Raheem Kassam

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Promotional poster of Kassam posted on Twitter by the American Conservatives Union for CPAC 2018

Raheem Kassam is a former senior political adviser to Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP. Since leaving that role after the 2015 general election, Kassam has worked with the London outlet of the right-wing news and opinion website Breitbart News.

Kassam was previously the national director of Student Rights - Tackling Extremism on Campus[1] and a campaigns director at its parent think-tank the Henry Jackson Society[2] as well as a research fellow at the Bow Group think tank. [3]

Kassam is also a fellow for two US anti-Muslim think tanks, the Gatestone Institute and the Middle East Forum. His fellowship at the latter is named after Trump mega-donor Robert Shillman.

Education

Kassam attended Bishopsholt School and then Westminster University where he studied politics.[4] His Student Rights bio also says he worked for a time at Lehman Brothers.[5]

Activities

Conservative Party

Kassam was the vice chairman of the Hillingdon branch of Conservative Future in 2008-2009. He served on the Conservative Future national executive in 2009.[2]

From February to June 2010, Kassam was campaign director of "Elect Michelle for Wentworth and Dearne."[2]

Governetz Limited

From August 2008 to November 2009, Kassam worked as a researcher for Governetz Limited.[2]

KeepRightOnline

From May 2009 to June 2010, Kassam was Chief Executive of the political campaigning and PR organisation KeepRightOnline.[2]

TaxPayers' Alliance

From June to October 2010, Kassam was Manager of the Coalition Against Hate Education. Kassam's Linkedin profile describes this role as follows:

Managing the Coalition Against Hate Education, my role entails forging international alliances with think-tanks in an effort to affect public policy globally with the hope of ending 'hate education' which is often taxpayer funded. I am responsible for the development of the campaign as well as seeking international partners and managing our combined efforts.[2]

British Tea Party

According to the Daily Telegraph, Kassam was also one of the organisers of the Tea Party UK, launched in 2010 by the Freedom Association. He told the paper that members 'want to counter what we believe is a Left-wing bias in our culture'

The group was reportedly being advised by low-tax libertarian activists from the US but Kassam tried to distance the British tea party from the socially conservative stances of its US counterpart, saying 'We are less concerned with "God, guns and gays"'.[6]

Students Rights

According to his Linkedin profile, Kassam became manager of Student Rights in October 2009:

In this role I oversee the entire operation of the Student Rights organisation, across the Events, New Media, Research and Campaign workflows.
From inception to construction and delivery, I am tasked with liaising with the Universities across the UK to deliver the manifesto pledge of Student Rights, to ensure freedom of speech and freedom from political oppression for students on campuses.[2]

NUS condemns Student Rights for fueling Islamophobia

In May 2014 the National Union of Students (NUS) voted to condemn Student Rights saying its activities 'fuel Islamophobia'. The motion passed was very similar to one passed by a number of other students unions which also criticised the organisation for its lack of engagement with students, lack of transparency about its relationship with the Henry Jackson Society and its record of generating 'sensationalist' media coverage.[7]

Conservative Political Action Conference

Kassam describes the following incident in a post at Standpoint:

I am reminded specifically of an occasion — ironically at a pub in Washington D.C. during the Conservative Political Action Conference in February 2010 — when I had to distinguish in child-like terms the difference between Islam and Islamism. After a good half an hour, many of the 10-strong audience still hadn't grasped that there was a difference, let alone acknowledged any of the subtleties I was trying to explicate.[8]

Henry Jackson Society

According to his Linkedin profile, Kassam has been campaigns director at the Henry Jackson Society since September 2010.[2]

The Commentator

On his Twitter feed Kassam described himself as an 'executive editor' of the neoconservative website The Commentator. However in July 2013 blogger Iain Dale reported that Kassam had a falling out with the owner of The Commentator, Robin Shepherd and had left to set up a new multi-contributor website called Trending Central. [9]

GreenCEASE

In April and May 2012 Kassam wrote several articles for the Huffington Post with a byline describing him as director the 'Green Centre for Economic Analysis and Sustainable Environment'. However, the link at the bottom of his articles now redirects to a wedding website.

So what is, or was, the 'Green Centre for Economic Analysis and Sustainable Environment'? Its name seems to have been chosen to accommodate the snappy acronym 'GreenCEASE', intended to parody Greenpeace, an NGO it spent much of its time attacking. GreenCEASE launched a website on 5 April 2012 which can still be viewed and its Twitter account is also still live.

According to its founding principles, GreenCEASE existed to 'analyse the economic impact of global environmental concerns, adopting a "growth first" approach to carbon-neutrality' and to 'ensure that those who are not actively willing participants in environmental endeavours are not coerced or conscripted into any movement against their will'. Gallingly, it even framed its activities in terms of apparent concern for the poor of the global south and even for the environment, saying its "growth first" approach would enable 'developing nations to flourish and encouraging more rapid poverty alleviation around the world’ and that it would highlight ‘hypocrisy, waste, corruption and counter-intuitive measures which could actually further harm the environment'.

In practice GreenCEASE was engaged in spreading doubts about the science of climate change and attempting to attack and undermine environmental campaigners, scientists conducting research on global warming - and even government-sponsored initiatives to combat climate change.

Its Twitter account history reads like a who’s who of the climate denial movement, featuring the Heartland Institute, described by the Economist as 'the world’s most prominent think tank promoting skepticism about man-made climate change' and the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), former chancellor Nigel Lawson’s think tank, responsible for spreading 'demonstrably inaccurate' information about climate science. GreenCEASE also tweeted its output at, or retweeted the content of users called @globalwarminghoax, @skepticscience, @ClimateScam, @AGW_IS_A_HOAX and a host of other users describing themselves as 'AGW skeptics' (where AGW stands for anthropogenic global warming and skeptic is, arguably, a euphemism for denier).

Since GreenCEASE seems to have been a side project of the libertarian-right blog The Commentator (of which Kassam is executive editor) it’s no surprise that it also tweeted links to climate-sceptic articles by its contributing editor Peter C. Glover. Glover is described as a 'climate science expert' by The Commentator, which has itself published articles bashing the Green Party and suggesting wind turbines may pose a health hazard. But his co-authored book Energy and Climate Wars: How Naïve Politicians, Green Ideologues, and Media Elites are Undermining the Truth About Energy and Climate is included on a list of ‘books espousing climate change denial’ in an article exploring the links between climate denial books and think tanks in the journal American Behavioural Scientist.

GreenCEASE produced an amusing film entitled [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4NL3KNFOJ3Y 'Inside the Anti-Growth Lobby'] attempting to portray the 2012 sustainability conference 'Planet Under Pressure' in London as somehow sinister, as well as a 'movie trailer' called 'Green Imperialism' featuring clips from the Forest Stewardship Council's 2012 conference in Dusseldorf. But most hilarious is a short called 'World Domination' in which Kassam claims the WWF and other groups are restraining the development of poor countries - complete with visuals of a plastic panda running rampage across a map of the world. While it lasted, GreenCEASE railed against 'climate alarmists', advocating instead what it called 'climate realism' and, most damningly, opposed pursuing what it called 'anti-growth' environmental policies, in its words, 'before the science is settled'.

The project, however, was short-lived and seems to have had little impact. Its Twitter activity petered out slowly, grinding to an apparent halt in March 2013. Kassam did not respond to questions about his own views on anthropogenic climate change, or on whether GreenCEASE had any other members, continues to exist or why it stopped. But it seems likely that it proved difficult and unrewarding to propagate such discredited doubt-mongering ideas anywhere but on the fringes and within the pre-existing denial movement.

TrendingCentral.com

In July 2013 Kassam launched a new blog news website called Trending Central, which '..was conceived with a view to bring fast-paced, interesting news items and blogs to the English speaking world'. Run by a voluntary staff of writers and analysts:

The site is geared towards serving the Anglo-sphere content that is of a political or cultural nature, though we’re totally open to things like book or restaurant reviews, as well as anything else interesting you might be able to muster up. Please do consider that the site is pro-free markets, pro-democracy, pro-Western and pro-Israel in its outlook, so if any of that bothers you, perhaps you should look elsewhere!

Contributing editors as of September 2013 included: Peter C. Glover (Energy, Markets, Geopolitics and Environment) Fernando Menendez (North America, Central America and Latin America, Economics), Benjamin Harris-Quinney (British and European Politics) Andrew Ian Dodge, US Politics, Nathalie Tamam (Middle East, British Politics), Simon Miller (Finance, Civil Liberties). [10]

Breitbart London

In February 2014 the Guardian reported that Kassam would join 'green-baiter' James Delingpole as part of the team working for a new London outlet of the right wing US-based news and opinion website Breitbart.[11]

UKIP role

In October 2014, Kassam's own news site, Breitbart London, announced that he would be leaving the organisation to start working as 'senior adviser' to United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) party leader Nigel Farage. The move followed Kassam's work on a number of UKIP puff-piece for the right wing media outlet. According to the write-up, the role was 'the first of its kind as UKIP grows and professionalises' and Kassam was 'set to lead on advising Mr Farage in developing party messaging, strategy, fundraising and publicity'.[12]

The right wing Spectator magazine mocked the appointment, calling Kassam 'troublesome', 'wildly self-important', and a 'professional wind-up merchant'. Columnist Steerpike noted that the fawning tone of the anonymous Breitbart London announcement, including the line:

'Breitbart understands from senior UKIP sources that Kassam was picked specifically for his political nous and campaigning prowess'.

The Spectator suggested that UKIP could now adopt 'vicious American-style attack politics' and suggested that 'if UKIP is trying to be popular, they could hardly have picked a more unsuitable hire'.[13]

Aftermath

After the 2015 general election, Kassam confirmed on Twitter that his contract had expired and he would no longer be working with UKIP.[14] According to The Commentatory, Kassam was booted out of UKIP’s top team along with Matthew Richardson because the pair were heavily criticised for sending Farage to America for a bizarre US political conference instead of helping him campaign in Thanet South. The strategy backfired when hardly anyone turned up to the event, causing huge embarrassment for the UKIP leader.

Another gaffe he committed, as Farage was being heavily criticised for his focus on immigrants with HIV, was to advise him to respond to the allegations of ‘neglecting’ the people of South Thanet by reporting the Have I Got News for You team to the Police. The move undermined Farage’s image as a campaigner for free speech and implied that he was using the Police complaint to silence his critics. [15] These mistakes led to the loss of that constituency by several thousand votes. [16]

He energetically refuted what the The Commentary had reported, complaining that he and Farage were the only professional ones, the rest of UKIP being full of 'rag-tag, unprofessional, embarrassing people' with 'no discipline'. He told The Guardian that he left the party of his own accord in order to 'bulletproof Nigel', when some of his critics in UKIP called him a 'poisonous' influence on Farage, pushing the party too far to the right. [17]

He disputed the accusation and claimed his detractors were jealous that he was so close to Farage during the campaign, trying to stop the UKIP leader playing too big a role in the EU referendum. Kassam also expressed regret at having worked for UKIP in the first place, which he says led to him being made the 'fall guy' in the post-election feud between Farage’s camp and figures such as Douglas Carswell, Patrick O’Flynn and Suzanne Evans, who wanted the party to move towards the centre. [18]

In May 2015, UKIP leader Nigel Farage came under growing pressure to disown Kassam, described as 'totally weird' by former associates, after an article on the Breitbart news website attacked the party’s deputy Suzanne Evans, personally accusing her of ‘crying and screaming’. [16]

Return to Breitbart

After Kassam's contract with UKIP expired, he returned to his previous role at Breitbart.[19]

In September 2015 he conducted an 'exclusive' 40-minute interview for Breitbart London with Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, the founder and former leader of the English Defence League. Kassam wrote admiringly that Lennon 'expressed regret over some of the decisions he made when he was an “angry” young man, but his demeanour, and depth of analysis during the interview shows that this is a long time behind him'.[20]

Middle East Forum

In May 2016 Kassam was described as "Shillman-Ginsburg fellow" at the US neoconservative Middle East Forum, which re-published some of his Breitbart articles.[21]

UKIP leadership candidacy

He briefly considered running for candidacy in July, believing himself to be supported by Nigel Farage: 'Farage knows and he told me by way of third party that it was a good idea.' However, he did add: '[I] don’t know if that is true or not, to be honest.' [22] Instead of running, he supported Steven Woolfe, before he was disqualified on a technicality. [23]

Kassam announced his intention to run for leader of UKIP on 5th October 2016, following Diane James’s resignation the day before.

Talking to Guido Fawkes, Kassam said, 'I, like ordinary UKIP members, am so tired of the chicanery at the top of this party. There is so much corruption. There is so much duplicity. [...] I’m clear about what I stand for: a strong, united UKIP, free of the Tory splitters,' and 'I want to Make UKIP Great Again'. Kassam and his campaign team have since set up a website, [MakeUKIPGreatAgain.com Make UKIP Great Again'], which they say is for 'members who want a return to UKIP at its best' and 'who want Nigel's legacy continued'. [24] He continued the interview, saying:

'I want us to address the deep cultural and social divides in this country. I want us to champion causes like Justice for Marine A and tackle the scourge of Islamism in our schools, prisons, and communities. I want us to become the real opposition and put this feckless Labour Party to bed'.

Talking to Breitbart (newspaper of which he is the editor), Kassam added that 'I believe UKIP needs to start working more closely with our European partners. [...] [L]et us help our allies and friends free themselves from the shackles of EU membership. This would be a very high priority for me, and help internationalise the UKIP brand.' [23]

Views

Neoconservatism

According to the Evening Standard, Kassam calls himself 'a Michael Gove Conservative' and cites his school reforms and his 'staunch and unapologetic' views on foreign policy as the reason. He also stated that Margaret Thatcher is one of his idols but called himself 'a bigger fan' of former US senator and Republican Barry Goldwater'.

Kassam is also strongly Atlanticist and has said: 'I want to see an unbreakable bond with the US. It has led the way, showing how a country can flourish unashamedly in favour of democracy, free markets and the live-and-let-live attitude.'[25]

Pro-Israel

Raheem Kassam
Kassam has publicly supported Israel in both print and television media, including criticising Stephen Hawking for choosing to boycott a scientific conference in the country[26] and claiming on BBC News that Jerusalem is 'the capital of Israel'.[27]

Support for racial profiling

In September 2011, Kassam wrote an article entitled 'Profile Me' for the Commentator, arguing in favour of racial profiling. The piece was subtitled 'Once people who look like me stop blowing themselves up – then I’ll get upset at being profiled. Not before.' [28]

Criticism

In November 2012 Kassam tweeted a link to an article by Nick Gray of Christian Middle East Watch published by The Commentator called 'Why There Are No Bomb Shelters in Israel'.

It received a negative response even from figures who might be considered neoconservative political allies of Kassam. Shiraz Maher of the International Center for the Study of Radicalisation said the article was 'essentialising Muslims' and called it 'ridiculous'. Aymenn J Al-Tamimi of the Middle East Forum tweeted at Kassam: 'the fact that you put this piece up illustrates how you flirt with anti-Muslim bigotry'. Kassam responded: 'I'm a flirtatious kind of guy'.[29]

Publications

Affiliations

Resources

Contact

Notes

  1. About, Student Rights - Tackling Extremism on Campus, accessed 18 December 2010.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 Raheem Kassam Linkedin, accessed 13 January 2015
  3. Research Team, undated, accessed 18 May 2012
  4. Josh Neicho, Rainbow Tories: the geek, the fundraiser and the Tanzanian immigrants' son, Evening Standard, 6 October 2011, accessed 10 January 2013
  5. About Us, Student Rights, accessed 10 January 2013
  6. John Swaine, British Tea Party launched by Conservative activists to challenge Coalition, Daily Telegraph, 18 September 2010, accessed 10 January 2013
  7. Reyhana Patel, NUS condemns 'anti-Islam' group Student Rights, The Independent, 14 May 2014
  8. An Important Distinction, Standpoint (Online Only), September 2010.
  9. Diary 26 Jul 2013 at 20:35, acc 19 September 2013
  10. About Trending Central, undated, acc 19 September 2013
  11. Roy Greenslade, James Delingpole and Raheem Kassam head Breitbart's new London team, The Guardian, 17 February 2014
  12. BREITBART LONDON EDITOR BECOMES SENIOR AIDE TO UKIP'S NIGEL FARAGE, Breitbart News, 23 October 2014, accessed 27 October 2014
  13. Breitbart’s loss is Nigel Farage’s gain – or is it?, Spectator, 23 October 2014, accessed 27 October 2014
  14. Channel 4 Raheem Kassam, key Farage adviser, leaves Ukip, 14 May 2015, accessed 10 June 2015.
  15. Knives are out for UKIP aides after Farage Thanet poll disaster, The Commentator, 10 May 2015. Accessed 06 October 2016.
  16. 16.0 16.1 Farage urged to disown "weird" Raheem Kassam after ‘repulsive attack’ on deputy, The Commentator, 15 May 2015. Accessed 06 October 2016.
  17. Rowena Mason, Ukip insider Raheem Kassam: ‘We had to lock HQ doors because some people were too embarrassing to be seen’, The Guardian, 10 June 2015. Accessed 06 October 2016.
  18. Rowena Mason, Raheem Kassam: Ukip full of 'rag-tag, unprofessional, embarrassing people', The Guardian, 10 June 2015. Accessed 06 October 2016.
  19. Steer Pike http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/steerpike/2015/06/another-day-another-ukip-unresignation/ Spectator, 9 June 2015, accessed 10 June 2015.
  20. EXCLUSIVE: Tommy Robinson Interview – ‘I Don’t Regret Forming the EDL, I Wholeheartedly Regret the Effect It Has Had’, Breitbart London, 11 September 2015
  21. London Elects a Muslim Mayor Who Defended 9/11 Terrorists, Middle East Forum, 5 May 2016, accessed 2 June 2016
  22. Harriet Agerholm, Editor of right-wing news site considers Ukip leadership bid and suggests he has Nigel Farage's backing, The Independent, 5 July 2016. Accessed 06 October 2016.
  23. 23.0 23.1 Breitbart’s Raheem Kassam To Run For UKIP Leader, Breitbart, 05 October 2015. Accessed 06 October 2016.
  24. Make UKIP Great Again, About, MakeUKIPGreatAgain, accessed 06 October 2016.
  25. Josh Neicho, Rainbow Tories: the geek, the fundraiser and the Tanzanian immigrants' son, Evening Standard, 6 October 2011, accessed 10 January 2013
  26. An Open Letter to Stephen Hawking, The Commentator, 8 May 2013
  27. How do you convince the BBC that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel?, The Times of Israel, 20 November 2012
  28. Profile Me, The Commentator, 17 September 2011
  29. Screengrab of Twitter exchange between Kassam, Maher and Al Tamimi, captured 7 January 2013
  30. Talent Management, Media Intelligence Partners, archived by the Internet Archive, 18 April 2012, accessed 4 September 2013.