UPDATE: The videos I posted below were out of commission for awhile, but are now functioning again. Apologies for the inconvenience.
Back in December 2007 I wrote a post here at Jihad Watch called “Why can’t Muslims debate?” Mostly it recounted exchanges I had with a certain Nadir Ahmed, a blowhard who challenged me to debate, offered a first exchange devoid of substance but full of adolescent abuse and insults, and then thumped his chest and claimed victory when I opted out of what was obviously a useless exercise.
But Nadir Ahmed is just one small example of a much larger phenomenon. Over the years I’ve seen again and again Islamic spokesmen content themselves with caricaturing their opponent’s position and substituting smears and sneers for arguments. This includes some of the most prominent and respected Muslim voices in the country; take, for example, Reza Aslan, whom I’ve exposed in numerous ways at Jihad Watch. Aslan, you may recall, responded to my substantive challenges to his positions and questions about his Islamic supremacist ties only with juvenile abuse. I’m not at all sure that Aslan, for all the mainstream media adulation he enjoys, is even capable of engaging in an honest, mutually respectful discussion of relevant issues. In this video, for instance, he makes numerous errors of fact, as Jihad Watch reader Larry pointed out to me in an email yesterday:
Here is Reza holding forth in New York. Notice the mugging, and his sloppy presentation.
He says Fairfield, Texas when he means Frankford, Texas. I wouldn’t bring this up except he tells us to look it up.
Then he tells us that Pamela Geller has repeatedly stated that Obama is Malcolm X”s love child. She doesn’t say this, you know. She has written on her site that she does not think Obama is Malcolm X”s love child. She has never promoted this idea. Goof number two.
Lastly he tells us that Pamela Geller is against halal soup. It is not halal soup that Pamela is objecting to; it is the Muslim Brotherhood-connected Islamic Society of North America doing the certifying that is the problem.
Aslan has made the same false claim about me. And so that raises the question: is he simply careless about facts, or is he so insecure in his own position that he has to resort to setting up straw men and knocking them down instead of dealing honestly with what Geller and I really say?
And that question brings me back to Nadir Ahmed. A few months ago I spoke at Texas A&M; the organizers of the event invited the campus Muslim Brotherhood group, the Muslim Students Association, to debate me, but they declined. (Remember, Sheila Musaji of The American Muslim is so afraid that more Muslim leaders will get whupped debating me that she put out a general call for them to stop debating me at all, and defamed two Muslim leaders in good standing in the process as “fake” just because they debated me and got drubbed.) Accordingly I told the Texas A&M student newspaper, “They will not debate me or get a speaker to debate me because they know that I’m right and that what I’m saying about Islamic supremacism and jihad is true, and don’t want that fact to become obvious.”
Four months after I appeared at Texas A&M, however, I received an email from a Sabeel Ahmed, saying he was “accepting” my “challenge” to debate at Texas A&M. He made reference to my statement about the MSA fearing to get someone to debate me. I hadn’t issued any challenge, in fact, but am willing to debate any genuine Muslim spokesman or scholar, so I accepted. Sabeel Ahmed then told the student who had organized my talk at Texas A&M that the debate was to be on a certain date in the middle of the summer — whereupon the young man told him that school was out at that time, and that if he wanted his help, he would have to hold the debate in the fall.
Ahmed then told him, cc’ing me on the email, that he and I had agreed to hold the debate in a church in Chicago, and that the debate would thus be there instead of at Texas A&M. This was the first I heard about any church in Chicago, and when I told Ahmed that in a subsequent email, he responded that I had agreed to that venue some time ago, and should look back in my email. I did. No Chicago church.
Around this time I started to get an inkling, what with the proposed summer date at a university and then with the lie about the Chicago venue, that Sabeel Ahmed didn’t really want to debate at all, but wanted to maneuver me into declining so that he could claim that I ran from a debate challenge. We set up the debate to be televised on ABN, but then Sabeel Ahmed got what he wanted, when he announced that he would not be debating me at all, but rather, standing in for him would be…Nadir Ahmed.
Like I said, I’m happy to debate substantive issues. But Nadir Ahmed doesn’t do that. His core argument is that Christianity is genocidal, because of a false and tendentious reading of some passages of the Old Testament. Other than that exercise in tu quoque, he is all empty puffery and insults. I will happily discuss issues with a Muslim spokesman. But discussing issues is an indispensable condition; if the spokesman in question shows no interest in doing that, I am not interested, either.
Thus I wrote back to Sabeel Ahmed, who claimed that I had issued a “challenge” to debate and then “run” when it was taken up:
Actually, you issued the challenge. I agreed to debate you. Then you shifted the venue. That would have been fine if you had done it honestly, but instead you did it while falsely claiming that I had already agreed to the alternate venue. Then you changed my debate opponent, again while falsely claiming that I had agreed to this. It is clear now that what you wanted all along was for me to challenge you on your dishonesty and refuse to play along, so that you could falsely claim that I had backed away from the debate.
Isn’t it a pity that you’re so unsure of your own ground that you can’t agree to a fair and evenhanded debate but have to play these games so as to eke out a spurious and hollow victory?
I can’t imagine the shame you must feel within yourself.
It is a pity indeed. Aslan and other Muslim spokesmen like Sabeel Ahmed must know that they have no ground to stand on, and thus cannot win a fair fight on an even playing field. Thus they resort to adolescent name-calling and bait-and-switch rhetorical tricks.
And so I would still be happy to meet a Muslim who can debate. But I increasingly despair of ever finding one.
To be sure, I have debated a few. And these videos will show you better than anything else why so few other Muslim spokesmen of any standing are willing to discuss issues with me: