In the years Student Rights has been logging on-campus events featuring speakers with a history of extreme or intolerant views, February has stood out as one of the busiest months.
This appears to be in part due to the popularity of ‘Discover Islam Weeks’ during this month; the sheer number of events providing such speakers with increased opportunity to address students.
Titled ‘Antony to Abdurraheem, my Journey to Islam’, the talk was the final event of SOAS ISOC’s ‘Discover Islam Week’, which sought to encourage students to learn about “the religion and strengthen [their] faith”
IERA was banned from University College London (UCL) in 2013 for attempting to enforce gender segregation at an on-campus event.
It has also been investigated by the Charity Commission, which in January 2014 identified a number of regulatory issues, including concerns about the charity’s “approach and policies for organising events and inviting external speakers”.
It has also been reported that while preaching at Hyde Park Corner, Green called for a Jewish man to be removed from his sight, allegedly saying:“Why don’t you take the Yahoudi [Jew] over there, far away so his stench doesn’t disturb us?”
That an individual with a history of such views would be presented as a religious authority is deeply worrying, yet since Green’s appearance, at least four other events featuring speakers employed by IERA have taken place across the UK as part of ‘Discover Islam Weeks’, while one more featured former IERA staffer Adnan Rashid.
On 22nd February, Hamza Tzortzis appeared at the University of Birmingham as part of the Islamic Society’s ‘Discover Islam Week’.
The day after, he was advertised as speaking on-campus at Cardiff University, before travelling on to speak at Bristol University on the 25th and then appear at the University of Leicester on the 26th.
Tzortzis, whose proposed appearance at Keele University tomorrow was cancelled on 26th February, has claimed: “we as Muslims reject the idea of freedom of speech, and even the idea of freedom”, and suggested apostates who “fight against the community…should be killed”.
Despite his retraction of the comments relating to the execution of apostates, a student who challenged Tzortzis in October 2015 claimed Tzortzis “talked about how apostasy must be addressed with compassion whilst ostensibly covertly supporting punishment for it in an ideal Islamic society”.
Meanwhile, on the same day Tzortzis was speaking at Cardiff, IERA public speaker Subboor Ahmed was appearing on-campus at Bristol, while the IERA-affiliated speaker Adnan Rashid appeared at Bristol on 24th February.
Here at Student Rights, we believe that if speakers from IERA such as Green and Tzortzis are to be invited onto campus they must face challenge and simply cannot be presented as religious authorities in this way.
In an ideal world, students would challenge their beliefs, and universities must create environments which facilitate this process – building a culture in which people with a history of extreme views are subject to rigorous scrutiny rather than treated as speakers to learn from.