A reformed neo-Nazi this week revealed her remarkable journey from espousing Jewish conspiracy theories to campaigning on behalf of Jewish and Muslim women, writes Tali Fraser.
In a talk to Nisa-Nashim, the network bringing Jewish and Muslim women together, 30-year-old Canadian Lauren Manning discussed her experiences of both the Blood & Honour and the Vinland Hammerskins far-right groups, and how she left extremism behind.
Having spent five years in the far-right groups, leaving in 2012 to work as an outreach specialist with Exit UK and Life After Hate.
“Both the groups that I was involved with, we had a problem with everybody”, she told the Jewish and Muslim women.
Manning said that “the best thing [Jewish and Muslim women] can do during these times is to try and stand together as much as possible, and help each other where possible.” This comes in the week that Home Office data showed the number of racially or religiously aggravated offences in June 2020 was 34 percent higher than in June 2019.
Having grown up in a “typically middle class” family, Manning explained that she turned to a life of white supremacy at the age of 17 after suffering from abuse, losing her father just a year earlier and later being kicked out of her family home.
Receiving a pair of panzer boots from her online recruiter when she was 17, covered with swastikas and SS bolts on the treads, led to a lecture from her school. The first conspiracy theory that she encountered, used to scare members, was “alleged Jewish control over the media and society.”
“I had never met anyone who practiced Judaism so it became this fear of the unknown for myself.”
Manning said that she chose to leave the far-right groups after a friend and fellow member was murdered by being stabbed to death. But her earlier attempted escape had failed when she was left “near beaten to death” by the group after she informed them of her plan. Manning had to spend a number of months in therapy to regain her cognitive function after the attack.
Part of her desire to leave was after the Vinland Hammerskins group pressured her to “have kids to carry on the white race”.
Lauren said: “I couldn’t see myself teaching another kid how to hate. It doesn’t seem fair to force a set of opinions onto a kid and show them how to hate people who have ultimately don’t deserve it.”
She has now been doing intervention and outreach work for Life after Hate for over a year since escaping extremism after she first contacted the help group as a client herself. People get in touch with the group, either wanting to leave the far right or just wanting to talk.
Laura Marks OBE, Interfaith Consultant and Nisa-Nashim Co-Founder, said: “As Muslim and Jewish women, we commend Lauren for her incredible bravery and work in educating and raising awareness around the dangers of far right extremism.”
Hifsa Haroon-Iqbal MBE, Nisa-Nashim Chair of Trustees, added that far right groups “either blame the Jews or they blame the Muslims”, but “Nisa-Nashim is about saying we are friends and we are not going to let anybody come in between us.”
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