British political activist Raheem Kassam addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Sydney, Friday, August 9, 2019. CAPC is being held in Australia for the first time. (AAP Image/Bianca De Marchi) NO ARCHIVING

Did UK activist Raheem Kassam describe the Koran as ÔÇÿfundamentally evil’ and Islam as a ÔÇÿfascistic ideology?

August 1, 2019

The Statement

ÔÇ£He has described the Koran, the holy book of the Islam faith, he has described it as quote ÔÇÿfundamentally evil’. He has described Islam as a ÔÇÿfascistic ideology’.ÔÇØ

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

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 ÔÇ£despaired at the prospect of a Shorten government controlled by militant unions and influenced by the GreensÔÇØ. It urged delegates to attend CPAC to ÔÇ£join the brave, protect the futureÔÇØ. 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. 

Senator Keneally has urged for Mr Kassam’s visa to be cancelled because he ÔÇ£has an extensive history of vilifying people on the grounds of their race, religion, sexuality and genderÔÇØ. AAP FactCheck examined Senator Keneally’s claim Mr Kassam had described the scripture of Islam, the Koran, as ÔÇ£fundamentally evilÔÇØ and Islam, the Muslim religion, as a ÔÇ£fascistic ideologyÔÇØ.

Senator Keneally said that in March 2019 the Morrison government banned British political commentator and writer Milo Yiannopoulos, who described Islam as ÔÇ£an alien and barbaric religionÔÇØ, and said it should apply the same measure to Mr Kassam

Senator Keneally told the Senate on July 30, 2019: ÔÇ£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 ÔÇ£fundamentally evilÔÇØ. Mr Kassam has campaigned for ÔÇ£limited migrationÔÇØ against what he describes as ÔÇ£large-scale Muslim immigrationÔÇØ. 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.ÔÇØ

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 ÔÇ£liesÔÇØ about him and challenged her to repeat her ÔÇ£defamationÔÇØ outside of the Senate where she is not protected by parliamentary privilege.

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

Mr Kassam has since labelled Senator Keneally a ÔÇ£bubÔÇØ, ÔÇ£a fraudÔÇØ and ÔÇ£a fascistÔÇØ on Twitter

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 ÔÇ£trying to silenceÔÇØ Mr Kassam because of ÔÇ£his conservative viewsÔÇØ. ÔÇ£The insanity needs to stop,ÔÇØ Mr Trump Jr tweeted. 

The CPAC website described Mr Kassam as ÔÇ£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.ÔÇØ

Mr Kassam was born in Britain to Indian-Tanzanian immigrant parents and described himself as an ÔÇ£AmericaphileÔÇØ 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

AAP FactCheck traced the first part of Ms Keneally’s claim – that Mr Kassam called the Koran ÔÇ£fundamentally evilÔÇØ – to a March 24, 2018, Instagram post by Mr Kassam, whose handle is @raheemkassam. 

Mr Kassam states this Instagram post was in response to a supposed threat by Scottish police ÔÇ£to find anonymous Twitter users who say mean things about the left or Islam online. I have a message for themÔǪÔÇØ The Instagram post includes an image of Mr Kassam with the following text: ÔÇ£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.ÔÇØ The post had more than 650 likes. 

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.

On July 31, 2019, Mr Kassam told The Sydney Morning Herald he stood by the claim that the Koran was “fundamentally evil” but said ÔÇ£his claim was misunderstood, saying it was evil ÔÇÿif you only interpret it fundamentally – and I think that can be said of a lot of religions’.”

AAP FactCheck traced the second part of Ms Keneally’s claim – that Mr Kassam described Islam as a ÔÇ£fascistic ideologyÔÇØ – to a BBC Radio 4’s Today interview on August 2, 2018. 

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 ÔÇ£democracy and the rule of lawÔÇØ and educating the ÔÇ£British public about IslamÔÇØ who’ve ÔÇ£risen from the English working class to act, lead and inspire in the struggle against global IslamificationÔÇØ. 

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

On August 2, 2018, published a story headlined ÔÇ£Raheem Kassam calls Islam a ÔÇÿfascistic ideology’ on BBC as he defends Tommy Robinson’s EDL threatÔÇØ. The story stated ÔÇ£Raheem Kassam has described Islam as a ÔÇ£fascistic and totalitarian ideologyÔÇØ in a BBC interviewÔÇØ. 

On August 2, 2018, The Sun also published a story headlined ÔÇ£RIGHT OR WRONG Who is Raheem Kassam? Former Ukip advisor, ex-Breitbart editor and Tommy Robinson supporterÔÇØ. The story stated: ÔÇ£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 ÔÇÿfascistic and totalitarian ideology’.ÔÇØ 

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. ÔÇ£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 IslamÔǪ,ÔÇØ Mr Kassam tweeted. 

Based on this evidence AAP FactCheck found Ms Keneally’s claim that Mr Kassam called the Koran ÔÇ£fundamentally evilÔÇØ and Islam a ÔÇ£fascist ideologyÔÇØ to be true.

The Verdict

True – The checkable claims are all true.   

First published August 1, 2019  18:36 AEST

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