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Written by Student Rights on 20 September 2013 at 2pm

University of London cancels conference after Police warning

UPDATE: Abu Ja'far Al Hanbali claims he pulled out of this conference prior to its cancellation once he realised the nature of many of the individuals at the event.

Several weeks ago Student Rights’ monitoring programme logged an event due to take place at Senate House, the administrative centre of the University of London, which has today been cancelled.

Organised by Knowledge Network – Ongoing Wisdom (KN-OW), which describes itself as “empowering people seeking the truth with insight, expertise and support to tackle the deception in the world today”, the event raised a number of concerns.

Chief amongst these was the nature of several of the speakers, with both Hamza Tzortzis and Riyadh Ul-Haq due to attend.

Ul-Haq has warned against integration, and in 2000 claimed that the Taliban were “…the only group of people upon the earth who are establishing the Sharia and the law of Allah

On 17 September it was announced that Tzortzis and Ul-Haq would be unable to attend the event, yet the bill still included Tzortzis’ superior at the Islamic Education and Research Academy (IERA) Abdurraheem Green, and a video address from Trinidadian Sheikh Imran Hosein.

Green has been criticised in the past for claiming that “Islam is not compatible with democracy" and that a husband may use "physical force... a very light beating" against his wife.

In 2006 he was recorded suggesting that the buildings attacked on 9/11 fell too quickly and that they may have been demolished, and that “one way or another, there is a lot of deception going on right now”.

This suggestion of conspiracy theory is further demonstrated by Sheikh Hosein, who has claimed that a deal was made between Jews and the British government to bring the US into World War One, and that those blamed for both 9/11 and the assassination of Franz Ferdinand were framed.

At a previous KN-OW event he was also recorded stating that the Taliban are an “authentic Islamic resistance”.

In addition to these individuals, Abu Ja’far Al-Hanbali was also advertised as a speaker despite having claimed that Osama Bin Laden will “be entered into the Paradise”.

Hanbali has also quoted Palestinian militant Abdullah Azzam as saying “anyone pleased with any legislation over the legislation of Allah...has left from Islam and become an unbeliever” to support his opposition to democracy.

The inconsistency highlighted by Green’s attendance and Tzortzis’ original invite was also a concern, as Senate House lies just yards from University College London (UCL), another constituent of the University of London which has barred IERA from operating on its campus.

On speaking to the University of London today, Student Rights were told that a list of speakers had only been provided by KN-OW last week, and that the investigations had begun immediately.

A statement reads:

The University of London has confirmed that it is withdrawing its conference facilities from the organisation known as Knowledge Network Ongoing Wisdom.

The organisers of a conference, originally scheduled to take place on Saturday (21st September) under the title International Summit of Essential Expert Knowledge, 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.

Charlie Vernon, the University of London’s Business Development Manager said: “We took this decision after the police drew our attention to the nature and content of the conference; we have very serious concerns that if this were to go ahead then the reputation of the University would be damaged.

We also have a duty of care to our staff, students and visitors and this new information gives us sufficient concern about their safety for us to cancel the booking. We have offered a full refund to the organisers”.

The two contributors mentioned are believed to be Green and Tzortzis, and KN-OW has stated that:

Earlier today the venue gave us an ultimatum - either we remove a number of speakers from the programme and continue, or we don't hold the event at all. We stand for justice and we stand by our speakers”.

Here at Student Rights we are glad to see that the University of London has taken such a firm stance on a commercial booking, something that other institutions appear to have been loath to do.

It is also encouraging to see communication over the nature of speakers between the police and the university, though given Student Rights was able to uncover the planned speakers several weeks before the University of London, it does show the limitations faced by facilities departments.

With a new academic year starting within weeks, hopefully this move by the University of London will set the tone, and show extreme or intolerant speakers and organisations that they are not welcome on our campuses.