StandforPeace is in the middle of a long week. Working closely with Student Rights, and with student branches across the country, we are the first grassroots initiative to fight Islamism on our university campuses. StandforPeace is a new project - designed by students, policy makers and political activists – to bring moral clarity to the discussion of human rights, in particular with regards to the Middle East. We also exist to fight extremism in our universities, whether it is perpetuated by Islamist ideologues, the far right, the Palestinian Solidarity Movement or any of the delegitimisation network.
Only last week at Queen Mary’s University, Abu Usamah was the guest speaker. This is a man who has been recorded preaching that homosexuals should be ‘thrown off” cliffs, and that Christians and Jews are “pathological liars” and enemies of Islam.
We have been touring up and down the country, in the House of Commons and half a dozen universities, and with the support of both Jewish and Muslim students, to explain and challenge the Islamist threat.
In order to do this, we have employed a powerful weapon: the common sense, bravery, candour, humour and integrity of Raheel Raza – a Canadian Muslim, author of ‘Their Jihad, Not My Jihad’, journalist, human rights activist, women’s rights activist and anti-extremist speaker.
Mrs Raza is an extraordinary lady. Not only does she completely understand the threat that the well organised Islamist movements - and their naïve/morally anaemic apologists - pose to Europe and Western ideals of liberty and democracy, but she recognises exactly how this ideology of hate spreads, and how it must be stopped. In Canada, they face similar problems, if only a bit less severe, and by learning and acting upon the lessons taught by Mrs Raza, the battle will be won.
Mrs Raza infuriates a large number of Islamists and people on the Left because she believes in Israel’s right to exist. I do not need to state on this site the idiosyncrasy of someone sticking his or her neck out to defend a country’s right to exist. She will be addressing a conference later this year in Israel at the invitation of Shimon Peres himself.
While we have been met with a small degree of belligerency and hostility everywhere, it was unexpectedly at the University of York where we faced the greatest opposition. I say unexpectedly because for the most part the University of York has been an extremely quite and somewhat apolitical campus, and certainly without any noticeable Islamist problem. In the last few years, this state of affairs has changed.
York is the town that contains Clifford’s Tower, where on 16 March 1190 a mob burnt alive some 150 Jews. The town itself includes a very efficient Palestinian Solidarity branch, whose members are more or less the same as those who run the Viva Palestina branch. A variety of hateful speakers address their meetings, and the Palestinian Solidarity movement on campus echoed this. However in comparison to other campuses, York has been fairly tranquil.
The mosque in York, used by Muslim students at the university, is a branch of the UK Islamic Mission (displayed proudly on their website). The UK Islamic Mission supports the Islamist organisation Jamaat-e-Islami. A Harry’s Place post notes the speakers it has hosted:
“From October 22 to 31 it will run a fundraising drive at ten events up and down the country featuring two Jamaat leaders. They are Qazi Hussain Ahmed, a former president of Jamaat-e-Islami who also headed the MMA, an alliance of Pakistani religious parties, and Siraj ul-Haq, a regional leader in the North-West Frontier Province.”
The Pakistan Daily Times notes of Qazi Hussain Ahmed, “He also said Bin Laden could not have carried out the 9/11 attacks because he lacked the “ability”; he said the Jews had done it, first giving the day off to all Jews working in the World Trade Centre.”
Ahmed has also said, ‘I salute the girl who killed five American soldiers in a suicide attack in Iraq,” referring to an attack late on Saturday on an allied military checkpoint.’
Despite the dangerous connections of the York Mosque, there has been no noticeable Islamist problem at York, and previous Islamic Society members, many of whom are good friends of mine, have been extremely progressive.
It started on Tuesday night, when we had an event at the LSE, at which Jewish, Muslim and the typical liberal students expressed their support. Some members of the Islamic Society however, were far less impressed. Two in particular, one with a full replica Taliban beard, and another who was desperately trying to grow a full Taliban beard, challenged our speaker on number of points. They were trying to draw her into politicising the discussion with the Middle East, rather than addressing the issue of Islamism itself. After dismissing their obsession with the US and Israel as a distraction from the threat Islamism that ‘perpetuates a victim ideology’, Raheel asked, “Have you ever invited a radical speaker?”
“No, of course not” the bearded students angelically replied.
“And you always check their credentials? You know what they have said, and with whom they have worked?”
“Always!” beamed the innocent men. “In fact, only next Monday we will have Hamza Tzortzis speaking, which you must please all attend!”
We challenged the decision to host Hizb-ut-Tahrir linked Islamist Hamza Tzortzis, at which point one of the two students waved his hands in shocked détente, “No, no, no, no, no – he’s a lovely guy! Come along and you’ll see.”
StandforPeace does not and will never believe that a free society should preclude its citizens from growing a beard – indeed, we believe in the inalienable rights for a person to cultivate all manner of facial hair. StandforPeace does however believe that Hamza Tzortzis is a person linked to the most despicable of ideas and rhetoric of hate, and that some of the members of LSE Islamic Society either have an Islamist agenda or are at least guilty of a deeply reckless naivety.
Tzortzis, who recently spoke at the University of Birmingham with the Hezbollah supporter Norman Finkelstein, released a statement in response to a CSC report (download PDF); the latter of which detailed his links to Hizb-ut-Tahrir. In his statement, Tzortzis admitted that he had “been associated with the Hizb ut Tahrir in the past”.
Tzortzis used to work for the hard-line Hittin Institute and is closely linked to the Islamic Education and Research Agency (IERA), an umbrella organisation that has hosted a number of British Muslim extremists who espouse hatred against homosexuals and Jews, and oppose democracy. This cross-post by Richard James at Harry’s Place provides an excellent and comprehensive summary of Tzortzis.
Consequently, I was not at all happy when the University of York’s Islamic Society hosted Tzortzis in January. They were fully aware of his links to the IERA, as the publicity for the event stated that he is “a senior lecturer and researcher for IERA”
Before introducing Raheel Raza, I rebuked the Islamic Society for inviting Tzortzis and attacked the Union for so blithely approving his visit. Raheel also condemned the invitation, and citing her gratitude for the freedoms that the West provides her to practise her faith, quoted Tzortzis: “We as Muslims reject the idea of freedom of speech, and even the idea of freedom. We see under the Khilafa (caliphate), when people used to engage in a positive way, this idea of freedom was redundant.”
After the talk, there was a series of questions by persons who claimed they were unable to speak out against Islamism because of the ‘imperialism’ of the West in Muslim lands, including Israel’s ‘occupying forces’. Raheel Raza instantly overruled such statements by asking of the members of the audience in question: where were they when Pakistan killed off its religious minorities, both Christian and Jewish? And did they protest when the Jordanian government killed thousands of Palestinians during Black September?
After the questions, I was approached by furious members of the Islamic Society and Professor El Gomati, a lecturer and student counsellor at the University. One student pompously informed me that she was a lawyer and that I was guilty of defamation. El Gomati asked me why I insisted upon saying such abhorrent things about Tzortzis. got into some trouble two years ago when he decided to waddle around York taking photos of a picture where the then-Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was wearing a witches hat and holding a wand with the star of David attached. The witch is drawn to be saying ‘Anti-Semitic! Anti-Semitic! Anti-Semitic!’, while thinking ‘Oh, ****!! They No Longer Fear The Magic Word’. Collingwood''s actions were deemed racist and deeply offensive by students and members of the local Jewish community.Student counsellors seem to have made a habit of intolerance at the University of York. Andrew Collingwood, a ''harassment advisor'' to students,
This week marks the beginning of the fight back. The episode at the University, while relatively inconsequential, was also extremely telling. Raheel has spoken consistently of the need for the work against extremism to be done from inside the Muslim community. We do not just face Islamists at our universities, but we face the amoral apologists for Islamism, and a generation of students and faculty members in states of denial. The victim mentality obfuscates everyone''s attempts to fight the rhetoric of hate that emerges from the Islamist movements – it is an uphill struggle, but the Muslim and Jewish students who represent StandforPeace are fighting anyway, and slowly we are gaining ground.