By Elham Asaad Buaras
The University of London (UoL) has been accused of acting “seriously unprofessional and at worst severely Islamophobic” after it barred two Muslim speakers from taking part in a private conference.
Islamic Education and Research Academy (iERA) members Abdurraheem Green and Hamza Tzortzis were due to take part in a conference titled International Summit of Essential Expert Knowledge when organisers say they were notified two days before the event was due to take place on September 21, that their event could not take place unless “two particular speakers” were removed from the speakers list.
Organisers Knowledge Network Ongoing Wisdom (KN-OW) insist they were in frequent communication with UoL throughout their planning process and had informed the venue of exactly what would be happening at their event.
UoL were given full details of all speakers and talks months in advance and they had approved the speakers by email a spokesman for KN-OW told The Muslim News.
KN-OW say, “On the morning of September 19, without any discussions or concerns being aired with the organisers, UoL issued an ultimatum, stating that the event was cancelled unless the organisers could guarantee ‘…that both Abraham (sic) Green and Hamza Tzortzis will not be addressing the conference either in person, by video link or pre recorded message, and that neither of them will attend the conference in person.’”
KN-OW insist they were not given “valid reason for them to remove speakers from the programme.”
UoL initially stated KN-OW “have been informed by the University that the event cannot take place at Senate House as planned in the light of information received by the Metropolitan Police about two of the proposed contributors.”
Both KN-OW and iERA say UoL refused to elaborate on the police advice.
In a statement to The Muslim News a spokesman for UoL said, “In view of the controversy surrounding the keynote speaker, which the University did not know about until three days before the event was due to take place, the University asked the organisers if they would consider removing him from the programme rather than have to withdraw its facilities. The organisers refused and instead decided to cancel the event.”
They added; “The University has a duty of care to its staff, students and visitors, and in fulfilling this duty sought advice from the police, following which it approached the organisers with its request to remove one of the two key speakers from the programme, one of which was due to address via video link.”
KN-OW lambasted that explanation insisting that without an understanding of how the speakers provoked “‘sufficient concern’ to the safety of staff, students and visitors to cancel the booking, we feel that this is an unacceptable decision as both Green and Tzortzis are mainstream speakers who have been delivering lectures at universities all over the country for over 20 years.”
“In this instance, reputation has been given as a reason for restricting the speakers. And we feel that ultimately UoL took a decision to cancel the event without caring to discuss their concerns regarding a perceived threat to safety and reputation adequately with the organisers. At best their actions have been seriously unprofessional and at worst may be seen as severely Islamophobic.”