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iERA Responds to sinister and misleading article in the Sunday Telegraph
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iERA Responds to sinister and misleading article in the Sunday Telegraph

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PRESS RELEASE – iERA Responds to sinister and misleading article in the Sunday Telegraph

London. iERA has responded to an article published today in The Sunday Telegraph entitled ‘Hate preachers ‘at schools, campuses and even scouts’. The article by Robert Mendick and Christopher Hope makes sinister, misleading and unsubstantiated comments about the charity and its speakers based upon a soon to be published report by a group with links to extreme right wing groups.

The Sunday Telegraph is well recognised for it’s journalism and is part of the long established British institution that is the Telegraph Media Group. It is therefore incredibly sad to see such reports being aired without being vetted in advance, stirring up anti-Muslim sentiment. Such reporting does not bode well for community cohesion and can be used by some elements in society to further exacerbate tensions within the UK.

The gross inaccuracies in the report have been highlighted to the Editor and newspaper, which is being followed up with a formal complaint to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO). iERA and its Chairman (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 highlighting all the positive community work that iERA is engaged in around the UK.

2. The article references an anti-Islamic group called Student Rights, who are widely known in the Muslim community and the wider society for their antagonistic anti-Muslim views and rhetoric.

3. A.R. Green and H. Tzotzis, who are accused of promoting hate, were not sought for any comment either before or after the piece.

4. The speakers’ websites have clarifications on such subjects as extremism, radicalisation and anti-semitism which should have been sought and referenced.

5. The article is written on the basis of a yet-to-be published report by a group that calls itself ‘Shariah Watch’, whose founder and leading activist, Anne Marie Waters, has been accused of collaborating with and indeed promoting extreme right wing organisations, such as the English Defence League (EDL).

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 promoting hate or radicalising young Muslims as insinuated in the article. Our speakers 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 to the Sunday Telegraph – 09.11.2014

Dear Mr MacGregor

I am writing regarding an article in The Sunday Telegraph today, 9th November, 2014.

The article by Robert Mendick and Christopher Hope (entitled ‘Hate preachers ‘at schools, campuses and event Scouts’) painted a very misleading and sinister picture of the Islamic Education and Research Academy (IERA), it’s Chairman and speakers. The article insinuates that iERA have ‘hate preachers’ who are inciting hatred and hold anti-semitic views, and tries to link this to the radicalisation of young Muslims travelling to Syria. It is worth mentioning that we were not informed of any link to Syria prior to the article being published, for if that were the case we could have directed the Telegraph to public statements by iERA and its associated speakers on the matter.

I was very disappointed to read the article. It is incredibly damaging about a well-respected, mainstream Muslim organisation that is at the forefront of promoting open dialogue about the Islamic faith to remove extreme stereotypical views of the Muslim community within the UK. A clear commitment to open dialogue can be seen by our work, for example iERA has hosted many proponents of Atheism, such as Prof. Lawrence Krauss to participate in public discussions. 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 mentions that iERA ‘has deployed speakers accused of promoting anti-semitism, homophobia, domestic violence and advocated the stoning to death of women who commit adultery. iERA and its speakers reject such false accusations. Our website and the speakers websites clarify any past statements. Many of the statements were taken out of context for which speakers have clarified on several occasions in person and in print.

The article references an anti-Islamic group called Student Rights, who are widely known in the Muslim community for their antagonistic anti-Muslim views. To add insult to injury, the article is written on the basis of a yet-to-be published report by a group that calls itself ‘Shariah Watch’, whose founder and leading activist, Anne Marie Waters, has been accused of collaborating with and indeed promoting extreme right wing organisations, such as the English Defence League (EDL). It is worth noting that the EDL has a history of clashing violently with local communities and the police, a fact highlighted, ironically by your paper.

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

1. It was unbalanced by not highlighting all the positive community work that iERA is engaged in around the UK.

2. The article references an anti-Islamic group called Student Rights, who are widely known in the Muslim community and the wider society for their antagonistic anti-Muslim views and rhetoric.

2.1. The article is written on the basis of a yet-to-be published report by a group led by Anne Marie Waters, who has been accused of collaborating with and indeed promoting extreme right wing organisations, such as the English Defence League.

3. A.R. Green and H. Tzotzis, who are accused of promoting hate, were not sought for any comment before or after the piece.

4. The speakers websites have 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 ‘extreme’ as insinuated in the article but quite the opposite. They have openly spoken against violence, hate crime, anti-Semitism and extremism. They are considered mainstream within the Muslim community, as can be evidenced by the sheer number of lectures they deliver not only at universities, but also at various other platforms including mosques.

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 from such parties, 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 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.

See iERA CHAIRMAN SPEAKS AGAINST HATE CRIMES AND EXTREMISM IN SOLIHULL 

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 IPSOC.

The Sunday Telegraph is well recognized for its journalism and is an established British Institution. It is therefore incredibly sad to see such reports being aired without being vetted in advance. Such reporting can give rise to further hate crimes like that seen recently with the murder of pensioner Mohammed Saleem in Birmingham or PhD student Nahid Al Manea in Colchester.

We hope that The Sunday Telegraph will:

1. Openly apologise for the inaccuracy of the report

2. Seek clarifications from speakers on any such comments in the future

3. 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 our PR Department or myself directly. We’d be happy to meet you or your colleagues, where we can discuss productive ways of encouraging community cohesion and combating hate crimes in the region.

Yours faithfully,

Saqib Sattar
Vice Chairman, iERA

Inaccuracies cited in the article

1. The article tries to assert that iERA speakers promote anti-semitism, highlighting a comment by AR Green over 20 years ago in an environment of heated debate in Hyde Park.

No clarification was sought from iERA or AR Green on this particular incident from over 20 years ago. 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.”

See CLARIFICATIONS

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.”

See iERA PRESS PACK: ANTI SEMITISM

2. We have not condoned domestic violence to women. This is an absurd accusation.

See iERA PRESS PACK

3. iERA does not promote homophobia. Again clarifications are available in our press pack.

See iERA PRESS PACK