Did UK activist Raheem Kassam describe the Koran as ‘fundamentally evil’ and Islam as a ‘fascistic ideology?

By Tiffanie Turnbull, William Ton, James Lane and Louise Evans

The Statement

“He has described the Koran, the holy book of the Islam faith, he has described it as quote ‘fundamentally evil’. He has described Islam as a ‘fascistic ideology’.”

Kristina Keneally, Labor's Home Affairs spokesperson. July 31, 2019.

The Analysis

Labor's federal Home Affairs spokesperson Kristina Keneally wants the federal government to review and cancel the visa of British writer and activist Raheem Kassam, who is due to address an August 9-11 conference in Sydney. [1] [2]

Mr Kassam is scheduled to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Sydney. The CPAC website states the conference is for people who “despaired at the prospect of a Shorten government controlled by militant unions and influenced by the Greens”. It urged delegates to attend CPAC to “join the brave, protect the future”. Mr Kassam was listed to speak along with Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage, former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott and NSW One Nation senator Mark Latham. The cost of attending the three-day CPAC conference ranged from $149-$599. [2] [3]

Senator Keneally has urged for Mr Kassam’s visa to be cancelled because he “has an extensive history of vilifying people on the grounds of their race, religion, sexuality and gender”. AAP FactCheck examined Senator Keneally's claim Mr Kassam had described the scripture of Islam, the Koran, as “fundamentally evil” and Islam, the Muslim religion, as a “fascistic ideology”. [1] [4]

Senator Keneally said that in March 2019 the Morrison government banned British political commentator and writer Milo Yiannopoulos, who described Islam as “an alien and barbaric religion”, and said it should apply the same measure to Mr Kassam. [1]

Senator Keneally told the Senate on July 30, 2019: “Mr Kassam has an extensive history of vilifying people on the grounds of their race, religion, sexuality and gender. He has described the (Koran), the holy book of the Muslim faith, as “fundamentally evil”. Mr Kassam has campaigned for “limited migration” against what he describes as “large-scale Muslim immigration”. He has regularly attacked the LGBTI community with homophobic and transphobic comments on social media. We should not allow career bigots - a person who spreads hate speech about Muslims, about women and about gay and lesbian people - to enter our country with the express intent of undermining equity and equality.” [5]

AAP FactCheck checked Ms Keneally’s published Senate statement against a parliamentary recording and the wording was correct.

In a July 31, 2019 tweet, Mr Kassam accused Ms Keneally of telling “lies” about him and challenged her to repeat her “defamation” outside of the Senate where she is not protected by parliamentary privilege. [6]

Senator Keneally repeated the crux of her claims outside parliament on ABC’s Radio National Drive on July 31, 2019, stating it was “ironic” for Mr Kassam to threaten to sue her, given his support of free speech. [1]

Mr Kassam has since labelled Senator Keneally a “bub”, “a fraud” and “a fascist” on Twitter. [7]

Donald Trump Jr, the son of US President Donald Trump, weighed into the debate with a July 31, 2109 tweet from his verified account accusing the Australian Labor Party of “trying to silence” Mr Kassam because of “his conservative views”. “The insanity needs to stop,” Mr Trump Jr tweeted. [8]

The CPAC website described Mr Kassam as “a British political activist, former editor-in-chief of Breitbart News London, and former chief advisor to former UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage. He is currently the global editor-in-chief of Human Events, a conservative American digital-only publication.” [9]

Mr Kassam was born in Britain to Indian-Tanzanian immigrant parents and described himself as an “Americaphile” and former Muslim. In 2016 he unsuccessfully ran to replace his former boss Nigel Farage as UKIP leader. In 2019 he purchased and relaunched the legacy conservative news outlet Human Events online. [10] [11] [12]

AAP FactCheck traced the first part of Ms Keneally’s claim - that Mr Kassam called the Koran “fundamentally evil” - to a March 24, 2018, Instagram post by Mr Kassam, whose handle is @raheemkassam. [13]

Mr Kassam states this Instagram post was in response to a supposed threat by Scottish police “to find anonymous Twitter users who say mean things about the left or Islam online. I have a message for them…” The Instagram post includes an image of Mr Kassam with the following text: “I am not anonymous. I am a conservative. I believe in traditional marriage, I believe in limited migration, I believe the Quran (sic) is fundamentally evil, I believe in free speech. Come arrest me fascists.” The post had more than 650 likes. [13]

Mr Kassam’s Instagram page is not verified by the platform, but he shared his Instagram handle on his verified Twitter page, confirming the account was his. [14]

On July 31, 2019, Mr Kassam told The Sydney Morning Herald he stood by the claim that the Koran was "fundamentally evil" but said “his claim was misunderstood, saying it was evil ‘if you only interpret it fundamentally - and I think that can be said of a lot of religions’." [15]

AAP FactCheck traced the second part of Ms Keneally’s claim - that Mr Kassam described Islam as a “fascistic ideology” - to a BBC Radio 4’s Today interview on August 2, 2018. [16]

In the BBC interview, Mr Kassam defended far-right figure Tommy Robinson (Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon), a former English Defence League (EDL) leader released on bail pending an appeal against a contempt of court conviction.

The EDL website states it stands for “democracy and the rule of law” and educating the “British public about Islam” who’ve “risen from the English working class to act, lead and inspire in the struggle against global Islamification”. [17]

While the audio from the BBC interview is unavailable, Mr Kassam’s comments were reported by two other media platforms. [16]

On August 2, 2018, inews.co.uk published a story headlined “Raheem Kassam calls Islam a ‘fascistic ideology’ on BBC as he defends Tommy Robinson’s EDL threat”. The story stated “Raheem Kassam has described Islam as a “fascistic and totalitarian ideology” in a BBC interview”. [18]

On August 2, 2018, The Sun also published a story headlined “RIGHT OR WRONG Who is Raheem Kassam? Former Ukip advisor, ex-Breitbart editor and Tommy Robinson supporter”. The story stated: “In an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today program on August 2, he (Mr Kassam) defended Robinson after he had been released from prison. He described Islam as a ‘fascistic and totalitarian ideology’.” [19]

In a July 5, 2018 tweet Mr Kassam linked Islam to fascism when commenting on a news story about a Muslim mayor in Sheffield banning US President Donald Trump from visiting the city during his UK trip. “What is it with these Muslim mayors that as soon as they get power they start acting like fascists? Oh right yeah sorry that’s Islam…,” Mr Kassam tweeted. [20]

Based on this evidence AAP FactCheck found Ms Keneally’s claim that Mr Kassam called the Koran “fundamentally evil” and Islam a “fascist ideology” to be true.

The Verdict

  • True - The checkable claims are all true.

The References

1. ‘Labor calls for visa ban on right-wing commentator’. RN Drive, ABC. July 31, 2019: https://radio.abc.net.au/programitem/pgx7LrKpD

2. ‘About CPAC 2019’. CPAC Australia, 2019: https://cpacaustralia.org/about/

3. ‘Multi-Day & VIP Passes’. CPAC Australia, 2019: https://cpacaustralia.org/registration/

4. ‘PoliticsNow: Union integrity bill passes Lower House’. (‘Activist threatens to sue Keneally’), by Ewan Hannan, Richard Ferguson and Olivia Casey. The Australian. July 31, 2019:https://www.theaustralian.com.au/nation/politics/politicsnow-labor-keeps-heat-on-ministers/news-story/2790485110b509c4de68e2255d876a10

5. ‘Australian politics live with Amy Remeikis’. The Guardian Australia. July 31, 2019: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/live/2019/jul/31/morrison-albanese-coalition-labor-politics-live?page=with:block-5d40c78d8f08d0b6ca53adf9#liveblog-navigation

6. ‘Raheem Kassam’.Twitter. July 30, 2019: https://twitter.com/RaheemKassam/status/1156299864147472384

7. ‘Raheem Kassam’. Twitter. July 31, 2019: https://twitter.com/RaheemKassam/status/1156724323757019138

8. ‘Donald Trump Jr’. Twitter. July 31, 2019: https://twitter.com/DonaldJTrumpJr/status/115655769553892966

9. ‘RAHEEM KASSAM’. Conservative Political Action Conference: https://cpacaustralia.org/speakers/raheem-kassam/

10. ‘Raheem Kassam’. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/raheemkassam

11. ‘Raheem Kassam’. Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/raheemkassam/

12. ‘Breitbart alum to resuscitate Human Events’, by Erik Wemple. The Washington Post. March 1, 2019: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/03/01/breitbart-alum-resuscitate-human-events/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.abc2e62e9f03

13. ‘Raheem Kassam’ - post. Instagram. March 24, 2018: https://www.instagram.com/p/BgreEHoBrtq/

14. ‘Raheem Kassam’. Twitter. February 4, 2018: https://twitter.com/RaheemKassam/status/959924891419119616

15. ‘'We can't ban everyone who tweeted something offensive': MPs defend controversial activist's visit’, by Max Koslowski. Sydney Morning Herald. July 31, 2019: https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/we-can-t-ban-everyone-who-said-something-offensive-on-twitter-government-mps-defend-visit-of-controversial-activist-20190731-p52cf3.html

16. ‘The Future of Tommy Robinson’, BBC Radio 4 Today. August 2, 2018: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p06gc4m2

17. ‘About Us’. English Defence League. January 3, 2016: http://www.englishdefenceleague.org.uk/mission-statement/

18. ‘Raheem Kassam calls Islam a ‘fascistic ideology’ on BBC as he defends Tommy Robinson’s EDL threat’, by Karl McDonald. inews.co.uk. August 2, 2018: https://inews.co.uk/news/politics/raheem-kassam-tommy-robinson-bbc/

19. ‘RIGHT OR WRONG Who is Raheem Kassam? Former Ukip advisor, ex-Breitbart editor and Tommy Robinson supporter’, by Jon Rogers. The Sun. August 2, 2018: https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/politics/6926517/raheem-kassam-ukip-advisor-ex-breitbart-editor-tommy-robinson/

20. ‘Raheem Kassam’. Twitter. July 5, 2018: https://twitter.com/RaheemKassam/status/1014549629013291009

  • First published August 1, 2019 18:36 AEST