Christopher Hitchens and Tariq Ramadan Debate: Is Islam a Religion of Peace? Moderated by Laurie Goodstein.
Via Atheist Media
Well, before we discuss Islam, surely it would be at least appropriate to establish whether the participants in the debate have a shared conception of peace? Christopher Hitchens has, for almost a decade, been given to sounding off with a bumper display of Churchillian (perhaps he would prefer Rooseveltian, as he is now an American citizen) bluster, regaling us with a martial discourse favouring the extermination of his designated opponents – viz. ‘Islamic fascists’. He has applauded the use of cluster bombs, the destruction of Fallujah, and said “we can’t share the same planet as these murderers and rapists and psychopaths” (I paraphrase from memory). Given this, is his conception of peace commensurable with Ramadan’s, enough at least for meaningful debate to occur? I don’t think so.
Secondly, if I may, the question “Is Islam a Religion of Peace?” is not a meaningful query. The honest answer about this and any religion, and any ideology, and any set of beliefs, is that it depends. The textual evidence is so inconsistent, so indeterminate, that it depends who is interpreting the religion, and to what end. But the point of asking such a question is to establish gets to define what Islam is: in this case its most Manichean opponents, or its liberal-minded (but supposedly suspect) advocate. The fact that this question is being asked is itself an example of the normatively loaded nature of the discussion: why is Islam spotlighted? Why is it framed in this light? What are we being directed away from by such a framing? Is secularism a doctrine of peace?
One last thing. I come from a dreary, dour Presbyterian working class town in NI, with a small Catholic minority. Most of my childhood was overshadowed by ‘the Troubles’, which I later learned involved an armed struggle between Republicans and the British state (as well as some loyalist auxiliaries who controlled our estates). But it was only when I migrated to London that people started to tell me it was about religion. This was colonial nonsense, reducing our complex problems to tribal small-mindedness. It absolved Westminster and ignored Catholic oppression. Ironically, the only people in NI who would agree with the caricature were, ironically, religious reactionaries. I imagine that Muslims who are told that the ‘war on terror’ is all about religion must feel much the same way.
Derren Ive been watching & following a the might of the Hitchens for a while now love his book too (god is not great)!
not sure if you have already … but hes produced a great video (on youtube) for the origin of islam “very interesting”
oh also ….. can i suggest you draw a painting of Christopher Hitchens ” bagsy the first copy, free copy would be a nice gesture”
Why evolution is true:
Like all religions, Islam is also like a moral supermarket. What you choose to get is up to you.
Some analysis from Vanity Fair
Blimey Lenin, it takes you along time to say absolutely nothing.
That’s hardly fair, Lukie. I’m explaining a point of view, to wit: 1) Hitchens is a warmonger, thus not best placed to debate on peace; 2) the question of debate is badly, misleadingly framed; 3) the position advocated by Hitchens and his partisans in this debate reduces complex international problems to a unenlightened and unenlightening dichotomy between Islam and ‘the West’. That is something, and not nothing. Given that this is a point of view that’s rarely seriously debated among those of the Ditchkins persuasion, I thought it required proper explanation. In this case, it took something like 300 words.
And by the way, can those of commenting here assume that Derren will read our 800 character ‘thoughts’ on his ‘thoughts’? Will he perhaps descend among us and comment, and say “Blimey ‘lenin’, that’s an amazingly well thought out argument. It simply hadn’t occurred to me to consider it that way. Everything will be different now. I love you, and miss you already, though we have never met. Please stroke my ginger chin fur and nibble my fleshy earlobes.” Or something like that?
I’m not a believer in religion, but I do think that if people choose to believe in something then they should believe in themselves first and foremost. I think the world would be a better place without any religions.
@Lukie – I actually agree with the thrust of Lenin’s well articulated comments. So often I see Hitchens and many other atheists making simplistic arguments about problems that they’d be in no diplomatic position to help resolve.
As an atheist myself, it frustrates me to see people (here’s looking at you, @Richard May, and you too, Derren’s media collator) blindly agreeing with anything these celebrity atheists say; celebrities who have often become too big for their boots, revelling in the fame and sycophancy of it all.
Finally, nobody mentioned that the whole debate was hosted at the “Centre for Jewish Life” and participated in by temple’s around the USA. Hardly a neutral platform for debate.
This, to me, is problematic and slightly fanatic atheism.
Lenin – at least you’ve got the honesty to give yourself an apt totalitarian pen-name !
Islam is not just another item in the spiritual materialist’s supermarket, it is a stupid, bigoted politico-religious system of draconian social control that must be overcome in the same way that nazism and communism were overcome in the last century.
There is not the luxury of new age style cultural relativism here ; the world over, islamists are committing violence and oppressing freedom loving peoples, if they had had there way and the original “Incitement to Religious Hatred Act” was brought in, many of the people on this site would have been imprisoned.
religion is another excuse to instigate cruelty to one another. Not always the case, but…..
Islam itself is a religion of peace, because the quran details the importance of conducting a good, righteous life. However different people have different opinions of peace, as opinions are objective. Also, some muslims are not peaceful, but that does not condemn the religion itself. You wouldn’t judge a car by it’s driver – if a drunk man crashed a BMW you wouldn’t say the car is unreliable, so you shouldn’t judge Islam based on the actions of a few misguided muslims.
This is worth reading another point of view on the debate: