The unacceptable face of secularism

Will a UKIP-supporting ‘comedian’ who rants about ‘immigrant rapists’ get to be Secularist of the Year?

The list of nominees for the National Secular Society’s “Secularist of the Year 2011” prize, due to be awarded at a £45-a-head dinner in London next month, is headed by Islamophobic “comedian” and UKIP supporter Pat Condell.

Though he failed to win it, Condell was nominated for the same prize last year, on the grounds that he had “for several years now risked his life by answering back to the rule of political correctness, the thoughtlessness of religion generally and the increasing threat of Islam in our society”.

Condell has long been a hero to the NSS, who are proud to declare him a member of their organisation. In 2007 they posted a piece on the NSS website hailing the success of Condell’s video “The Trouble with Islam”, which had received 100,000 hits on YouTube. The NSS poured scorn on objections raised by the City of Berkeley’s Peace and Justice Commission, claiming that they had attracted “widespread ridicule when they publicly condemned the video as racist hate speech”.

Condell’s admirers are not restricted to fellow members of the NSS. His videos have been approvingly reproduced on various fascist websites. And last year the right-wing American anti-Muslim bigot Pamela Geller posted a Condell diatribe against the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” on her blog as part of her promotion of the Stop Islamization of America protest against the Park51 development.

Celebrity atheist Richard Dawkins has also been a long-time supporter of Condell, whose videos were regularly posted on the Richard Dawkins Foundation website, despite their increasingly vicious right-wing tone. One of these videos – an earlier Condell rant against Park51 from June 2010 – provoked some online complaints by Dawkins’ followers.

“He sounds just like the raging right wing loonies now, minus the jesus talk”, one critic pointed out. Another comment read: “I hope that Condell will increasingly be seen for what he is – a representative of the extreme xenophobic anti-immigrant right…. The anti-immigrant right works through many channels – the churches being one of them. The main difference with Condell is that he is a anti-immigrant xenophobe working through the atheist movement.” A further critic asked the webmaster to remove the video from Dawkins’ site.

Dawkins personally intervened in the discussion, writing:

“No, please DON’T remove it…. I believe Pat Condell deserves a hearing. He may sound extreme, but that could just reflect the extremes he is fighting against. I don’t know the corresponding figures for America, but polls in Britain suggest that an alarmingly high percentage of young British Muslims support the terrorists of 9/11 and 7/7, and some 40% of Muslims want Sharia Law introduced into Britain. Disquietingly high percentages supported the death sentence against Salman Rushdie and the threats of violence against the Danish cartoonists. Even ‘moderate’ Muslim leaders support the principle that apostasy deserves the death penalty, even if they are too nice to carry out the sentence themselves.

“I think it is well arguable that Islam is the greatest man-made force for evil in the world today. Pat Condell is one of the few with the courage to say so. Before condemning his ‘extremism’, at least consider the possibility that it may be justified.”

It is notable, however, that even Dawkins has balked at posting Condell’s more recent videos on his website. And that is hardly surprising, since their revolting content makes it impossible to deny any longer that Condell has crossed the line from militant atheism to the most virulent anti-Muslim racism.

In December 2010, for example, Condell posted a video entitled “Goodbye Sweden” on his YouTube channel. “No country in Europe has done more to embrace the multicultural nightmare – I mean ‘dream’ – than Sweden,” Condell began, “meaning no country has opened its arms wider to Muslim immigration.” He went on to describe Sweden as the “rape capital of Europe” and asked rhetorically what had caused this supposed epidemic of sexual violence. “It can’t have anything to do with immigrant Islamic culture of course,” he answered, “because nothing bad ever does. That’s the culture that tells young men that women who are not covered from head to toe are asking to be raped? Yes, that’s the one.”

Condell continued: “You won’t hear very much about immigrant rapists in Sweden, because for years the government and the press in that country have been conspiring in a crime against their own people to keep them in the dark.” This conspiracy of silence, Condell asserted, “creates the cosy illusion that there are no immigrant rapists in Sweden. And this is very odd, because next door in Norway that’s pretty much all they’ve got. According to the Oslo police all the aggravated rapes in that city over a recent three-year period, all 41 of them, were committed by immigrants from the Middle East and Africa and were characterised by gross violence.”

Condell observed that, in the case of Sweden, “it’s hard not to conclude that we are witnessing the open theft of an entire country, and all we can do is watch in astonishment and horror. If I was a bookmaker I would no longer be taking bets as to whether Sweden becomes the first European Islamic state, because now it’s only a matter of time.”

Muslims, it should be noted, currently comprise around 5% of the Swedish population.

But don’t get the idea that Condell is a dogmatic atheist who lacks any sympathy for religious believers. Not at all. In the same video he expressed indignation that “despite Sweden’s ravenous appetite for Muslims, more Muslims and yet more Muslims, no country has deported more Iraqi Christians back to Iraq to be butchered like Christmas turkeys for the crime of not being Muslims. Because in Sweden, it seems, only Muslims are entitled to full human rights”.

Condell’s most recent video, entitled “The criminal truth“, continued the themes of “Islamic violence” against women and the refusal of Scandinavian governments to take action against it. Here he rallied to the defence of Danish right-winger and Geert Wilders associate, Lars Hedegaard, who at the time was on trial for inciting racism, having stated that “when a Muslim man rapes a woman, it is his right to do it” and that “girls in Muslim families are raped by their uncles, their cousins, or their fathers”. (Hedegaard has since been acquitted on a technicality.)

Condell explained: “As most people know, violence against women and girls is one of the things that makes Islamic culture inferior to western culture…. However, the Danish authorities would like people to pretend that Islamic violence towards women and girls doesn’t exist, because otherwise they might have to do something about it. And that’s the last thing they want, because that would mean rioting in the streets and barricades and burning cars and all the rest of it. And Danish people travelling in Muslim countries might also be attacked and killed. So they’d rather pretend it isn’t happening and criminalise anyone who says it is.”

Condell identified the source of the problem: “When you allow millions of people to immigrate from places where they mutilate their daughters as a matter of course, where they kill them in a heartbeat over some twisted sense of honour, and where rape victims are treated as criminals, it doesn’t take a genius to know that you’re going to be importing these values and attitudes as well, wholesale, unless you take steps to prevent it.”

This sort of poisonous rhetoric has real consequences. It is hardly accidental that fascists have regularly posted Condell’s videos on their websites and discussion forums. His increasingly unhinged anti-Muslim rants help to provide the conditions in which far-right organisations like the English Defence League and British National Party can win adherents to their more extreme and violent versions of Islamophobia. Yet this is a man who next month may well be declared Secularist of the Year by his friends in the NSS.

A list of the National Secular Society’s honorary associates can be found here. Polly Toynbee, Johann Hari, Angela Eagle, Kelvin Hopkins, Lord Desai – it is difficult to believe that they would be happy to endorse the NSS’s promotion and legitimisation of a vile bigot like Pat Condell. They need to make their voices heard.

First published by Socialist Unity in February 2011