Sheikh Maulana Abu SayeedAs any musician playing London’s Hyde Park next summer will find out, Pope Benedict XVI is a tough act to follow. But in selecting the winner of the 2010 New Humanist Bad Faith Award, we think we’ve found a worthy successor to the Pontiff, who took the crown in 2009. More than 6,800 readers voted in this year’s poll, and the race became a nailbiting double-header, with just 31 votes separating the eventual top two. So, without further to-do, we present to you this year’s winner, along with a breakdown of the rest of the field. See the bottom of the page for a graph of the results.

Winner of the 2010 Bad Faith Award: Sheikh Maulana Abu Sayeed (1,591 votes)

In its first three years, the Bad Faith Award was won by well-known public figures. But sometimes an individual can make a statement so irrational, bizarre and pernicious that lack of fame is no obstacle to success. So step forward Sheikh Maulana Abu Sayeed, head of the UK Islamic Sharia Council, an unofficial body which provides arbitration for the resolution of civil disputes, such as divorces. In an interview with the Samosa blog last October, Sayeed provided readers with his enlightened views on the question of spousal rape. “Clearly there cannot be any ‘rape’ within the marriage,” the “Sheikh” opined. “Maybe ‘aggression’, maybe ‘indecent activity’.”

He did point out that he doesn’t condone a husband having sex with his wife “if it happened without her desire”, but he doesn’t view it as a rape. It’s more a case of bad manners. “Because within the marriage contract it is inherent that the man will have sexual intercourse with his wife. Of course, if he does something against her wish or in a bad time etc, then he is not fulfilling the etiquettes, not that he is breaching any code of sharia – he is not coming to that point.”

A worthy winner.

2nd place: Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi (1,560 votes)

This Iranian cleric ran Sayeed close, but in the end his claim that “immodestly” dressed women can “lead young men astray and spread adultery in society which increases earthquakes” wasn’t quite misogynistic enough.

3rd place: Ann Widdecombe (970 votes)

Perhaps her efforts on Strictly Come Dancing helped boost her share of the vote, but it was nonetheless well deserved after she used her Daily Express column to describe the creationist Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm near Bristol as “a moderate, education-focused organisation that challenges children’s minds and produces evidence from fossils to support it”.

4th place: Prince Charles (829 votes)

It’s possible that a republican cadre infiltrated our poll in order to vent their frustration at a certain forthcoming matrimonial arrangement. Either that, or saying that the major problems currently facing humanity are the result “of a deep, inner crisis of the soul” doesn’t sit well with rationalists.

5th place: Baroness Warsi (820 votes)

The Conservative Party chairman inverted Alastair Campbell’s infamous claim by declaring that the current government will “do God”. New Humanist readers were not amused.

6th place: Pastor Terry Jones (436 votes)

Threatening to burn the Qur’an in Florida on the anniversary of 9/11 wasn’t enough to secure this wayward man of God a top table seat at the Bad Faith banquet.

7th place: Cardinal Walter Kasper (331 votes)

A surprisingly low-placed finish for the Papal aide who suggested, on the eve of the Pope’s visit, that Britain is a “third-world country” marked by “a new and aggressive atheism”.

8th place: Lauren Booth (286 votes)

Perhaps readers viewed Cherie Blair’s sister’s very public conversion to Islam as an act worthy of ridicule rather than the Bad Faith Award.

Nominations are already open for the 2011 Bad Faith Awards. Put forward your favourite charlatans by emailing and stay up to date on our blog. You can also nominate by commenting on this article.