Last updated 13 May 2013
“Have you not considered how God presents an example, [making] a good word like a good tree, whose root is firmly fixed and its branches [high] in the sky? It produces its fruit all the time, by permission of its Lord. And God presents examples for the people that perhaps they will be reminded. And the example of a bad word is like a bad tree, uprooted from the surface of the earth, not having any stability. God keeps firm those who believe, with the firm word, in worldly life and in the Hereafter. And God sends astray the wrongdoers. And God does what He wills.” Qur’an 14: 24 – 27
In an ideal world one would love to believe that journalism is in the business of disseminating the truth, articulating facts and presenting a balanced opinion. Unfortunately, many journalists have deviated from these lofty aims and have fallen prey to using distortions and fabrications to boost the sales of their newspapers. On 13 May 2013 The Times published a front page article entitled “Extremists Preaching to Students in Britain”. The article is based on a report written by the discredited group Student Rights. The report has been heavily criticised by mainstream Muslims and non-Muslims. For instance, Pete Mercer, vice-president welfare officer for the National Union of Students dubbed the report a “witch-hunt”.
The article misrepresents the views of many popular mainstream lecturers and speakers on Islam. Nico Hines, the author of the piece, makes the following assertions concerning Hamza Andreas Tzortzis:
1. Former member of Hizb ut-Tahrir
2. Implied Support of Enforced Gender Segregation
3. Criticism of Gay Rights Activists
4. Favours a Brutal System of Shariah (Islamic Law)
5. Opposing Freedom of Speech
6. Quasi Link to the Boston Bomber
It is unfortunate that Hines refused to be fair, balanced and just. Hines’s lazy journalism overlooked the fact that most of these issues have been addressed and clarified on Tzortzis’s website. Tzortzis does not reject the concept of freedom of speech, has not been involved in events that enforced gender segregation, and does not criticise Gay rights activists. Tzortzis promotes peace and compassion, rejects all forms of terrorism, and has made various public statements on this issue. Concerning favouring a brutal system of Islamic law, Tzortzis asserts that this is a gross misrepresentation.
Tzortzis, including the majority of peace-loving Muslims, completely reject the accusation that Islamic law is brutal. The few penal laws serve as a deterrent to ward off the occurrence of crime in society. To contextualise this further, Islamic law requires higher burdens of proof for conviction compared to the liberal tradition of ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. For example, there are many preconditions for the punishment for theft to be applied. Professor of Law at Harvard University Noah Feldman states, “Today, when we invoke the harsh punishments prescribed by Shariah for a handful of offences, we rarely acknowledge the high standards of proof necessary for their implementation.” In this regard the Prophet Muhammad (upon whom be peace) said, “…if a person has a way [e.g., alibi, an excuse] let them go for it is better for a judge to make a mistake in dismissing charges than in applying the punishment on an innocent.” Islamic law considers certainty as one of the criteria for passing criminal judgements.
However, Tzortzis maintains that dialogue and discussion is the only means to clarify our perspectives on these issues. He always advocates that Muslims should obey the law of their respective countries and positively engage with the wider society via compassion and love. An important point to raise, is that Islamic law is mostly concerned with values rather than dealing with a handful of criminal offences. For instance the Qur’an states,
“Yet he [human being] has not attempted the steep path. What will explain to you what the steep path is? It is to free a slave, or to feed at a time of hunger – an orphaned relative or a poor person in distress – and to be one of those who believe and urge one another to steadfastness and compassion.” Qur’an 90: 11 – 17
Hines also seems to have misrepresented the work that Tzortzis is involved in. The majority of Tzortzis’s lectures and debates focus on the rational foundations of the Islamic world-view, and seldom does he speak on issues related to politics and society. However, in the instances that Tzortzis has spoken on these issues he has always argued that our duty is to live peacefully as compassionate engaged citizens, and to humbly provide a sense of moral leadership.
The article claims to have attempted to contact the speakers. Hamza Andreas Tzortzis to this date has not received any communication by Nico Hines or The Times. Other agencies have also reported The Times‘s distortions and fabrications, these include The Sun, The Telegraph, The BBC and The Independent. Thus in light of the above, Tzortzis would still like to give The Times and Nico Hines the benefit of the doubt and invite them for lunch to clarify these issues and create a space for open, frank and nuanced dialogue. To accept this invitation they can contact Tzortzis here. This invitation is also open to all concerned media agencies.
“And not equal are the good deed and the bad. Repel evil by that deed which is better; and thereupon the one whom between you and him is enmity will become as though he was a devoted friend.” Qur’an 41:34
 ‘Abd ar-Rahman I. Doi revised and expanded by ‘Abdassamad Clarke. Shari’ah: Islamic Law. Ta-Ha. 2008. p 2388-390.
Reported by Al Tirmidhi in his Sunan