Report highlights extremism concerns at UK universities

The organisation Sharia Watch UK has released a report into the influence of extremist Islam in British universities, amid controversy and claims of inaccuracy.

The report identifies 15 university students and speakers Sharia Watch claims to be associated with Muslim extremism and terrorism, but the Islamic Education & Research Academy (iERA) accuses it of making “sinister, misleading and unsubstantiated comments about the charity and its speakers”.

The iERA, a London-based organisation which the report extensively condemned, issued a scathing press release criticising The Sunday Telegraph for its coverage of the report.

The Sunday Telegraph’s article, “‘Hate preachers’ at schools, campuses and even Scouts”, has since been removed from its website, but iERA claims it is filing a formal complaint to the Independent Press Standards Organisation and is considering pursuing libel charges.

Sharia Watch UK is led by Anne Marie Waters, who launched the organisation in April.

Waters, now a prospective UKIP candidate, resigned from the party in an open letter last year, citing the party’s support for anti-hate speech legislation and multiculturalism as the cause.

iERA, founded by Abdur Raheem Green in 2009, outlines its mission on its website as “educating our society about Muslim values and explaining the noble message of Islam in order to facilitate greater community cohesion.”

Its website further states: “We would like to formally express that we do not under any circumstances promote, condone or support racial hatred or destruction of the Jewish people.”

Sharia Watch UK’s report, “Learning Jihad: Islamists in British Universities”, argues that tolerance and funding of Islamist extremism at British universities has led to “extremist anti-Semitic, anti-democratic, misogynist and homophobic speakers” and the radicalisation of young Muslims.

The report outlines criticism of iERA by the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, and quotes activist Hamza Tzortzis, associated with the iERA, as saying: “If someone’s going to fight against the community [Muslims] they should be killed.”

In its press release, iERA claimed this and other quotations by its activists had been taken out of context and inaccurately portrayed to associate them with extremism.

The report also criticises the University of Edinburgh’s Alwaleed Centre for being established by a £8 million grant from Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, of the Saudi Royal family, and claims its management committee contains appointees chosen by Prince Alwaleed. According to its website, the Centre is “committed to encouraging a better understanding of Islam and Islamic Culture through ground-breaking research and innovative outreach projects.”

The Centre is the second in the UK, following the creation of a centre at Cambridge University in 2008. It also has other centres at institutions in the United States,  including Georgetown and Harvard University, as well as institutions in Egypt and Lebanon. In a letter sent to The Sunday Telegraph,  Saqib Sattar, Vice Chairman of iERA, criticised the article for being factually inaccurate and relying on Sharia Watch UK’s report.

He wrote: “It is incredibly damaging about a well-respected, mainstream Muslim organisation that is at the forefront of promoting open dialogue about the Islamic faith to remove extreme stereotypical views of the Muslim community within the UK.”

iERA further requested The Sunday Telegraph to apologise for the article and seek clarification from its speakers on controversial comments in the future.

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