Dear Prime Minister David Cameron and Member of Parliament Jo Johnson,
My name is Hamza Andreas Tzortzis and I am writing this letter to fulfil the objective of correcting your perception about my views and my work.
I was particularly bemused when I noticed my name on a recent government press release entitled PM’s Extremism Taskforce: tackling extremism in universities and colleges top of the agenda. It was cleverly (and legally) worded, as it didn’t directly accuse me of anything apart from once espousing views that may have been contrary to what you consider as British values. However, an untrained eye could have misconstrued the content as accusing me of currently being an “extremist”.
In light of the above, I thought it was necessary to introduce my work in the context of British values. Before I do this though, I would like to make it clear that I love my country. Britain is my home, and l care for my fellow citizens. At home, I teach my children the values of compassion, tolerance, respect of other faiths and doing good to their fellow humans. As well as having universal appeal, these values are grounded in orthodox Islamic teachings. I feel this is absolutely necessary as their friends, grandparents and family members are not Muslim, and I have a duty to teach them these values so they can live peaceful, productive and tranquil lives.
In the press release you mentioned that I had previously said things that could have been misconstrued in a negative way. However, I have clarified and or retracted these statements publicly on my website. People are on different stages in their journey of self-discovery and Britain should be a space where people can express themselves, be challenged and debate; which can lead to people refining their ideas and changing directions, and that includes you Mr Cameron. In the past few years I have maintained that the Muslim community must compassionately articulate a cogent case for Islam. This peaceful outreach and dialogue is necessary for community cohesion. The simple maxim is; you cannot connect with a group of people you know nothing about. To be honest, if you look at my social media profile, I believe I have mentioned compassion more times then the Dalai Lama himself. This is not a deliberate public relations strategy; it is a result of my conviction in Islam’s foundations which is based on compassion for all. At university campuses my work focuses on philosophy, Islamic thought and the rational foundations of Islam. So I found it quite sad that my work has been misrepresented because of a few statements I made in the past. In actually fact, my work at university campuses has promoted debate, dialogue, compassion and positive community relations.
Case in point, there are local Prevent officers that can verify the above. They attended university events that I spoke at earlier this year, these included Portsmouth, Southampton and Bristol Universities. I had the chance to meet and speak to some of them, and I think you should speak to them too. I am certain they will convey nothing but positive feedback. My work on university campuses has received endorsements and positive feedback from distinguished academics. At Southampton University the Pro Vice Chancellor, who chaired my Does Morality Need God? lecture, provided the following feedback:
“I think it’s very important that on campus we could have people espousing ideas, matters of faith, diverse opinions and have an honest and robust discussion about it. I am delighted with how Hamza’s lecture tonight went and a broad range of questions, and a very engaging discussion afterwards. I was very happy.”
I have also received a public endorsement from Chair of Moral Philosophy at Trinity College Dublin:
“On several occasions I have engaged with Hamza Tzortzis in public discussion about the issue of theism versus atheism, and the implications of taking one side or the other in the debate. At all times I have found him to be an articulate, well-informed and challenging debater, yet at the same time someone who is restrained, respectful and affable in discussion. There has been in our discussions none of the rancour that often mars debates in this area. While reserving the right to disagree with him, I am happy to endorse him as an honest and engaging speaker and debater on theism, Islam, morality and society, one in whose company it is a pleasure to exchange views.”
On the topic of British values, including the government’s conception of them, I think I am the only Muslim speaker to have written a comprehensive essay on the topic. The article concludes,
“In this article, we have shown that there seems to be an overlap between the Government’s idea of what British values are and Islamic values. We have been consistently advising and empowering the Muslim community to not only practice these values, but compassionately and peacefully articulate them to the wider society. We strongly believe that another core British value that must be included in the Government’s list is compassion.”
My work is not restricted to writing. I was recently invited by the assistant headteacher from Hayes School in Bromley to deliver a series of short presentations on Islam and British values. The pupils left the workshops understanding the definition of values, what British values are, and how Islamic teachings are aligned with these values. Due to the pluralist nature of British society, they understood the need for dialogue and discussion on the different conceptions and applications of these values. I told the group of pupils:
“We are going to talk about Islam now…and we are going to relate it to these values. To show that Muslims who believe in Islam are inline with core British values.”
As you know, I am the Head of Education and Research at the Islamic Education and Research Academy (iERA), who have established its community development department called One Community. One of the key aims of this department is to ensure that its speakers, volunteers and the people it inspires, to positively contribute to society. Some of the projects One Community are currently working on include blood donation, campaigning against climate change, elderly care, random acts of kindness and feeding the homeless.
I know we live in a climate of fear, hate and deliberate misrepresentations (as you have recently experienced). This is why I felt it was important to write this letter to you.
In light of the above, I am sure you will conclude that the work that I am involved in is actually good for our universities and society as a whole.
Please do not hesitate to contact me at any time should you require any further clarification.
Hamza Andreas Tzortzis.
 Feedback from Pro Vice Chancellor of Uni. of Southampton after an iERA Lecture – https://www.youtube.com/watch?
 Distinguished Professor Endorses Hamza Tzortzis – http://www.iera.org/community/
 Is Islam Compatible With British Values? – http://www.iera.org/research/
 The audio recording is available on request.
 Please see www.ouronecommunity.com.