This was certainly an interesting and civil debate about the nature of Islam. Both sides expressed (without fear of censure) their defining views and ideas about Islam. Speaking for Islam as a religion of peace were Zeba Khan and Maajid Naawaz. Zeba Khan is an accomplished Muslim American activist who...
This was certainly an interesting and civil debate about the nature of Islam. Both sides expressed (without fear of censure) their defining views and ideas about Islam. Speaking for Islam as a religion of peace were Zeba Khan and Maajid Naawaz. Zeba Khan is an accomplished Muslim American activist who founded Muslim Americans for Obama in 2008. Meanwhile, Maajid Naawaz is a former supporter of radical Islamism and a current counter-extremist, writer, and founding chairman of Quilliam, an organization devoted to religious freedom and secular Muslim values.
Speaking against Islam as a religion of peace were Douglas Murray and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a women's rights activist, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and the founder of the AHA Foundation, whose mission is to defend women against the strictures of militant Islam. She has also authored three books about her conversion away from a radical, fundamentalist form of Islam. Meanwhile, Douglas Murray is an award-winning journalist and author; he is also the founder of The Center for Social Cohesion, a think tank devoted to discussing the issues of radicalization, from radical Islamism to far-right extremism.
While I cannot decide how you should answer this question, I can point out some things you should consider in making your decision. Here they are:
1) Can the words spoken by either side be validated? Basically, how do the statements of the panelists (whether for or against) hold up when you do some fact-checking?
2) What evidence do the panelists present to back up their claims? Is the evidence based on hearsay, opinion, or facts?
3) Do the panelists remain respectful even when they disagree? This last question is important, as it highlights the virtues of a free society: open debate and freedom of speech.
Ok, now on to a discussion of some of the content. You can find a transcript of the debate at one of the links below.
Khan describes how she was raised to respect a plurality of views. She acknowledges that the violent wing of Islam exists and that it often perpetrates violence on the innocent. However, she also insists that extremism should not monopolize the debate about Islam. Meanwhile, Douglas Murray wishes that Islam could be defined by such stellar Muslims as Zeba Khan and Majid Naawaz but laments that it cannot.
Murray cites the Sunni state of Saudi Arabia and the Shiite state of Iran as worrying examples of present-day extremism. He points out that, while progressive Muslims do exist, we must not ignore the tendency of Muslim religious leaders to broadcast the most appalling anti-Semitic views in mosques and over the air waves. He argues that Islam is far from a religion of peace, citing the fate of the Mustabalites, who were annihilated for trying to reform Islam from within. Meanwhile, Ayaan Hirsi Ali insists that "no monotheistic religion is a religion of peace."
For his part, Majid Naawaz maintains that it is unfair to ignore the peaceful texts in the Quran and to just focus on the violent ones. He argues that we need to contextualize what we read, in much the same way as we read Shakespeare or other texts. All panelists agreed, however, on the subject of Mohammad taking a six-year-old bride. Whether placed in a historical or modern context, everyone agreed that the action did not shine a positive light on Mohammad.
At this time, Zeba Khan reminds everyone that, in the West and progressive Muslim societies, there is a wide range of interpretations for every word in the Quran. Ayaan Hirsi Ali counters that, while this may be true, self-styled spokespersons for Islam such as bin Laden and the Ayatollah Khomeini insist that their rigid interpretations of Islam are the right ones.
So, from the above, I hope I've given you an idea of where the arguments lie. Good luck in your assignment. The free exchange of ideas is a good thing!