Debate: This House believes Islam is a religion of peace

Debate: This House believes Islam is a religion of peace

Ayes: 286

Noes: 168

handley debateIn a timely debate, held just 24 hours after the religiously motivated incident in Woolwich, the Union considered the question of the nature of Islam.

Proposition speaker Matthew Handley started the debate by grounding it in recent events, deploring the previous day’s “reprehensible act in Woolwich”, a sentiment that he was sure would be shared by Muslims around the world.

Handley continued by separating the religion of Islam from the individuals who “violently hijack faith for violent and maniacal ends” and maintained that the Qur’an has an “overwhelmingly peaceful character.”

In the light of the “decade long surge of violence and aggression” against Islam since 9/11, he summarised the debate as a choice between “love and hate and rejection, peace and conflict” and concluded: “I hope you make the right choice.”

Speaker Anne-Marie Waters, council member of the National Secular Society, began the case for the opposition by denying that she and her fellow opposition speakers cause fear of Islam and blamed instead “the actions of Islam itself”.

She listed “9/11, 7/7, Mali, Somalia, gender discrimination, forced marriages, polygamy, amputation”, and many more. To the opposition’s claim that these acts belong to an “extreme fringe” which has misunderstood the words of the Qur’an, she described the executions for blasphemy and apostasy in Saudi Arabia, and asked “has there ever been a more spectacular misunderstanding?”

Waters concluded by arguing  that it is the moderate Muslims who must “dance around meanings” and “stretch interpretations” when confronted with the fundamentally violent ideology of the Qur’an.

Adam Deen, a prominent Muslim intellectual and founder and director of the Deen Institute, countered this by arguing that “if we approach Islamic teaching fairly and objectively, there is a golden thread that runs through whole Qur’an,” an ideal of “justice” and “positive peace”.

He argued that in fact the whole of Islam is compatible with “just war theory”, in which “the virtue of avoiding violence is superseded by the virtue of justice.” He then quoted from the Qur’an which states: “Fight in God’s cause but do not overstep the limits. God does not love those who overstep the limits.”

Daniel Johnston, journalist and editor of what he called the “not very right-wing” magazine Standpoint, called Islam “the most direct threat to Western civilization in the world today”.

Johnston deplored the lack of “freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, equal rights, and separation between church and state” in Islamic countries, emphasizing that “all these ideals emerged in the West.”

Johnston claimed that a university like Oxford, with its tradition of free academic inquiry, could not exist under the conditions of an Islamic state and that “there is no university in this sense in the Islamic world”.

Muslim journalist Mehdi Hasan, political editor of the Huffington Post, warned Anne-Marie Waters that her “astonishing claims” might endanger her future as a Labour Party candidate, but assured her “don’t worry, the BNP will take you”.

Hasan asked why, if Islam is “responsible for killing,” such a tiny percentage of believers actually participate in violence. He asked the audience if they really believe that 1.6 billion people are all “followers, promoters and believers in a religion of violence”.

Hasan urged them not to “fuel the arguments of the phobes and bigots and legitimise hate”, but to “trust the Muslims that you know and that you hear.”

Opposition speaker Peter Atkins, former Professor of Chemistry at Oxford, concluded the debate by describing Islam along with all other religions as a “supermarket of ideas and instructions” from which good and bad men can select what they want “according to their taste.”

However, he claimed that Islam “does in practice inspire more violence than the other Abrahamic religions”.

Taking on Adam Deen’s metaphor of a ‘golden thread’, he argued that “the opposite of peace is woven into the fabric of the Qur’an.”

Atkins declared that “all the seas incarnadine cannot wash the blood from a religion’s hands”, because “when evils destroy a human life, as they did yesterday, that life cannot be restored”.  He called on the audience to oppose the motion “for the sake of humanity.”


218 Responses to "Debate: This House believes Islam is a religion of peace"

  1. GordonHide  27/09/2013 at 09:24

    @Hussain Fahmy – September 26th, 2013 – “We can all do well; if we can learn to respect each others faith and space.”

    I’m afraid respect has to be earned. The most you should expect is polite consideration.

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  2. GordonHide  27/09/2013 at 12:01

    @Hussain Fahmy – “The message of Islam is perfect”
    When you think you have the answer then you should know you have gone seriously astray. The human condition is so complex, involving as it does billions of years of evolution, that any philosophy, religious or not, might as well have been scribbled on the back of a fag packet for all the chance it stands of offering a comprehensive guide to life.

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  3. Johnny  05/10/2013 at 18:53

    Typical of Muslim Mehdi Hasan to use the race card to implicitly threaten Anne-Marie Waters that her future as a Labour Party candidate might now be in jeopardy. It is how the left have shut down all questioning of their open door policy and appeasement to Islam.

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  4. Vir Narain  10/10/2013 at 16:48

    Are we gaining anything from this prolonged ‘dialogue of the deaf’? The true believer’s faith is unshakeable. Look up Aurther Koestler on the true believer. Accept defeat!

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  5. TheRaginPagan  10/10/2013 at 17:15

    Accept defeat? Yeah, real peaceful of you there, dude.

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  6. Vir Narain  11/10/2013 at 05:20

    I meant Give up! Do not waste your time.

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  7. Shafeesthoughts  24/10/2013 at 13:54

    My latest blog explaining the Jihad of Islam:

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  8. mohsin  25/10/2013 at 15:11

    islam is not a joke that any one say anything about it and we listen if we muslim say
    anything about any other religion you all say islam is bad because he say about our religion
    if you say about islam than it is you right good joke

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  9. Vir Narain  25/10/2013 at 16:21

    See what I mean?!

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  10. Iqbal  25/10/2013 at 17:10

    A special type of bud grafting, is taking place in Muslim society, specially by those who usually call us ” terrorists ” . Who is Osama bin laden and what is Al Qaeda?, these are American creations a few years back, at that time they were in need of them to be used against Russia, but when they turned against their own creator they were called Jihadi terrorists. When America says Jihadi terrorists, it must be taken as a joke or a point to laugh, rather than be taken as serious…..ha ha ha

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  11. Tyler W.  18/11/2013 at 15:38

    Archaic logic is great, the problem is that the Koran or Bible or whatever has the ability to justify and promote killing. This is blatantly immoral. How about you take the Koran and cut out all the passages that is not the contemporary moral zeitgeist of your followers, and call it “Book that Teaches Morality”.

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  12. Avi Swift  11/12/2013 at 07:47

    I’ts kind of interesting that most if not all of terror attacks today have have some kind of connection to islam.I’m sorry but no other religion promises paradise to those who blow themselves up killing innocent people in the name of jihad(holy war). So unless killing women and children is a joke to you than maybe this is something to consider.

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  13. Mohamed Guennouni  17/12/2013 at 22:07

    @Avi, very ignorant statement on your behalf. 1) Jihad does not mean holy war. 2) Nowhere in the Qur’an is it mentioned that if you blow yourself up you’ll go to paradise; a) bombs did not exist at the time and b) God condemns the killing of innocents, according to Islam, even in times of war, the rules are just. 3) In response to : ” I’ts kind of interesting that most if not all of terror attacks today have have some kind of connection to islam” (Swift).It is also kind of interesting that most foreign military action is concentrated in the Middle-East. The prominent religion in the Middle-East, as you might be aware of, is Islam. Therefore, if you take these two facts into consideration, you might conclude that people being oppressed in their own country often feel the need to retaliate. Thus, whether one agrees with the logic of Al Qaeda or not, whether one is Muslim, Christian or Buddhist; if it is the only resource made available for them to avenge their innocent loved ones (that might’ve been killed by some wrong-doers pertaining to the military of the country stationed there such as the U.S. Kill Team); it is only natural for some to undertake that path. Also, one has to keep in mind that any principles may be perfect but their adherents might not. For example, if a high school graduate commits a rape or murder would you blame the school system for indoctrinating him with his aggressive behavior or would you blame the person’s own beliefs? Islam is a religion of peace, one must not be making the wrong links, read the Qur’an and do your research; you would find that your arguments are preposterous. One must think before forming an opinion, especially one so offensive to a massive group of human beings.

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  14. H.N.B  18/12/2013 at 08:51

    Well, I agree with your first point but regarding your second point I tend to have a slightly different opinion. Quran, on several occasions call Muslims to go on a war with nonbelievers for the establishment of an Islamic rule. (Some References: Quran (2:191-193) Quran (2:244) Quran (2:216) Quran (3:56) Quran (3:151)). We could see similar issues in the Old Testament but the main difference is that the verses of violence in Quran are mostly open-ended, meaning that they are not restrained by the historical context of the surrounding text. They are part of the eternal, unchanging word of Allah, and just as pertinent or idiosyncratic as other versus.

    Please do not get me wrong, Islam on many occasions also sends a message of peace and harmony but it is also a fact that it also states otherwise and I do find it very confusing to read contradictory statements within a book. I understand that most of the times these violent versus could only be circumstantial and relate to a very specific situation but then whatever the context is; this slogan of being a peaceful religion should actually not be promoted. I would definitely not blame a school if a student commits a crime but I would definitely like to see if there is anything I could improve in the school system to prevent such issues in future and the unfortunate issue with a fixed creed is that it is considered to be eternal truth and cannot be fixed.

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  15. mc  06/02/2014 at 20:58

    the entire debate took place straight after the beheading of Lee Rigby, which show how great cowards students at Oxford Union are. One has to betray own senses to claim that Islam is a religion of peace, especially in contemporary times, when terrorist attacks in the name of Islam are occurring on daily basis.

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  16. mc  06/02/2014 at 21:25

    Btw, a good rebute to Hassan’s speech can be found here :

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  17. Khurram  13/03/2014 at 05:26

    This was great debate. Truth always wins so it did. suppression of muslim community from everywhere could only be plan without any reality. It is also true that if you put tiny bad spot on very clean piece of cloth then you will start defining whole cloth is uncleaned. I believe that there was no space of argument after Mehdi Hassan question from that audience that if you think that Islam is not religion of peace and every terrorist act is happening because of Islam then why all Muslims aren’t doing that why only little minority is taken as representative of Islam. why the opposition is not ready to understand that Islam is just being used for these heinous crimes. I believe either they are innocent or they don’t want to understand this fact. .

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  18. TheRaginPagan  13/03/2014 at 05:28

    “It is also true that if you put tiny bad spot on very clean piece of cloth then you will start defining whole cloth is uncleaned.”

    Quite clearly, you are not an artist.

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