Brextremist by Frankie Rufolo
I’m very proud to say that my first job was working as a cleaner in a homeless shelter. It felt great to do good at a local level, but seeing the plight of these people made me so angry at the world that I had an urge to become political, to start looking for solutions. When I met nurses who had ended up living on the street, I came to the conclusion that we didn’t need to raid the workforce's of other countries to keep the NHS going.
In my first year at college, I found myself pretty much surrounded by people on the left and I decided I had to push back – we couldn’t all be singing “oh, Jeremy Corbyn.” I did lose a few friends, but the people who stood by me are the people I went on to discover were much more worthwhile.
Everyone old enough remembers where they were on 9/11. For me, that was the Manchester Attack. I was up late doing some last-minute revision, when I took a break to go on Facebook and saw the news of an explosion at an Ariana Grande concert. I watched it happen. The next day, the atrocity had visibly shaken the nation. No one was smiling. I remember walking into the cafeteria where one of my classmates was reading aloud the Queen’s statement on the attack whilst everyone listened in silence. I thought this must have been how people felt when Neville Chamberlain declared Britain was at war with Germany.
I couldn’t concentrate on my work that day.
It was after that I decided I had to get up and do something. On my first protest, I stood up to the Hezbollah supporters marching on London on Al Quds Day. I spoke to some of the Muslim men who were attending the Israel-hating march and the way they defended the treatment of gay people in Iran and Palestine left me shocked and angry.
I was told I’d meet white supremacists at the counter-protest. I didn’t. Instead, I met a wonderfully friendly Muslim Zionist taking our side. I met an amazing Jewish lady who was kidnapped and almost killed by Hamas terrorists, speaking out and telling her story.
I didn’t stop there. I marched proudly with Gays Against Sharia and the Football Lads Alliance. Every time, I found myself in a peaceful crowd of diverse and likeable people, making some great friends. I was honoured to (briefly) meet Tommy Robinson although I made him a bit uncomfortable since I had an enormous bamboo cane sticking out of my rucksack and may have fangirled a bit! That was why I was referred to Prevent.
I didn’t mind talking to the Prevent officer – I found the man fascinating. In the past, he’d been involved in neo-Nazi groups before he prevented a racist attack and turned away from extremism. He told me how he used to be the radicaliser, pretending to be interested in everything his next victim liked, getting girls involved, and I came away from meetings wondering if people were doing that to me.
After I discovered that a young woman who I’d shared a meal with and grown to like, was in reality an undercover journalist, making a documentary conflating good people with neo-Nazi terrorists, I became deeply suspicious of everyone around me. I was over-reading every little thing people said and did.
The problems kept coming. I was falsely accused of sexual abuse. After performing a poem about the protests I attended, I was bullied at college. People would call me racist in the street and steal my Make Britain Great Again cap. When I answered back and tried to film the exchange, one of the bullies grabbed my hand and head-butted me in the face. The worst part was other students said that it was my own fault for wearing my patriotic thoughts.
I was constantly looking over my shoulder, going without any sleep, fighting with my family and in the end it became too much. I had to take time off college to deal with my mental health. Reading helped me escape my problems and baking again was wonderfully therapeutic.
Whilst I was recovering, I met up with an ex-Muslim man who had the same autism as me – just for a chat about life. He understood my concerns and admired my courage for standing up to terror. That encouraged me to keep going, but I had to get my life back together first.
Prevent were eventually told to back off by mental health workers. I want to make it clear that my breakdown was my own fault. I’ve always been a paranoid person and throughout my life, I’ve had to question where passion bordered on obsession.
My meetings with Prevent officers and the safeguarding staff at college were optional. The authorities only monitored what I said publicly, speaking at rallies and on social media. Prevent is not intrusive or restraining as the hard-left want you to believe. It’s time to stand up to the suit-and-tie Islamist's pushing this harmful narrative that Prevent exists purely to oppress Muslims.
By Frankie Rufolo