Debate: This House believes Islam is a religion of peace

handley debate

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that in fact the whole of Islam is compatible with “just war theory”, in which “the virtue of avoiding violence is superseded by the virtue of justice.”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.”



  1. virnarainVir Narain

    7th November 2014 at 08:30

    The recent beheadings have provided a convincing answer. If for no other reason than respect for those who have lost their lives, should we not discontinue this interminable debate?

  2. c

    14th February 2015 at 10:26

    A few days ago, we had a school trip to visit various religious places including the Islamic centre in which we were able to discuss issues of current world news related to Islam with one of the Muslims. He made it clear that the whole central theme of the Qur’an promotes peace. The Qur’an is the longest untouched book in terms of its many translations; not one singe word or phrase has been changed. The problem is, people of the “Western world” including the UK misinterpret the texts of the Qur’an; they twist the thoughts of these to create a backdrop into labeling the Islamic religion and the people who belong to this religion as “terrorists.” Perhaps even more so, is the fact that the majority of non-Muslims have not even picked up to read the entire Qur’an for themselves, so how are they able to make a judgment for these people? Furthermore, we discussed about how the role of media plays a significant part in being able to morph, change things into any way they feel like, with a very strong influences on the people who watch it. I feel like the events of the Jews being prosecuted and used as scapegoats in Germany during World War 2 are being recreated again.

    It is true that these terrorist attacks are occurring, but one should never condemn everyone under the religion of Islam as terrorists. Why is it that when a Christian terrorist kills people, it never gets to the news? Why is it that all Muslims are the only ones to blame? It is fair to say that those certain individuals who are terrorists should be blamed for, but it is not right to categorize these small individuals in a much larger category.

    I am currently studying “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” by Mohsin Hamid for English Literature. After the 9/11 attacks, America judges all the Muslims as if they are terrorists. Having a beard is even socially unacceptable in Western society; it makes these men vulnerable and viewed as sly and untrustworthy. Not only that, but when it comes to airports, they face huge discrimination, violating the equal human rights. The quote “don’t judge a book by its cover” truly applies to this context. How can the world judge the Islamic religion as a terrorist organisation when we are only judging small and certain individuals out of billions of Muslims and label them as that?

  3. virnarainVir Narain

    14th February 2015 at 11:46

    You are free to believe what you were told on a school trip – especially since. It suits you argument.
    But here is what the Ayatollah Khomeini – whose knowledge of the Quran would be difficult to dispute – had to say: “Those who follow the rules of the Koran are aware that we have to obey the laws of qissas (retribution) and that we have to kill… War is a blessing for the world and for every nation. It is Allah himself who commands men to wage war and kill.” How many more beheadings – and live burnings – by the Islamic State do we need before we start entertaining some doubts?Have a heart …

  4. c

    15th February 2015 at 13:42

    @virnarainVir Narain “by the ISLAMIC STATE”, please stop categorising every muslim into this. Watch this video if you haven’t already These cnn reporters ask the same old questions every time, “what followed wasn’t the intelligent conversation it should have been, but rather a stale regurgitation of the same silly loaded questions hosts have been asking for more than a decade” stop generalising Islam “”you’re talking about a religion about 1.5 billion people and certainly it becomes easy to just simply paint them all with a single brush”, have some perspective…

  5. c

    15th February 2015 at 13:50

    @virnarainVir Narain Also, have you had the incentive to read the Qur’an page by page yourself instead of just being mindlessly convinced by what one man has said about it? Perhaps then you can truly make a judgement of your own on what the muslims “obey” before the words of the Qur’an. Did Ayatollah Kohmeini quote from the very words of the Qur’an itself.

  6. virnarainr Narain

    17th February 2015 at 07:38

    As if on cue, twentyone Christians have been beheaded in Egypt. Yet we must remain steadfast in our belief that religion is peaceful!

  7. c

    19th February 2015 at 15:55

    “It would be as grave a mistake to see Osama bin Laden as an authentic representative of Islam as to consider James Kopp, the alleged killer of an abortion provider in Buffalo, N.Y., a typical Christian or Baruch Goldstein, who shot 29 worshipers in the Hebron mosque in 1994 and died in the attack, a true martyr of Israel. The vast majority of Muslims, who are horrified by the atrocity of Sept. 11, must reclaim their faith from those who have so violently hijacked it.” Karen Armstrong, Time magazine

  8. Allen

    19th February 2015 at 15:58

    Gods I’m getting so tired of seeing e-mails crop up from this stupid shit. Who cares what a bunch of apologetic douches in Oxford think? There’s no such thing as a peaceful religion, period.

  9. Sylvia Lax

    11th April 2015 at 17:02

    The White House is wrong! Islam is not a religion of peace. It will go to war and massacre it’s people (and others) in the name of religion (G-d). That doesn’t make them religious, it just means that they are a crazy terrorist. They are using their religion as an excuse to kill and also to occupy (just like the time of the crusaders). How can they be religious when they broke all of G-d’s 10 commandments (which by-the-way – Jews ,Christian and Muslim belief in). The Islamic faith broke all of the commandments from; not to use the name of G-d in vain, to not to kill and to not to covet your neighbors’ house, wife, and anything else that belongs to him. I’m not trying to go religious on you – but my point is their should be no mistake between people who observe the laws to those who believe you have to kill for it. Their is a difference between a religious person and a terrorists. Islam is not religious they are terror – a real nightmare. Islam wants to take control – occupy and wants to blame Israel for it’s problems.

  10. Sylvia Lax

    12th April 2015 at 12:43

    you think i should be more moderate; o.k.
    today in the news (4.12.2015) it was written in the press that ‘Islamic group released footage showing jihadists demolishing the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud……latest attempt to wipe out Islamic history’. History never seems to change nor do the tactics of the Islamic Nation. For example, the Dome of the Rock – (according to Wikipedia) is situated in the center of the Temple Mount, the site where it is believed that the first and second Temple had stood. To set things clear the Dome is built in the center of Temple Mount where the first and second Temple stood. It’s not belief, it’s an historical fact.. Today – I’ve heard arabs say the darnedest thing about the Dome 1) that the Jewish agreed to the building of the Dome on the Mount and 2) It was built in time of peace. Neither reason are true – but that’s what they want people to believe. The temples was captured and destroyed just like the incident that happened this week in Nimrud. And in both incident the arabs entered the city to control, to conquer and to massacre – claiming it in the name of G-d and to wipe out history. There tactics haven’t changed from them to now! Has I said before their is nothing peaceful about the Islamic people that they believe that they can destroy cultures or change history – THEY CANNOT!
    They are killers, they are terrorist, and like I said before; their is a difference between a religious observer whom obeys g-d’s law to that who believes they should kill in the name of G-d (there is a difference). There is also a difference between ‘ones freedom fighter to another ones terrorist’. Lets not distort words – The arabs are not freedom fighters and they are not a religion of peace! You are probably mad at me for not saying it’s done by Islamic Fundamentalist and that I keep on referring it to the Islamic Nation but what do you want me to say when 90% of the arab MODERATES who are educated in the free world believe in their cause! To me that’s disgusting, because nobody is asking them to change their way of life and nobody is taking away there freedom of believes so why are they forcing their way of life on us – by their lies.

  11. Dr-Essam Afify

    20th July 2015 at 13:33

    Are you know Islam ?? if your answer is no , To everybody don’t know Islam Don’t speak more … at first you must read about Islam … i’m a Muslim I know Islam very much & I know that Islam is a religion of peace

  12. Vir Narain

    20th July 2015 at 16:25

    Ayatollah Khomeini is replying to Western apologists and Muslim moderates by citing the Koran chapter and verse on the subject of the definition of “jihad,” or holy war:

    Islam makes it incumbent on all adult males, provided they are not disabled and incapacitated, to prepare themselves for the conquest of [other] countries so that the writ of Islam is obeyed in every country in the world. But those who study Islam Holy War will understand why Islam wants to conquer the whole world . . . Those who know nothing of Islam pretend that Islam counsels against war. Those [who say this] are witless. Islam says: Kill all the unbelievers just as they would kill you all! Does this man that Muslims should sit back until they are devoured by [the unbelievers]? Islam says: Kill them [the non-Muslims], put them to the sword and scatter [their armies]. Does this man sitting back until [non- Muslims] overcome us? Islam says: Kill in the service of Allah those who may want to kill you! Does this mean that we should surrender to the enemy. Islam says: Whatever good there is exists thanks to the sword and in the shadow of the sword! People cannot be made obedient except with the sword! The sword is the key to Paradise, which can be opened only for Holy Warriors! There are hundreds of other [Koranic] psalms and Hadiths [sayings of the Prophet} urging Muslims to value war and to fight. Does all that mean Islam is a religion that prevents men from waging war? I spit upon those foolish souls who make such a claim.”
    Clearly, you know the religion better than tha Ayatollah.

  13. Peter g

    2nd August 2015 at 13:30

    I would not claim to be a christian. But I am struck by the account of Jesus and the woman taken in adultery whom some nasty judgemental hypocrits
    wanted to stone to death according to that stone age law. Let him who is without sin throw the first stone. They all left by ones and two,s. I find this account has much to teach whether christian or not.
    I am not a Jew but I recall, Jeremiah the PRophet stating,First circumcise your hearts, not your bodies. I think there is something in that for everyone.
    Perhaps the last I can recall,is Peace! Peace! They cry. But there is no peace.

  14. Allen

    3rd August 2015 at 16:26

    This shit is still going on? Bloody hell; Oxford is not a social god, and there’s no such thing as a peaceful religion.

  15. Peter Going

    3rd August 2015 at 22:11

    Dear me. No.
    These brilliant young minds cannot a be a kind of syncretic God. The appetite for swallowing camels is not associated with any god I can think of. I’d have to reject the idea that the result suggests intellectual dishonesty, since I’m sure that these people could dissect a gnat with precion. I can only think that they have discovered a method of reason and judicious argument which would have been beyond the understanding of their serious forbears.

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