On Sunday 25th January 2015, the Sunday Telegraph published another factually incorrect article, which insinuated that the Islamic Education & Research Academy (iERA) was linked to anti-Semitic speakers.
The article was written by none other than Andrew Gilligan, whose reputation amongst the British Muslim community is well known for all the wrong reasons. The piece entitled, ‘The Rising Tide of Anti-Semitism’ 1 addressed the rise of hatred and violence towards the Jewish community. As yesterday marked the 70th anniversary of Auschwitz, iERA would like to remind Mr Gilligan and like-minded journalists, who persist in fanning Islamophobic attitudes, that their irresponsible reporting can lead to history repeating itself.
Mr Gilligan’s lack of due care and clarity can no longer be excused as “lazy journalism”. Rather, it appears that he intentionally chooses to refer to a previous incident relating to iERA’s chairman, Abdurraheem Green, when clarifications have already been made on this particular matter.
Inaccuracies and clarifications
There are three statements in Mr Gilligan’s article which iERA would like to address:
1. “The Islamic Education and Research Academy sends extremist speakers to mosques and university societies.”
Mr Gilligan’s definition of “extremist speakers” is in reality any Muslim who follows orthodox and normative Islam. University Islamic societies regularly invite iERA speakers because we are considered mainstream, and our reputation is impeccable within the Muslim community. Mr Gilligan’s constant application of the term “extremist” to Muslims is not that different to how Nazi propagandists used similar politically loaded terms to demonise the Jewish community.
2. “Abdurraheem Green, the founder and head of IERA, once demanded that a Jewish man be removed from his sight when preaching at Speaker’s Corner. He has also said that the Jewish homeland is a “myth” and British public opinion is “totally hostage to the Zionist-controlled media”.”
Abdurraheem Green has clarified that this comment was aimed at a habitual heckler in Hyde Park Speaker’s Corner, in a highly charged forum of debate. He has apologised openly on his website for the comment he made decades ago.2 Abdurraheem Green’s position on extremism and hate speech has been made clear to Mr Gilligan and Ian MacGregor, the editor of the Sunday Telegraph, on numerous occasions 3 4, but unfortunately they choose to ignore this when overtly implying that he’s anti-Semitic.
3. “Other IERA speakers include Sheikh Abdullah Hakim Quick…Past members of the group’s advisory board are Hussain Yee, who blamed the Jews for 9/11, and Haitham al-Haddad.”
Mr Gilligan consciously uses the word “past” when trying to link certain Muslim speakers to iERA to reinforce his case for anti-Semitism and extremism, yet he ignores the opinions expressed by the same speakers in more recent lectures. It is reassuring to know that in this regard, Mr Gilligan has taken all the necessary precautions in his choice of wording to keep his statements ‘factual’.
iERA has written to the Sunday Telegraph on two separate occasions in May and September 2013 explaining its position on anti-Semitism. These comments were completely ignored by Mr Gilligan as he continues to rehash the same quotes again. In a letter to the Sunday Telegraph dated 25th May 2014, iERA stated:
“Anti-Semitism is condemned in the strongest terms. Islam does not advocate any oppression to Jews or other communities. Rather, history has shown how Muslims and Jews have lived together harmoniously, which has been highlighted by our speakers in past talks.”
Open to dialogue or blinded by ignorance?
This is not the first article Mr Gilligan has written about iERA, and we do not expect it to be the last. However, it is important to note that iERA wrote an open letter to Mr MacGregor on 2nd December 2014 challenging the Sunday Telegraph to define “extremism” – which, as expected, they failed to define. 5
More recently, both Mr Gilligan and his editor Mr MacGregor were personally invited by the CEO of iERA to participate in our ‘Don’t Hate, Debate!’ event next month. This was a sincere attempt to reach out to Mr Gilligan to clear any misconceptions he had of iERA. Unfortunately, neither Mr Gilligan nor Mr MacGregor had the courtesy to reply to iERA, which speaks volumes about their commitment to open dialogue.
The Independent reported last week that British Muslim children were suffering a backlash of Islamophobic abuse in the aftermath of the Paris attacks.6 According to official Metropolitan Police figures, Muslim hate crime has increased by 65% in London alone.7 Additionally, British Muslims face the worst job discrimination of any minority group, according to data from the Office for National Statistics’ Labour Force Survey.8
Taking the above into consideration, iERA would like to remind Mr Gilligan of his responsibility as a journalist, and duty of care towards the British public during this current climate of Islamophobia, which he continues to fuel. Trying to create a wedge between the Jewish and Muslim community in the UK by publishing misleading articles will only facilitate the very environment which led to the Holocaust.
iERA has always welcomed warm, compassionate and civilised dialogue, even with those we differ with. Our position towards extremism, terrorism, anti-Semitism, hate speech amongst other subjects are well-known and documented. We will continue to work towards creating a cohesive and tolerant society where people of all faiths and none can live side-by-side in peace.
1. The rising tide of anti-Semitism, The Telegraph
2. Clarifications, Islam’s Green
3. iERA Chairman speaks out against hate crimes and extremism
4. iERA responds to sinister and misleading article in the Sunday Telegraph
5. Define extremism, an open letter to the editor of The Telegraph
6. British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks. The Independent
7. Muslim hate crime ‘rises 65% in London. BBC’
8. British Muslims face worst job discrimination of any minority group, according to research. The Independent