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Responding to inaccurate article in the Birmingham Mail
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Responding to inaccurate article in the Birmingham Mail

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PRESS RELEASE – iERA Responds to gross inaccuracies in an article in the Birmingham Mail – 25.8.2014

iERA has responded to a recent article in a local Birmingham newspaper which made unsubstantiated comments about the charity and it’s Chairman (AR Green). The Birmingham Mail posted an article by Paul Suart entitled ‘Aston University: Anger after ‘hate preachers’ billed as appearing at city event’.

The Birmingham Mail is well recognised for it’s journalism in the region and is part of the renowned Mirror group. It is therefore incredibly sad to see such reports being aired without being vetted in advance. Islamophobia is undoubtedly on the rise in the UK and such reporting does not bode well for community cohesion and can be used by some elements in society to further exacerbate tensions in Birmingham.

The gross inaccuracies in the report have been highlighted to the Editor and newspaper, along with a formal complaint made to the Press Complaints Commission. iERA and AR Green are now seeking legal advice to pursue libel charges against the newspaper.

Overall, the news piece fell short on several aspects of journalism:

1. It was unbalanced by not showing an opposing voice
2. IERA or ARG Green were not sought for any comment before or after the piece
3. The report contains gross inaccuracies which have no basis
4. IERA’s website has clarifications on such subjects as extremism, radicalisation and anti-semitism which should have been sought and referenced

iERA’s views are very clear and completely opposed to the suggestions made in the article. IERA and it’s speakers are in no way ‘radical’ as insinuated in the article but quite the opposite. They have publicly spoken against violence, hate crime, anti-Semitism and extremism in the past.

A full copy of the complaint to the Editor is cited below:

—— Letter of Complaint to the Editor of the Birmingham Mail —–

Dear Mr. Brookes,

I am writing regarding an article on the Birmingham Mail website posted on 23rd August, 2014.

http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/aston-university-anger-after-hate-7660102

The article by Paul Suart (entitled ‘Aston University: Anger after ‘hate preachers’ billed as appearing at city event’) was very derogatory about the Islamic Education and Research Academy (IERA) and it’s Chairman, insinuating that iERA have radical ‘hate preachers’ who are inciting hatred and hold anti-semitic views.

I was very disappointed to read the report. It is incredibly damaging about an organisation that promotes open dialogue about the Islamic faith to remove extreme stereotypical views of Muslims in the UK. Reports like this do not bode well for community cohesion and only create suspicion and hatred between people of different faiths, creeds and races.

The article negatively referred to Abdur Raheem Green, Chairman and Speaker for iERA, as a ‘hard-line Islamic preacher’ an ‘Islamic radical’ and ‘hate preacher’. Such demeaning titles have been used without basis, referencing anti-Islamic groups such as the Quilliam Foundation and Stand for Peace, who are widely known in the Muslim community for their antagonistic anti-Muslim views.

More worryingly, there are gross inaccuracies in the report which I have highlighted at the end of this letter. Overall, the news fell short on several aspects of journalism:

1. It was unbalanced by not showing an opposing voice
2. IERA or ARG Green were not sought for any comment before or after the piece
3. The report contains gross inaccuracies which have no basis
4. IERA’s website has clarifications on such subjects as extremism, radicalisation and anti-semitism which should have been sought and referenced

iERA’s views are very clear and completely opposed to the suggestions made in the article. The speakers at the Eden event at Aston University have received clearance from Aston University security services for their appearance, highlighting that they are not perceived in the manner suggested in the article.

IERA and it’s speakers are in no way ‘radical’ as insinuated in the article but quite the opposite. They have openly spoken against violence, hate crime, anti-Semitism and extremism.

If such allegations were true then they would have been echoed by people in the police or government. No such clarifications were produced or obviously sought, since iERA do work directly with the Police, Councils and other such organisations on these issues.

Only recently, A.R. Green (Chairman and speaker for iERA) was at a community forum on 25th June in Solihull near Birmingham, where he spoke on a panel with members of the Birmingham/Solihull community and Metropolitan police against extremism and hate crimes. This information is openly available on our website for journalists who wish to research our work.

https://iera.org/general/iera-chairman-attends-solihull-community-event-speak-hate-crimes-extremism

An iERA speaker was also invited to a meeting last month with Portsmouth Council to help educate them on issues pertaining to the Muslim community. The community pages on the iERA website make very clear the work that we do and our encouragement for community cohesion.

Unfortunately, based on the above we have no choice but to raise an official complaint about the article with Ofcom.

The Birmingham Mail is well recognised for it’s journalism in the region and is part of the Mirror group which is a British Institution. It is therefore incredibly sad to see such reports being aired without being vetted in advance, Islamophobia is undoubtedly on the rise in the UK and such reporting can give rise to further hate crimes like that seen recently with the murder of Mohammed Saleem in Birmingham.

Comments left by readers of the article show how it can inflame tension and be used by opportunists to drive other readers to extreme groups like Britain First:

“Britain first.org are the only people doing something about these Muslim extremists.the government is to soft and scared of this religion.look at the britain first website and sign up today.”
(Reader comment posted on your website after the article)

We hope that the Birmingham Mail will:
1. Remove the article from the web immediately
2. Openly apologise for the inaccuracy of the report
3. Seek clarifications from iERA on any such comments in the future
4. Ensure that it does not use minority fringe groups as references for future reporting, where these groups do not reflect the views of the Muslim community or wider society. The newspaper has a duty to balance comments from such organisations with the predominant opposing view.

In future, please do not hesitate to contact us. We’d be happy to meet you or your colleagues in Birmingham, where we can discuss some of the productive means of encouraging community cohesion and combating hate crimes in the region.

Yours faithfully,

K. Ijaz
Acting CEO, iERA

———— Inaccuracies cited in Article ——————

1. The article states:

“Green, who is known to harbour aggressively anti-Semitic views,”

AR Green does not harbour any anti-Semitic views. This is made clear on Green’s personal website, where he has unambiguously stated in a set of clarifications:

“13. Anti-semitism is despicable and I condemn it and always have done. Such behaviour is not part of Islam. That does not preclude criticism of the errors in religion, or the actions of the nation state of Israel.

14. My attitude to all people whether Jewish, Christian, Hindu or other is that we should strive to live together in this country with mutual understanding and compassion and work together for the betterment of humanity. None of that precludes discussing, debating and articulating our differences where they exist, but we should strive for honesty and accuracy when doing that.”

http://www.islamsgreen.org/islams_green/2014/05/clarifications.html

From iERA’s perspective, our website states:

“We have a policy of vetting speakers and ensuring that they do not hold any views contrary to normative Islam held by the multitude of the 1.5 billion Muslims around the world.
We would like to formally express that we do not under any circumstances promote, condone or support racial hatred or destruction of the Jewish people. “

As an organisation, we categorically reject any claims of anti-Semitism, which is also highlighted in our Press Pack:

“In the past, iERA speakers have openly spoken about the need for all communities to live together with understanding and compassion, whether Muslims, Jews, Christians or other. Islam encourages us all to work together towards a better society.
These are the values that underpin the foundations and work of iERA. In this light, we would like to reaffirm our position that we condemn all forms of injustice and anti-Semitism.”

https://iera.org/media/press-pack/anti-semitism

2. The article then goes on to state that AR Green was:

“once banned from Australia”

AR Green has never been banned from Australia. This is grossly inaccurate and no evidence is provided to support this.

3. The article goes further and states that AR Green was:

“also banned from Canada”

Again, this is not the case and has no basis. No proof is brought forth to support this inaccuracy.

4. The article cites Stand For Peace and the Quilliam Foundation as leading counter-extremism groups. However, they are considered by many mainstream Islamic organisations as anti-Islamic groups and have no support from the Muslim community or the wider public. However, the article continuously quotes from these sources, without any qualification or counter opinion sought.

For example:

4a. The article openly quotes Quilliam spokesman Haras Rafiq as saying,

“These men are hate preachers. I’m very concerned about the likes of Abdur Raheem Green and Sulaiman Ghani because their views are divisive, anti-Semitic, racist and secular.
“They are very dangerous men who preach a radical strain of Islam the vast majority of Muslims would not recognise nor want to conform to.”

No opposing voice was given in the article or clarifications sought from the preachers, leaving a very biased single view in the article.

4b. The Quilliam Foundation is quoted as being highly critical of iERA. The article states:

“The Quilliam Foundation also expressed concern about event sponsors the Islamic Education and Research Academy (iERA).”

Again, iERA’s opinion has not been sought on any such comments.