The Detroit Free Press doesn’t say so, of course, but my debate yesterday with Shadid Lewis was actually quite one-sided. Lewis had nothing to say to the numerous quotations I provided from Islamic authorities teaching warfare against and subjugation of unbelievers except to disclaim their authority and quote lesser authorities saying the contrary. By the end of the debate he had repudiated al-Azhar, the four Sunni madhahib, and more. He made no attempt to explain how and why mainstream and influential Islamic scholars and authorities had come to misunderstand this peaceful religion to think that it taught violence. He never addressed how and why so many people who had dedicated their lives to studying the Qur’an and Sunnah, including renowned Islamic clerics, became misunderstanders of Islam and somehow got the idea that it taught warfare against and subjugation of unbelievers.Â
Epitomizing what a disastrous afternoon it was for Lewis was the fact that his howlingly false claim that Islam has no doctrine of offensive jihad was explicitly denied by another Muslim spokesman I debated later in the afternoon, Mustafa Akyol.
My debate with Akyol was even more one-sided. He and I debated on “Does Islam Produce Democracy?” I said that it never has, explained why it hasn’t and why Islamic governments tend toward authoritarianism. Akyol couldn’t produce a single example of an Islamic government being democratic (Turkey is a secular government), and offered only feeble tu-quoque arguments attacking Christianity. Lewis, during my debate with him, did a good bit of that as well, making false statements about Catholic teaching to match his false statements about Islamic teaching.
But I was ready with the facts, and the truth was 2-0 for the day. But the biggest victory was that the event took place at all, despite the usual smear campaign from Nathan Lean, the editor-in-chief of Reza Aslan’s Aslan Media, who is determined to prevent the truth about Islam and jihad from being heard. It is said that when Adolf Hitler heard some particularly bad news, he would fly into a frothing rage, fall to the ground and chew the carpet. On hearing that this event took place despite his fascist attempts to shut it down, and that the local bishop attended, despite his attempts to defame me and get the bishop to cancel my appearance, and that I handily won both debates against Muslim spokesmen, I expect that Nathan Lean is chewing a good bit of carpet today.
If the organizers decide to post the videos on YouTube, I will post them here as well.
Note how the egregious Detroit Free Press leads off its coverage with my having been banned from Britain, as if that is the salient fact determining whether what I say is true or not, and as if everyone knows for a fact that the British government is unimpeachable and would never make a decision that was based on a capitulation to violent forces. “Scholars at EMU debate whether Islam is a religion of peace,” by Eric D. Lawrence for the Detroit Free Press, August 10:
A man who was banned from speaking in Britain because of his views on Islam faced off Saturday against a defender of that faith in a debate about whether Islam is a religion of peace.
Robert Spencer, director of the Jihad Watch blog, took the position that Islam is not peaceful and insisted his detractors are missing the point.
“What I say is true, and in the immortal words of Jack Nicholson “¦ “˜You can’t handle the truth,” ” he said during the debate sponsored by Ave Maria Radio, an Ann Arbor-based Catholic station.
Spencer is the author of 12 books, including two New York Times best sellers about Islam, but has been labeled by the Southern Poverty Law Center as part of the center’s Anti-Muslim Inner Circle.
Spencer was challenged by Shadid Lewis, regional director of the Muslim Debate Initiative, who insisted that Islam is, in fact, a religion of peace. Lewis said he had agreed to participate in the debate because there’s a need to respond to Spencer and others who criticize Islam. “If we remain quiet, then it gives the appearance that Robert knows what he’s talking about,” Lewis said.
The debate was part of a daylong conference at Eastern Michigan University attended by more than 500 people on the topic of Islam and peace. The school has come under criticism for allowing the event to be held and released a statement saying, “As a public institution, and under the freedom of speech protections provided by the First Amendment, we do not and cannot make determinations about access to our facilities based on the viewpoints being presented.”
Victor Begg, senior adviser of the Michigan Muslim Community Council, said the idea that EMU had no choice in hosting the event is absurd. “We respect the freedom of speech. However, denying the Holocaust, yelling “˜fire” in a theater or glorifying Hitler would not constitute freedom of speech,” he said.
So now stating the obvious fact that Islam is not a religion of peace, which even the other Muslim I debated yesterday acknowledged, is equated with glorifying Hitler. The world has gone mad.
Those who attended the debate, moderated by Ave Maria host Al Kresta, took away differing viewpoints.
Alex Wallo, 17, of Westland identified himself as Catholic and said he learned a lot. “I”ve been persuaded to the affirmative position so far,” Wallo said of whether Islam is peaceful.
Eric Lawrence of the Free Press had to hunt a long while in the crowd yesterday to find anyone who was convinced by Shadid Lewis.
But Troy Haarala, 51, of Trenton, who is also Catholic, said that even though he gained a greater understanding of Islam, it deserves blame for violent acts committed in its name because such teachings, he said, are in the Quran.
“Muslims have certain teachings that aren’t compatible with our culture,” he said.
The issue of what the Quran teaches was central in the debate, with Spencer and Lewis citing verses to make their points, usually insisting that the other side was failing to provide complete context.
Lewis noted that Catholicism had its own extreme views in the past. Former popes and Thomas Aquinas, a theologian and philosopher, had suggested that Jews should be subjugated, he said.
Spencer said that making those kinds of references is disingenuous because they are not part of official church teachings, and that the difference is that prominent Muslim authorities currently subscribe to notions of violence against nonbelievers.
“These things are not just the crazy misunderstandings of a group of violent people,” Spencer said.
Lewis said Islamic scholars may offer different interpretations of the Quran, but there’s an answer to that, as well. “Islam warns us about blindly following religious leaders,” he said.
Actually, the point I made in the debate was that while certainly there were Islamic scholars who rejected these violent teachings, there were mainstream and authoritative Islamic leaders and scholars who endorsed those teachings, and based that endorsement upon the texts of the Qur’an and the example of Muhammad. As long as that continues, so will violence in the name of Islam, and the very existence of a mainstream tradition endorsing violence and exhorting believers to commit it demonstrates that Islam is not a religion of peace.