Home Press Releases A Response to Student Rights’ & Henry Jackson Society’s “Preventing Prevent?” Report
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A Response to Student Rights’ & Henry Jackson Society’s “Preventing Prevent?” Report

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A recent report published by Rupert Sutton of Student Rights entitled ‘Preventing Prevent?’ analysed the activities of alleged “extremist” organisations and speakers on UK university campuses. The report argues that the most frequent incidents in which students are exposed to extremism are when speakers with a history of extreme or intolerant views, or with a history of involvement with extremist organisations, are invited onto campuses. The report suggests that a number of graduates of UK universities involved in terrorism-related offences were partly radicalised during their studies. It also addresses the delivery of the government’s counter-terrorism Prevent strategy, as well as its criticisms, and recommendations for its future implementation.

The report mentions the Islamic Education and Research Academy (iERA), and it’s head of Education and Research, Hamza Andreas Tzortzis. There are a number of misrepresentations and inconsistencies present throughout the report:

1. Extremism:

The report falsely implies that iERA is an extremist organisation. iERA’s work focuses on empowering the Muslim community to educate their fellow citizens on the intellectual, tolerant and merciful message of Islam. Since its inception, iERA has trained over 40,000 Muslims and not once has it expressed messages of hate and intolerance. In fact, iERA’s lectures, training and writings are available to all to scrutinise. iERA has an anti-extremism policy which has been accepted by the Charity Commission, and all of its trustees, staff, speakers and volunteers have signed the document. Therefore, the accusation that iERA and its speakers are extremists is completely false.

iERA’s work on university campuses has received endorsements and positive feedback from distinguished academics. Pro Vice Chancellor of University of Southampton, chaired Hamza Andreas Tzortzis’ lecture ‘Does Morality Need God?’ and provided the following feedback:

“I think it’s very important that on campus we could have people espousing ideas, matters of faith, diverse opinions and have an honest and robust discussion about it. I am delighted with how Hamza’s lecture tonight went and a broad range of questions, and a very engaging discussion afterwards. I was very happy.” [1]

Mr Tzortzis has also received a public endorsement from Chair of Moral Philosophy at Trinity College Dublin:

“On several occasions I have engaged with Hamza Tzortzis in public discussion about the issue of theism versus atheism, and the implications of taking one side or the other in the debate. At all times I have found him to be an articulate, well-informed and challenging debater, yet at the same time someone who is restrained, respectful and affable in discussion. There has been in our discussions none of the rancour that often mars debates in this area. While reserving the right to disagree with him, I am happy to endorse him as an honest and engaging speaker and debater on theism, Islam, morality and society, one in whose company it is a pleasure to exchange views.” [2]

The current government’s definition of extremism is a rejection of British values. These values include:

• Belief in democracy
• The rule of law
• Individual liberty
• Mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs

iERA has written an article on this topic showing how these values correlate to Islamic teachings. The article concludes:

“In this article, we have shown that there seems to be an overlap between the Government’s idea of what British values are and Islamic values. We have been consistently advising and empowering the Muslim community to not only practice these values, but compassionately and peacefully articulate them to the wider society. We strongly believe that another core British value that must be included in the Government’s list is compassion.” [3]

Part of iERA’s work also includes visiting schools and teaching pupils that Muslims who take their faith seriously can live peacefully and harmoniously within British society. Last week, Hamza Andreas Tzortzis was invited by the assistant headteacher from Hayes School in Bromley to deliver a series of short presentations on Islam and British values. The pupils left the workshops understanding the definition of values, what British values are, and how Islamic teachings are aligned with these values. They also understood the need for dialogue and discussion around the different conceptions and applications of these values based on the pluralist nature of British society. Mr Tzortzis told the group of pupils:

“We are going to talk about Islam now…and we are going to relate it to these values. To show that Muslims who believe in Islam are inline with core British values.” [4]

iERA continues to educate the public on Islamic teachings in a peaceful and tolerant manner. In light of the above the report grossly misrepresents iERA and its speakers.

2. Previous retracted and clarified statements:

The report regurgitates old, clarified and outdated statements made by some of its speakers. We strongly recommend the author to represent iERA speakers’ current mainstream views, and not to selectively quote and misrepresent what they have said. The report focuses on Mr Tzortzis’ statements on apostasy and freedom of speech. These statements have been retracted and clarified on his website, which can be read here and here.

3. Islamic State:

The report falsely maintains that at least two of “iERA’s members” have since been killed fighting for the group known as “Islamic State”, in Syria. This accusation has been rebutted in a previous press release:

“iERA would like to make it clear that none of the Portsmouth group are part of the iERA organisation. iERA supports local community teams and individuals by providing basic literature and t-shirts to help in creating Islamic awareness and in supporting local community engagement. iERA is not responsible for the acts of any teams or any individuals that order our material online.

iERA has openly spoken out against violence, hate crime and extremism and works with the Police, Councils and other such organisations on these issues.” [5]

iERA has publicly spoken and written against the Islamic State group, explaining how its is un-Islamic. For example one their essays on the topic, How Islamic is the ‘Islamic State’?, can be read here. [6]

In light of the above the report is poorly researched, and once again, misrepresents iERA’s views.

4. Aims of iERA:

The report claims that the iERA have admitted that the aim of its on-campus training is to recruit students. There is nothing sinister about this aim as iERA seeks to empower Muslims to articulate a compassionate and intelligent case for Islam.

iERA have established its community development department ‘One Community’. One of the key aims of this department is to ensure that iERA’s speakers, volunteers and the people it inspires positively contribute to society. Some of the projects it is working on involves blood donation, campaigning against climate change, elderly care, feeding the homeless, and the Against Racism, Against Hatred campaign.

The report grossly misrepresents iERA and its work. iERA would like to invite Student Rights and the Henry Jackson Society to engage in warm dialogue. They both were previously invited to attend two of iERA events under the Don’t Hate, Debate! campaign; unfortunately iERA did not receive a reply.

iERA hopes that they are now willing to engage in productive and positive dialogue.

[1] Feedback from Pro Vice Chancellor of Uni. of Southampton after an iERA Lecture – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QhivqV4nxcU
[2] Distinguished Professor Endorses Hamza Tzortzis – https://iera.org/community/distinguished-professor-endorses-iera-lecturer-hamza-tzortzis.
[3] Is Islam Compatible With British Values? – https://iera.org/research/essays-articles/is-islam-compatible-with-british-values
[4] The audio recording is available on request.
[5] iERA responds to report about the death of Portsmouth men in Syria- https://iera.org/media/press-releases/iera-responds-recent-report-death-portsmouth-men-syria
[6] How Islamic Is The Islamic State? – https://iera.org/research/essays-articles/how-islamic-is-the-islamic-state