Student Rights has been monitoring extreme speakers on UK campuses since 2009 and has logged a significant number of events featuring Tzortzis, who has a history of intolerant statements.
On apostasy, he has said: “If someone’s going to fight against the community they should be killed”, and has also claimed: “we as Muslims reject the idea of freedom of speech, and even the idea of freedom”.
In September 2013 meanwhile, he railed against secular law and outlined a series of principles which would justify consummating marriage to a nine year old during a panel debate at Swinburne University in Melbourne.
Despite being promoted as an opportunity to discuss “rationality within Islam”, Tzortzis was given an unchallenged platform at Oxford Brookes during this event.
Therefore, it fell to students in the audience to challenge Tzortzis, with one audience member telling Student Rights that they had challenged his past statements on apostasy.
The questioner told Student Rights that Tzortzis responded by telling them to “check my website for my answer” – referring to clarifications he has published.
According to the same student, Tzortzis “then talked about how apostasy must be addressed with compassion whilst ostensibly covertly supporting punishment for it in an ideal Islamic society”.
If Tzortzis continues to support punishments for apostasy in his ideal state, this contradicts the clarification on his website, and makes it unclear what he truly believes.
Student Rights welcomes the fact that a student felt able to challenge Tzortzis on this occasion, as too often students are presented with speakers as religious or political authorities without such opportunity.
However, there is only so much one student can do, leaving many of Tzortzis’ previous positions unchallenged and his clarifications unscrutinised.
University campuses should be the best place to openly debate these controversial views, and we would urge those who choose to organise future events featuring Tzortzis to ensure he faces a balanced platform.