Dear Mr MacGregor,
I am writing to you in regards to Andrew Gilligan’s recent article published on Sunday 30th November, where he made a direct link between the Islamic Education & Research Academy (iERA) and a Portsmouth based group, who had some members leave to fight with ISIS in Syria. Without going into the details of Mr Gilligan’s unsubstantiated claims, which I have already raised with him in writing; this letter is an open invitation to you and Mr Gilligan to discuss the subject, or rather the definition of extremism with iERA.
iERA’s position as a Muslim missionary group towards extremism is very clear, and our material in the form of press releases, videos, lectures and articles are abundant. As the editor of a prominent UK newspaper, you are aware that prior to publishing an article, it is ethically and principally incumbent on the publication to offer the opportunity of fair comment to an organisation or an individual when claims such as those made by Mr Gilligan in his article.
‘Extremism’ is an ambiguous term which is frequently used by the media with little regard to the wider impact it has on society, forging an ill-informed perspective on Muslims. Sadly, the term extremism has become a political tool to demonise and censor normative Islamic beliefs. By coining mainstream concepts under the umbrella term of extremism, Mr Gilligan amongst other journalists, are fuelling an atmosphere of hate and fear of Muslims, which will inevitably hinder the process of community cohesion.
Quoting speakers out of context is unprofessional and misleading. Extracts of previous lectures should not be referred to in isolation, to depict certain members of our organisation as extreme, homophobic or anti-Semitic. The same speakers have clarified their theological opinions within a particular context, and engaged in projects which controverts the conclusions drawn by Mr Gilligan in numerous articles on iERA, but they were clearly ignored.
We would appreciate you providing a clear open definition of extremism from your papers perspective so that we can clearly understand why your paper is labeling many orthodox Islamic speakers as ‘extreme’.
The fundamental pillars of the free press is to educate the masses, to account those in authority and remain impartial at all times. Based on Mr Gilligan’s article and others published by The Telegraph, there appears no intention to advocate balanced discourse. Taking this into consideration, we would like to offer you and Mr Gilligan the opportunity to debut in an open dialogue, where you can put forward questions directly to iERA, so we can be given a fair and equal opportunity to state our position on any matter.
We await a response at your earliest convenience.
Vice-Chairman | iERA