The ‘Voldemort Effect’ Claims Rufus Hound As Its Victim


As information continues to pour in and the body count increases, I’m gripped with an utter sense of grief, frustration and impotence over the horrific terror attacks that have occurred in France. Seemingly, the information we do have appears to point towards Islamist extremism. Quelle surprise.

In an attempt to offset my feeling of hopelessness, I couldn’t help but take to Twitter to poke my fellow ‘liberals’ about their disgusting apologist rhetoric in service of the ideology that shall not be named  – lest we hurt some feelings.

This brings me to UK comedian and former Liberal Democrat campaigner Rufus Hound. Rufus has 1.12 million Twitter followers and has been engaging in a regressive bout of ‘nothing to do with Islam’ on his Twitter feed. To compound matters, he decided to retweet this from our favourite plagiarist hack:




I felt duty bound to share the following information with him:



Of course you can’t hold it against Rufus for not being familiar with Werleman – few people are, and I suspect more people have read my review of his book than his actual book. But nevertheless, I disagreed with part of his response:



This safe and easy sentiment takes centre stage every single time an Islamist atrocity is committed. Somehow, as the limp bodies of the mostly non-Muslim dead are still warm, a narrative is spun to paint Muslims as the real victims in this scenario. We’re constantly being warned of this mythical ‘backlash’ that never quite arrives, happily.

The next response however was truly perplexing:


I indicate my confusion:


It appears Hound took my use of the word ‘Islamist’ to mean ‘all Muslims’ which goes some way to indicate his grasp on the topics at hand. When this error was pointed out to him, he attempted some bizarre backtrack:


I don’t know what’s more concerning, the fact that he is so vocal on this issue without understanding the term ‘Islamist’, or the fact that he assumed the most reasonable use of it referred to ‘all Muslims’.

My calls for clarification were not responded to:


It is certainly true that Rufus is hurting this conversation with his obfuscation and misunderstanding of simple yet essential terms, but it’s not really something I can blame him for. Rufus appears to be a casualty of the ‘Voldemort Effect’ that permeates our politics and mainstream media. This term was coined by anti-extremist and Muslim Maajid Nawaz in response to Barack Obama’s inability to name the ideology:

The danger of not naming this ideology is twofold. Firstly, within the Muslim context, those liberal Muslims, reformist Muslims, feminist Muslims, gay Muslims, dissenting voices, minority sects, the Ismailis, the Shia — all these different minorities within the minority of the Muslim community — are immediately betrayed

How are they betrayed? Because you deprive them of the lexicon, the language to employ against those who are attempting to silence their progressive efforts within their own communities. You surrender the debate to the extremists…

The second danger is in the non-Muslim context. What happens if you don’t name the Islamist ideology and distinguish it from Islam?

President Obama in his speech said there’s an ideology we must challenge, and he didn’t name it.

So, think about it, you’re sending out the message to the vast majority of Americans: there’s an ideology you must challenge, but you don’t tell them what it’s called. What are they going to assume? The average American is going to think, ‘Yeah, I’ve got to challenge an ideology — it’s called Islam.’

You’re only going to increase anti-Muslim hatred, increase the hysteria, like ‘he who must not be named’ — the Voldemort effect, I call it — by not naming the ideology. Because the average guy out there is going to assume the President is talking about the religion itself.

By not admitting this certainly has something to do with Islam, and not naming what that something is (Islamism), you leave the arena of ideas wide open for people to make assumptions about Muslims as a whole. We can name and shame the ideology and actions of Islamists whilst defending the rights of our moderate Muslim brothers and sisters. The kind of ‘nothing to do with Islam’ nonsense that Hound is amplifying is failing Muslims who are the chief victims of Islamism, and those Muslims that would benefit from the distinction being popularised.

This is what the ‘Voldemort Effect’ achieves. It causes good people with sincere intentions like Rufus Hound to provide cover for theocratic fascism, and ultimately, hurts those he believes he is defending.

Stephen Knight is host of The #GSPodcast. You can listen to The Godless Spellchecker Podcast here, and support it by becoming a patron here.


  • I have a problem with the term because of this ‘Voldemort Effect’. Since it is not explicit in its meaning, people who have not heard it before (which many in the general public have not since it is not widely used or defined by politicians and the media) will naturally take Islamists to mean ‘people who follow Islam’ rather than fundamentalists or extremists. I just did a straw poll of Wifey and Friend who both assumed it meant Muslims/Islam in general so that’s conclusive proof of my point.

    So I don’t think we are helping ourselves when we use it. We should be more explicit, even if it does cost a few more characters on Twitter.

  • I love the idea that we should look to entertainers for serious philosophical debates. I’m sure that’ll work great!
    Btw Stephen, you considered switching to Disqus for your comments?

  • Ive had similar, less low profile conversations the last week when using the islamist term.
    Sam harris summed it nicely in his latest podcast about having to put up a firewall of caveats before any intelligible conversation can take place.
    So much time is wasted agreeing on terms only to reach the conclusion that the person you are conversing with is doxastically closed and emotionally knee jerking at any uncomfortable truth.

    • PS, I either:

      a) Spoke with more high profile people than GS over the last week.
      b) Was being sarcastic.


      c) Completely cocked up a point on language using language. I meant ‘more low profile’.

  • I’ve been heartened by people like Maajid, Sam and Sarah Haider helping the debate forward. Considering how difficult / life-threatening debates are in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia etc, developing a vibrant platform of discussion in the US and Europe seems the best bet.
    It is a good point that not talking about the ideology of islamism hinders moderate muslims from debating change and the future. I like the phrase ‘voldemort effect’, it sums it up nicely for me. Well islamism has got a lot to do with religion and Muhammed was the first islamist.
    I’ve really enjoyed the podcast Stephen, some great talks, keep up the good work.

What do you think? Leave some comments!