When I joined the National Secular Society (NSS), and was elected to serve on its governing council, I did so because I believed it was secular organisation. I believed its own claim that it was “Britain’s only national organisation working exclusively towards a secular society”. I assumed that its remit was to oppose the political influence of religion, and to maintain the principles of freedom of belief and freedom of speech that are inseparable from a truly secular philosophy.
A secular society is one where religion can be mocked, ridiculed, and heavily criticised without any retribution from the religion itself (other than the right of its followers to respond to criticism), or from the state. It is certainly a fundamental facet of secularism that religious violence can and must be challenged, as well as any threat of religious violence.
The National Secular Society has however shown that the issues central to secularism are not always in fact its priority; the NSS is heavily influenced, and sometimes (in my opinion at least) bases its decisions upon, bullying and pressure from extreme leftist groups.
Over the past year or so the NSS has revealed left-wing bias on a few notable occasions. One example was the so-called “secularism” conference organised by the communist Maryam Namazie last October. Billed as a “Conference of a lifetime on the Religious-Right, Secularism and Civil Rights”, it had the financial support of the NSS, and its President Terry Sanderson was a guest-speaker.
This was the same conference to which Charlie Klendjian, Secretary of the Lawyers’ Secular Society, and I had previously been invited as speakers, but were immediately disinvited when I joined UKIP and Charlie spoke alongside me at an event. It’s also worth noting Namazie’s preoccupation with the religious “right”, whereas I’ve yet to hear her express any secularism-related concerns about the religious left. The event itself was an echo-chamber of left-wing self-congratulation, with a speakers’ list of open communists and left-wing activists exclusively. Not a single freedom or democracy campaigner was included.
Furthermore, when Namazie ridiculously wrote that the rise of groups like ISIS was “a direct consequence of neo-conservatism and neo-liberalism”, the NSS signed up to that as well.
Last April, ShariaWatchUK was launched at the House of Lords. It was an event attended by people of all religions and none, and of all political persuasions – left, right, conservative, liberal, socialist, all of whom shared a concern about sharia (a religious) law. While Keith Porteous-Wood, Executive Director of the NSS, did attend the launch of Sharia Watch, he did so without mentioning it publicly, and no support was offered – vocal, financial or otherwise – for what we had set out to do, which was to challenge the greatest, and most violent, threat to secularism here and around the world.
A couple of months later, in June, both the National Secular Society and its President Terry Sanderson signed an open letter to the government, again penned by Maryam Namazie. The letter quite rightly called on the UK government to shut down sharia “courts”. But it also referred to the religious “right” and insisted that the government not repeal the Human Rights Act (which is described as “the most important social contract to have emerged between European States and citizens”). Finally, it demanded that the government “reinstate legal aid”. Why these latter issues are secularism-related is not clear, but they certainly are a priority for large numbers on the left.
Following the Charlie Hebdo massacre, the NSS, like many others, declared ‘Je Suis Charlie’. It made no such declaration of solidarity with Pamela Geller some months later however (just like other left-wing hypocrites), when attackers at her Mohammed event were killed by police and there was a plot to behead her. Why? Because she’s a conservative, and for no other reason.
But here’s the kicker, and the reason I write this today.
Last week, the National Secular Society stated that it has no wish to be “in any way involved or associated” with the Mohammed cartoon exhibition planned for London in September. This was a unanimous decision by its governing council.
Why “Britain’s only national organisation working exclusively towards a secular society” will not support the most important act of secular defiance to occur in Britain for several years, and why it will not demonstrate unswerving solidarity with those oppressed by religious rule, should by now be obvious – because the exhibition isn’t left-wing, and because it has been so dishonestly attacked by extreme leftists and communists.
The dividing line in all this can be summed up with one word: immigration.
Leftist “secularists” will allow you to talk about Islamism (or even Islam if they’re feeling particularly generous), but as soon as you mention immigration, or the impact Islamic immigration is having on Western nations (most significantly, secularism in Western nations) you are to be permanently shunned. The left wants to keep its naïve borderless utopian fantasy alive at all costs, and it will sink to any depths to do so.
When the rest of the world is cowering in fear of bloodthirsty jihadis, one small group of people in the UK is taking a brave stand against religio-political oppression, and the most important secular group in the country has decided to turn its back.
The NSS has decided, without actually asking, that the left-wing lies about the exhibition must be true. That we are motivated by a desire to stand up for those languishing in prison in Islamic states is of no significance to the NSS, which is too frightened to risk the wrath of left-wing liars, even if it means betraying secularism itself.
Perhaps, with that in mind, the Society could do with a name change. A friend came up with the best alternative; in keeping with modern-day apologism for Islamist terror and violence, the “so-called National Secular Society” would probably be more appropriate.