Hamza Tzortzis’ thoughts on Trevor Phillips’ spin on the British Muslim poll

Hamza Tzortzis

Prominent debater and lecturer, Hamza Tzortzis reflects on his appearance on Channel 4’s ‘What British Muslims really think’, stating that he would not have participated if he knew how the poll’s findings would be distorted by Trevor Phillips.

The following statement was posted on Tzortzis’ Facebook page yesterday:

“Many of you are aware that I participated in the Channel 4 documentary that was aired last night. After watching the documentary I have the following to say:

1. I spent approximately 6 hours with the production team over a period of three non-consecutive days. Yet, only a few very brief sound bites were used. Although I wasn’t misrepresented, they failed to present the rationale behind my views. Significantly, they seemed to ignore that I repeatedly highlighted the fact that iERA’s job as a Muslim organisation and public figures such as myself is to empower the Muslim community to be compassionate citizens, that take care of their non-Muslim neighbours, and that they should convey a peaceful, compassionate and intelligent case for their faith. One can argue that they did not include my key message because it did not fit Trevor Phillips’ myopic narrative.

2. What wasn’t said during the documentary raises suspicion. According to the data, the participants were asked if they understand why Jihadi John was radicalised; the control group (non-Muslims) response was higher than Muslims, 27% to 13%. They didn’t mention this as it obviously did not suite their agenda. They were also asked if they understand why schoolgirls were attracted to become “jihadi brides”. The control group response was marginally higher than Muslims, 26% to 25%. The data also showed that 34% of Muslims and 30% of the control group would not report to police someone they thought was getting involved in terrorism. The results were very similar, yet the Muslims were highlighted as having a unique problem. (I received this analysis from an advocacy group. You can verify the results yourself by downloading the data here http://www.icmunlimited.com/…/Mulims-full-suite-data-plus-t…).

3. The documentary focused on “Britishness” and British values. During my interviews I spoke about the compatibility between Islamic and British values (even though their philosophical premises are different) and that I was probably the only Muslim public figure to have written a detailed essay on the topic (read the essay here http://www.hamzatzortzis.com/…/is-islam-compatible-with-br…/).

4. During our round circle discussion, the methodological flaws of the survey were brought to light. Even Trevor sympathised with the criticism. Why was there no mention of the robust criticism of the survey’s methodology?

5. Why didn’t the documentary ignore other robust surveys and research that portrays Muslims positively?

6. The inferences that were made from the results were also discussed, and many participants exposed them as weak. However, none of these were included in the documentary.

7. The lack of qualitative data was also discussed as a major flaw in understanding the results.

8. The absence of any comparisons with other religious and non-religious groups would have shown that it is not as simple as comparing Muslims with the rest of mainstream British society, and that our country is far more complex when it comes to beliefs and ideas. Trevor’s “us and them” mentality was quite problematic.

9. The timing of the documentary is quite telling. The socio-political circumstances are not ideal for social cohesion, and I would argue that producing a documentary that is based on a methodologically flawed survey with results that are based on weak inferences is irresponsible.

10. The documentary carried the assumption that an atomistic and liberal view on ethics and society is the correct one. It would have been more coherent to have questioned this underlying assumption and discussed whether liberalism has failed and that there may be a need for a new national conversation about these issues.

11. If I was aware of the conclusions of the documentary I would not have participated in it.

12. My final statement on the documentary is that regardless of our views on ethical and social issues we must never promote or facilitate any aggression and hatred towards anyone. We must strongly hold on to the values of helping humanity spiritually and philosophically, and we must never behave unjustly with anyone. We must show compassion to all and we must get involved in peaceful and positive civic engagement, including caring for each other. We must convey a compassionate and intelligent case for Islam to show its true beauty which is paramount in an age of hatred, misinformation and bigotry.”

You can follow Hamza on Twitter @HATzortzis

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