Saturday, October 16, 2010

Is Islam a Religion of Peace? Uh, no.

On October 6th Intelligence Squared hosted a debate on the proposition that "Islam is a religion of peace." Arguing in favor were Zeba Khan and Maajid Nawaz, arguing against were Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Douglas Murray.

Audience members were polled before and after the debate:

41% FOR 
36% FOR 

The Intelligence Squared website has the complete debate video, the complete transcript, and also background information on the debate participants (you can also purchase a DVD of the debate for just 20 bucks).

Here are descriptions of each of the four panelists in the debate:

Debaters for the motion:

Zeba Khan is a writer and advocate for Muslim-American civic engagement. Born and raised in Ohio by devout Muslim parents, she attended Hebrew school for 9 years all while actively participating in her local Muslim community. In 2008, she launched Muslim-Americans for Obama, an online network to mobilize Muslim-American voters in support of the Obama presidential campaign. Since then, she continues to work on issues of Muslim-American civic engagement and was recognized for her work by the American Society for Muslim Advancement as a 2009 Muslim Leader of Tomorrow.
Maajid Nawaz is director of the Quilliam Foundation. Formerly, Nawaz served on the UK national leadership for the Islamist party Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT), and was involved in HT for almost 14 years. He was a founding member of HT in Denmark and Pakistan and eventually served four years in an Egyptian prison as a “prisoner of conscience” adopted by Amnesty International. In prison, Maajid gradually began changing his views until finally renouncing the Islamist Ideology for traditional Islam and inclusive politics.

Debaters against the motion:

Ayaan Hirsi Ali was born in Somalia and raised a devout Muslim. She escaped an arranged marriage by immigrating to the Netherlands in 1992 and served as a member of the Dutch parliament for 3 years. She has since become an active critic of fundamentalist Islam, an advocate for women's rights and a leader in the campaign to reform Islam, establishing the AHA Foundation in 2007.
Douglas Murray is a bestselling author and award-winning journalist. He is also founder and director of the Centre for Social Cohesion (CSC), a non-partisan think-tank in Westminster, London, which focuses on radicalization and has published work on both Islamist and far-right extremism.

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