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October 10, 2004

How not to win a debate

Only gets political at the very end

Years before September 11th, I attended a debate that asked the question, "Is Islam a threat to Britain?" I attended in the company of some Muslim friends to provide moral support to yet another friend who would be answering the question in the negative.

I am proud to say that my friend, a BJP-supporting Hindu, held nothing back from his advocacy of British Muslims, regardless of what other differences he may have had with his teammates, which included an eloquent and impassioned British Muslim lawyer and an imam from the Muslim Parliament. (And Muslim fundamentalists insist that the forces of unbelief are always conspiring against the ummah.)

My friend rehashed the history of British colonialism. The solicitor described how British society undermined Muslim parents' efforts to raise children who observed the traditions of Islam. The imam extolled the civility of Islam over the drunken, promiscuous depravity of contemporary Britain.

Then someone on the opposing side asked flat-out, "Would you impose sharia law on Britain?"

My friend's side all shook their heads in disbelief at such an absurd question. All except for the imam, who spat out the words "Yes, I would" with neither hesitation nor humility. As the audience's gasps gave way to murmurs or silence, it became clear to one and all that the imam had "scored an own goal". I knew what my friend believed in and consequently how he probably felt but he is nothing if not professional so his only response was to affect an unperturbed facade that betrayed none of his anger or revulsion.

How badly did the imam lose the audience? Well, remember that I attended at the urging of Muslims whom I still count as friends yet my mistrust of Muslim apologists persists from that day to this. (And now you know Jeet's secret origin.)

I only bring it up because I was reminded by a display of insolence at a debate just the other night. (hat tip: Abiola)

Posted by jeet at 03:54 AM