iERA (Islamic Education and Research Academy) is an Islamic missionary group founded in the United Kingdom by Anthony ("Abdur Raheem") Green in 2009 for proselytizing Islam. The iERA has been characterised as a hate group by some anti-religious organisations and pundits. iERA has denied these accusations.
iERA is registered as a charity in the UK. In addition, the charity was incorporated as a company on 23 June 2009. The charity is a company limited by guarantee. It has no share capital. (There was also a private limited company called "Islamic Education and Research Academy Ltd" ran by the same people who run iERA, which was registered as a company on 23 December 2008 as company number 06778858, and dissolved on 24 September 2013.)
In the year ending 30 June 2015, the charity's income and expenditure were as follows:
- Income: £657,892, made up of:
- Voluntary: £637.8k
- Charitable activities: £20.0k
- Spending: £634,946, made up of:
- Generating voluntary income: £140.2k
- Charitable activities: £463.7k
- Governance £31.0k
Board of trustees
As a UK charity, iERA has registered trustees. The trustees in the period 2010 to 2016 were:
- Mr Anthony Waclaw G Green, chairman. Green is also known as "Abdurraheem Green".
- Mr Saqib Jameel Sattar, vice-chairman.
- Mr Nasser Ali Khan.
- Mr Tim J Chambers, listed as company secretary in the 2010-11, 2011-12 and 2013-14 accounts. Resigned 24 April 2015. Chambers is also known as "Yusuf Chambers".
- Mr KI Hussain. Retired/resigned 4 April 2014.
- Mrs SK Mirza, 2010-11 and 2011-12 accounts only.
- Ms S Mehdi, 2010-11 and 2011-12 accounts only.
The board of trustees oversee the running of the charity. They are not paid for their work as trustees (though did receive travel and subsistence expenses). The trustees are also directors of iERA for the purpose of company law. The charity pays staff and consultants to do the work of the charity. The charity has paid for the professional services of three of the trustees, and of the sister of one of the trustees.
Advisory board members
- Zakir Naik was at one time an advisor to the iERA. Zakir Naik has publicly said that all Muslims should be terrorists and was banned from both Canada and the United Kingdom for his inflammatory comments. His speeches were also posted to the YouTube channel The Merciful Servant which Tamerlan Tsarnaev followed in the months before the Boston Marathon bombing. He has also been the subject of a fatwa that argues his teachings are un-Islamic and contradict the Koran.
- Bilal Philips is or was an advisor to iERA. He has been banned or deported from Kenya, Germany, America, Australia, and Britain. He was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
In September 2012 iERA wrote a lengthy critique challenging writer Tom Holland's Channel 4 documentary Islam: The Untold Story that questioned parts of the story of the origins of Islam. The Islamic Education and Research Academy said it was "historically inaccurate" and "clearly biased".
iERA projects its message in two main ways. One is by acting as a proactive organization, facilitating missionary activities to promote Islam. The other is by serving as an aggregating organization which coordinates and pays its affiliate preachers. iERA does not have a stated constitution, but the core group, and affiliates that it aggregates, all tend to have ideas centered on the beliefs of Islamist organizations and hate groups such as Hizb ut Tahrir and of Wahaabi and Salafi Islam as a whole.
Criticism and controversy
Seating arrangements at UCL
iERA, under its platform The Big Debates, organised a debate on 9 March 2013 in a room iERA hired at University College London (UCL) between Lawrence Krauss and Hamza Andreas Tzortzis entitled "Islam or Atheism: Which Makes More Sense?". IERA’s original intentions were to segregate the audience by gender. This was directly contrary to UCL policy, and UCL required the organisers to make it explicit to attendees that seating arrangements were optional, and guests were welcome to sit wherever they felt comfortable. However, UCL was notified by some individuals that attempts were made to enforce segregation at the meeting. Krauss was quoted on Twitter as saying that he almost "walked out of IERA debate as it ended up segregated." However, the debate went ahead as planned after seating arrangements were discarded.
Zayd Tutton of the iERA disputed Krauss' account of events. Speaking to the Huffington Post UK, he said: "There were three sections as agreed with UCL prior to the debate. This was agreed clearly with UCL representatives. Muslim women choosing to adhere to orthodox Islamic principles in sitting in their own area had their own section. As for those who wanted to sit together, male or female, they had their own section where they freely mixed and sat together from the beginning." Tutton also said the "three kids" mentioned by Krauss were in fact two men who forcibly tried to sit in the female section.
He said: "When arguing it was about sitting in any area in the auditorium, they were offered an entirely free aisle in the aforementioned Muslim female section, but insisted that they wanted to sit in between the Muslim females, with a view to offending their religious beliefs".
iERA has been banned from holding events at UCL, which concluded that iERA: "had attempted to enforce segregation at the debate on 9 March" 2013. UCL released a statement stating: "We do not allow enforced segregation on any grounds [but] it now appears that, despite our clear instructions, attempts were made to enforce segregation at the meeting". The statement went on to say that: "... their interests are contrary to UCL's ethos and that we should not allow any further events involving them to take place on UCL premises".
A report from Universities UK states: "concerns to accommodate the wishes or beliefs of those opposed to segregation should not result in a religious group being prevented from having a debate in accordance with its belief system ... if imposing an unsegregated seating area in addition to the segregated areas contravenes the genuinely held religious beliefs of the group hosting the event, or those of the speaker, the institution should be mindful to ensure that the freedom of speech of the religious group or speaker is not curtailed unlawfully."
Charities Commission investigation
In 2014, the Charity Commission started investigating the IERA over a number of “regulatory issues” surrounding its policies for organising events and inviting external speakers. The Telegraph wrote that the iERA was being investigated by the Charity Commission: "amid allegations that its leaders promote anti-Semitism and have called for homosexuals and female adulterers to be stoned to death".
On May 19, 2014, the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) released a 44-page report that contains direct quotes from iERA staff and guest speakers condoning female genital mutilation, the killing of apostates from Islam, the death penalty for homosexuality, and wife beating. iERA has posted a response to the report arguing it is: "filled with spin and statements deliberately taken out of context, it is designed to sensationalise and misrepresent."
On 30 November 2014, the The Daily Telegraph reported that the iERA was: "closely linked to a number of the 'Portsmouth jihadis', who were six young men from the Hampshire city who travelled together to fight for Islamic State (ISIL) in Syria". The report called Green an "extremist preacher". It noted that the iERA denied that the Portsmouth group were part of the iERA organisation, but added: "However, Portsmouth Dawah Team members, including Hassan and Jaman, dressed in IERA T-shirts to proseltyse and used IERA banners and literature on their street stall. The group was last year described by Mission Dawah, part of IERA, as 'our team from Portsmouth'". iERA responded that anyone could obtain those T-shirts as part of its campaigns. In addition iERA later wrote an open letter to the editor challenging the report, saying that Andrew Gilligan, the Daily Telegraph reporter, quoted its speakers out of context and was: "fuelling an atmosphere of hate and fear of Muslims".
In 2012 Green was barred from speaking at the Emirates Stadium following community concern and, in 2015, "after concern from the local community, including local Jewish people", he was banned from St. James's Park.
Controversial leaders and speakers
Hamza Tzortzis was chairman of the launch event of iERA. Tzortzis was a former member of Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain.The Telegraph says that Tzortzis "has called for an Islamic state, expressed his hostility towards Western values and stated that: 'We as Muslims reject the idea of freedom of speech, and even of freedom.' He is a former researcher for the hardline Hittin Institute and chaired the launch event of iERA, an umbrella organisation hosting many well-known British Muslim extremists who preach opposition to democracy and hatred against homosexuals and Jews." Noting that Keele University had cancelled a speech by Tzortzis, in 2016 the Stoke Sentinel called him a "radical Islamic speaker ... a former member of the radical group Hizb ut-Tahrir which believes in the idea of an Islamic state ... who supports Sharia law ... [and has] also been linked to controversial comments on homosexuality and a series of other issues." According to Metro, Tzortzis has "claimed that those who leave the Islamic faith 'should be killed.'"