Tag Archives: Douglas Murray

Report From The #Secularism2016 Conference


The annual National Secular Society conference took place in Central London on Saturday 3rd September. As always, it was a fantastic occasion featuring some excellent guest speakers talking on important topics. It was nice to see some familiar faces and make the acquaintance of some new ones too.

I’d also like to thank those of you who approached me to say hello throughout the day – it was a pleasure meeting you all.

I’ll share some thoughts, observations and media from the conference with you. You can read about the guests in full here, but I will note a few highlights below. Read more

Secularism 2016 Conference: Living Better Together


I’m currently on the 8:15 Virgin Train service from Manchester to London, typing this from my reserved table seat – proving I have more foresight than the current labour leader.

Anyhow, I’m really looking forward to attending the annual National Secular Society Conference on Saturday. The subtitle of the event is ‘Living Better Together’.

I spoke to the president of the NSS, Terry Sanderson, back in July who explained just what that means:


A number of fantastic guests have been confirmed to speak at the conference. I’ve interviewed a number of them on The Godless Spellchecker Podcast, so I thought I’d share some links for you to acquaint yourselves with these important voices if you haven’t already done so. I’ll also provide some info on the speakers who have not been on the show.

Maajid Nawaz – Liberal Muslim and Co-founder of The Quilliam Foundation:

Douglas Murray – Author and commentator. Vocal critic of Islamism:

Paul Rowe – Chief executive of the secular education charity ‘Educate Together’. Paul won ‘Secularist Of The Year back in March and you can hear his acceptance speech below:

Other Guests (Via the NSS)

Jacques Berlinerblau

Keynote speaker Jacques Berlinerblau wrote the internationally acclaimed How to Be Secular, a call to return to America’s long tradition of secularism and a passionate celebration of secularism’s role in promoting good social cohesion and protecting both freedom from and for religion

Jacques is Professor and Director of the Program for Jewish Civilization at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. He has doctorates in Ancient Near Eastern languages and literature (from NYU) and theoretical sociology (from the New School for Social Research). He has published on a wide variety of scholarly subjects with special attention to heresy, atheism, secularism, Jewish-American literature and biblical literature.

Şafak Pavey

Safak Pavey is a diplomat, UN independent Human Rights expert, writer and parliamentarian. Safak is a leading Turkish opposition MP who represents Istanbul Province for the Republican People’s Party in the Turkish Parliament. In 2012 Pavey was honoured by the US Department of State with the International Women of Courage Award.

In 2014 Safak was awarded the National Secular Society’s “Secularist of the Year” prize for her work promoting human rights and defending secularism in Turkey. Safak is an honorary associate of the NSS.

Raheel Raza

Raheel is the author of Their Jihad – Not My Jihad and regularly appears in Canadian TV and print. She is an advocate for gender equality and an activist for women’s rights, as well as an interfaith activist and the first Muslim woman in Canada to lead mixed gender prayers. She is the President of the Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow which works to secure “peace for all people”, oppose extremism and “advance among Muslims the principle of individual rights and freedoms”.

Tehmina Kazi

Tehmina Kazi is director of British Muslims for Secular Democracy, an organisation which aims to raise awareness of the benefits of democracy and its contribution to a shared vision of citizenship. Her role includes fundraising, outreach, lobbying, advocacy, media work, policy and strategy development, workshop facilitation and event management.

Tehmina was previously a Project Officer at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, where she worked on a ground-breaking inquiry into the Human Rights Act and its impact on public service delivery.

Deborah Lavin

Deborah Lavin is an independent historian. An active member of the Socialist History Society, she became fascinated with Charles Bradlaugh through a study of his conflicts with Karl Marx. She now often gives talks on different aspects of Bradlaugh’s career and last year spoke at Conway Hall on “Political skulduggery: What kept Charles Bradlaugh MP from taking his seat in Parliament?” as part of the Festival of Freedoms.

Deborah’s present talk is on “Charles Bradlaugh and the Early Years of the National Secular Society.” It will look more closely at Bradlaugh’s active years before he became an M.P., when he battled to create the National Secular Society; and weld it into a radical fighting force. It will look at the secularist and radical causes Bradlaugh and the early National Secular Society championed, including birth control, free secular education and an ethical foreign policy. It will also discuss Bradlaugh’s legacy and historical importance

I’ll do my best to report on the conference for as long as my phone battery holds out. In the meantime, please take a look at the current NSS campaigns and consider becoming a member.

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

Ep#87 – Terry Sanderson Returns

President of The National Secular Society Terry Sanderson (@terrysanderson4) makes his return to the #GSPodcast. We’ll be talking about the the upcoming ‘Living Better Together’ conference and the excellent guest speakers. We also touch on assisted dying, Maajid Nawaz, Douglas Murray, Safak Pavey, Jacques Berlinerblau, Paul Rowe, free schools, faith schools, illegal religious schools, ritualistic slaughter, the EU referendum and more!

Also available on iTunes and Stitcher.

Support the podcast at www.patreon.com/gspellchecker

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#GSPodcast Theme by Dorian Silk & The MCH

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Maryam Namazie on Sam Harris’s Waking Up Podcast


Earlier this week, I released a podcast interview with a Muslim convert from Boston. In nearly two hours of discussion, I was unable to get them to reveal why they converted, or what they believe about Islam. It was a truly fruitless experience, but I took comfort in the knowledge that I had a strong claim for the most frustrating podcast ever inflicted on the universe. Then Sam Harris released his discussion with Maryam Namazie, as you can hear below:

What the hell happened there then?

I’ve interviewed both Sam and Maryam, and I’m truly grateful for their work. In a world where many think they can just slap ‘activist’ in their Twitter profile and call it a day, Maryam is a true activist in every sense of the word, whose compassion and concern for human rights is palpable.

One of the reasons I enjoy Sam’s output so much is because it covers a huge range of topics, from religion, self defence, violence, meditation, airport security, gun control and more. I always learn something.

I was aware of the shots fired between them (namely over the issue of profiling) before going into this conversation and I was looking forward to some common ground finding, or some opinion changing.

It seems two different conversations were taking place here though. Sam wanted to speak about specific issues and Maryam responded by talking generally about Human Rights. I find this particularly disappointing considering Maryam uses terms like ‘bigot’ and ‘racist’ to describe views like Harris’s, yet doesn’t seem keen to detail the reasons that led her there.

This feels like a missed opportunity. I’m also seeing some bizarre tribal side taking (and abuse) online in response to this discussion. Which is very silly (and unnecessary). I for one see no issues with acknowledging the differences between them, yet continuing to support the great work they are both doing in the fight against theocratic fascism.

I’d be keen to get your thoughts in the comments.

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

Some Thoughts On Douglas Murray’s Advice For Secularists

secularismI’m a keen follower of Douglas Murray’s writing and public speaking, especially his output on the issue of Islamism. I think he’s a rare voice of clarity and honesty on this topic, which to my mind, also makes him an important one. In short, I quite like the man. You can listen to a discussion between us here.

I’m also a member of The National Secular Society. I’ve attended several of their events, met their management and I’m grateful for the work they do. You can listen to my discussion with the President, Terry Sanderson here.

This brings me to Douglas’s latest piece in The Spectator:  ‘Secularists need to prioritise their targets. I agree with the basic sentiment of the title. It’s true that far too many individuals and organisations are more than happy to take a swing at the ‘lesser’ evils of a Christian flavour – yet develop a mysterious case of chronic arm fatigue where the religion of peace is concerned. However, I just feel it’s a tad unfair to make this point in the context of The National Secular Society and secularists in general.

Here Douglas takes issue with a point regarding Bishops in the House Of Lords, made by representative of the NSS, Evan Harris:

I’ve been hearing this Bishops in the House of Lords line for years and it strikes me as an increasingly eccentric obsession for anybody to have in 2015.  There are all sorts of reasons to advocate House of Lords reform, but the presence of Anglican bishops – hardly the most terrifying religious figures of our age – strikes me as approaching the barmy.  It is also a fine example of a dated and outmoded form of secularism.


I disagree. The remit of the NSS is to promote and achieve a secular state whilst challenging religious privilege. I’m not sure how they can hope to achieve this goal of separation of Church and state while 26 unelected members of clergy are able to influence decisions in state politics. It matters not how lovely and cuddly they may be, their mere presence is the antithesis of secularism. No other religion (or indeed non-religious ideology) enjoys such privilege.

This is the point I find most puzzling:

It is difficult for secularists who appear on moral discussion shows because to some extent they are involving themselves in a category error.  On the one hand a religious figure talks about the saving of souls and explains their view of the meaning of life.  The secular representative then responds by talking about tax arrangements.

Unless I’m entirely misreading here1 it appears the implication is that moral discussion is exclusively the domain of the religious – which would be especially odd given Douglas is an atheist. Of course a secular or humanist worldview should be included in any objective discussion on morality – so I cannot understand the ‘category error’ point. Religion doesn’t own this domain of discourse, rather it has simply held it hostage for the most part.

If I were a representative of the National Secular Society I suppose I might mention this point [Bishops in House Of Lords] at the very end of any long list of concerns, but I could not put it anywhere near the top.  And that is the thing about much of the outmoded secular voices we hear at the moment.

Well, if we look at the many voices existing within the National Secular Society, rather than just one – it’s clear that many of their and Douglas’s priorities align, such as The Trojan Horse Plot, Freedom of Expression, British Jihadists, Extremism and so on – which are all staples of NSS Campaigns & focus.

I was particularly pleased to be in attendance at the Secularist Of The Year Awards, where the main prize was handed to Charlie Hebdo magazine. Secularists from around the world gathered to stand with the NSS to champion freedom of expression and oppose Islamic fascism by honouring the brave at a time when too many opted for apologetics and cowardice.

It’s true that the problem of priorities, as identified by Douglas, is a genuine and pervasive one. I just feel making this point with Secularists in your sights may constitute an act of friendly fire.

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


  1. 22/05/2015 – Douglas Murray was gracious enough to clarify this point to me via email, reproduced here with permission: ‘..the category error point is that if a religious person is talking about the meaning of life (as they see it) it seems a mistake to me to reply by talking about tax arrangements. That was the category error I was referring to. I think it makes us secularists sound like joyless tax accountants (as opposed to the joyful type)…,’

Ep#24 – Douglas Murray

Douglas Murray dropped in on The #GSPodcast this week.  He was at his usual erudite & amusing best.  We covered a wide range of topics including The Trojan Horse Plot, British Jihadists,  Hamas/Israel, the veil, Julian Assange and he shares a wonderful Christopher Hitchens anecdote.  We also waste a moment or two reflecting on the demise of Mo Ansar.  Be sure to read his hilarious e-book ‘Islamophilia‘ & his Spectator Blog.

Also available on StitcheriTunes &Direct Mp3 Download

Guest: Douglas Murray (@DouglasKMurray)

Please support the show by becoming a patron: http://www.patreon.com/gspellchecker

Relevant Links:
Buy ‘Islamophilia’ on Amazon
Read Douglas Murray’s blog at The Spectator
Watch Douglas Murray Debate Julian Assange on YouTube
View the ‘Douglas Murray Archive’ on YouTube