27th January 2009
During the past few weeks there has been much media speculation of alleged ‘extremism’ on our University campuses. This has led to actual naming of alleged ‘radical’ speakers’. Some of these individuals include iERA team members, and we would like to release a statement to clarify our position.
iERA is an organisation committed to presenting Islam to wider society. Our work centres on conducting research, producing information materials and holding training courses aimed at Muslims presenting Islam. All of our speakers, which include Abdurraheem Green, Hamza Andreas Tzortzis and Saleem Chagtai, are committed to presenting Islam based upon its original sources and in accordance with mainstream Islamic scholarship. Hence the accusations that our speakers are ‘radical’, ‘extremist’ are completely baseless and absurd, for this would equate to condemning the entire corpus of Islamic scholarly tradition as such. Moreover, what seems to be happening is that speakers’ are being quoted bizarrely out of context, in a manner which changes the entire nature of their talk. In one instance, one of our speaker’s has been quoted saying something on his blog, when in fact he has no blog!
In respect of Mr Green, he is a well-known figure within the Muslim community both in the UK and abroad, with his lectures being watched by millions of people on Peace TV. He is known to speak out against terrorism, and in fact advises local authorities on this and other matters pertaining to community cohesion and in preventing violent extremism. He has actually received a nationally recognized a good citizens award for his contribution in these areas.
Mr Tzortzis, despite much media speculation is not a member of Hizb-ut-Tahrir. Much of his work centres on building a bridge of understanding and discussion between Western and Islamic thought. This is done principally through the platform of The Big Debates, where Mr Tzortzis has debated prominent academics.
The current emerging trend amongst sections of the media and some think tanks to conflate the promotion of established theological positions and certain social values as ‘conveyor-belts’ to violent extremism are both far-fetched, extreme and damaging in their implications.
The absurdity of the conveyor-belt theory would lead to saying that a Conservative would inevitably become a hardline nationalist to a fascist, or a Labour party member would become a socialist, then a Marxist, and then aradical Marxist rebel! Even Darwinists would be hard pressed to defend such an evolutionary process!
Such an extreme position would do more to damage community cohesion by denying the public an opportunity to engage with ideas, leading to alienation and frustration. We welcome the views of Mr Malcolm Grant, President and Provost of University College London, who commented in the Evening Standard on 25 th January.
“He (Malcolm Grant) said British universities had a legal obligation — introduced in 1986 — to “guarantee” free speech within the law. “Campuses are and should be safe homes for controversy, argument and debate,”’.
iERA is committed to working towards a more cohesive society through fostering genuine and robust dialogue on highly pertinent issues centred on faith, religion and society. In this regard iERA is open to discussion and would welcome further enquiry.
We look forward to having our speakers come and deliver talks at various Universities around the country. We are aware of University policies towards diversity, free speech and tolerance and always have, and will continue to work within their respective frameworks.