police have now submitted the paperwork to the CPS to pursue the charges against myself, Paul Golding and Steven Lewis and they are pushing for the alleged offence of inciting religious hatred.”
5. Fransen Was Criminally Charged After She Harassed a Woman Wearing a Hijab
In 2016, during one of Britain First’s rallies, Fransen was arrested, charged and convicted of religiously aggravated harassment after she ridiculed a Muslim mother because she was wearing a hijab. Fransen was ordered to pay a fine and a restraining order was issued to prevent her from engaging in contact with her. Fransen has denied the charges, accusing the courts of being “absurd.”
The incident took place January 23, 2016, when about 20 members of Britain First took part in what they refer to as a “Christian patrol,” in which they disbursed newspapers with a front page that read: “World War Three has begun — Islam against the world,” Metro reported.
Fransen shouted at Sumayyah Sharpe, a mother of four who refused to take one of the newspapers. Fransen yelled at Sharpe, telling her that Muslim men force women to wear hijabs “to cover up to avoid being raped because they cannot control their sexual urges.” She added: “That’s why they are coming into my country, raping women across the continent.”
Fransen denied that the remarks were offensive, saying during an interview: “The reason I said them was because, from everything I have studied, I understand them to be true.”
District Judge Carolyn Mellanby said during court hearings that Britain First, led by Fransen, went to the area “looking for trouble,” adding that Sharpe was an “easy target.”
“I have no doubt the words used towards (Sharpe), in her expression, represented everything against her and what she believes in,” Mellanby said in court, per The Independent. “In other words, offensive, insulting, abusive and, in my judgement, intended to cause offence and alarm and distress to her religion.”
As a result of the incident, Sharpe said she had to explain what rape was to her young children, and her 4-year-old son became afraid of leaving their home.
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