University College London is one of our great seats of learning and foremost among UK centres of research. Founded in 1826, UCL was the first university in England to be established on an entirely secular basis: students were admitted irrespective of their religion, and gender equality was a foundational statute.
So it is all the more surprising that a public debate was held on 9th March at which the audience was segregated by gender (ie women in the cheap seats at the back). It was hosted by the Islamic Education and Research Academy (iERA), and the topic was: ‘Islam or Atheism: Which Makes More Sense?’. It pitched atheist Professor Lawrence Krauss against Hamza Andreas Tzortzis (described variously as ‘a lecturer on Islam’ or an ‘Islamist extremist’). He agitates for a global caliphate and isn’t particularly disposed to Jews, gays, adulterous women or democracy. He has publicly denounced liberty:
“We as Muslims reject the idea of freedom of speech, and even the idea of freedom. We see under the Khilafa (caliphate), when people used to engage in a positive way, this idea of freedom was redundant, it was unnecessary, because the society understood under the education system of the Khilafa state, and under the political framework of Islam, that people must engage with each other in a positive and productive way to produce results, as the Qur’an says, to get to know one another.”