— Nabeel Azeez (@NabeelAzeezDXB) May 4, 2017
Tommy Robinson has violated a gentleman’s agreement and backed out of our debate at the last minute.
The debate was to take place online on May 3rd, moderated by Thor Holt of the Write with Courage! podcast, and uploaded on to the Union Magazine Youtube channel for public viewing.
This is the second time Tommy has been a no-show. The debate was initially scheduled for April 3rd but according to his executive assistant, Hel Gower, they didn’t even schedule it.
Here is the first confirmation from Tommy that he would debate me.
Here is the confirmation from Thor that he had agreed to the first date and time.
After Tommy didn’t show up, we looked into what happened.
I try my best to assume the best of people. Since I try to be honest and upfront in my dealings, my default state is to assume other people conduct themselves the same way.
What we heard back from Mrs. Gower was that there was some miscommunication which is why they hadn’t put it on his calendar.
Ok, no biggie. S*** happens.
We then attempted to re-engage him and reschedule the debate.
He was receptive and I thought we were back on for sure.
A new date and time were finalized.
Then, on 2nd May, Thor received a message that Tommy was backing out.
Tommy has yet to provide a satisfactory reason as to why he would renege on our agreement.
Especially since Thor Holt, Union Magazine, and I adhered to his debate conditions and donated 100 pounds to the Amelia Mae Davies foundation.
I have asked Thor to forward the entire correspondence so I understand exactly what was conveyed.
According to Thor, Tommy has offered refund our donations.
It’s not about the money, though. It’s the principle. Besides, that money is charity, so it’s an investment.
A lot of people were looking forward to this debate too.
Pulitzer-worthy investigative journalist and documentary film-maker Mike Cernovich wanted this debate to go down.
Big-time political consultant for the Republican party Ali Akbar was interested in seeing this debate.
Veteran Free Speech lawyer Marc J. Randazza also expressed interest.
I also received several messages from my readers telling me how much they appreciate such dialogue and that we need more of them.
The future belongs to those who show up.
I had a feeling things would turn out this way.
All I had to do was apply Gorilla Mindset principles of framing and self-talk, and show up.
This was always going to be a win-win for me.
Either he shows up and I annihilate him during the discussion (all of his arguments against Islam and Muslims are specious and fall-apart under basic scrutiny.)
Or he doesn’t show up, I win by forfeit, and he loses a ton of street cred for breaking his word.
As I’ve been preparing for this encounter I noticed something about Tommy.
He doesn’t go into a situation unless he has backup, whether that’s a camera recording events or people with him.
You can’t blame him. He’s 5’6″ and there are people out there who would do him physical harm.
Still, it’s all a bit silly, him chasing down unsuspecting journalists and people who troll him and sticking a mic and camera in their face to catch them off-guard.
I see a lot of people calling him “brave” for “standing up to” these people. Is it?
Seems to me it would take no courage at all to get in someone’s face when you have a camera and men backing you up.
What would have been courageous, and gentlemanly, was for him to honor his agreement, show up and have a reasonable discussion.
Tommy, there are so many people out there, Muslim and non-Muslim, who hate your guts and would never care to hear a word you had to say, right or wrong.
I was willing to give you the benefit of the doubt.
The opening remarks I had prepared for the debate
First, and foremost, I would like to thank Thor Holt and Union Magazine for hosting this and Tommy Robinson for agreeing to participate and coming up with the idea to make it a charity debate, with proceeds going to the Amelia May Davies foundation.
The motion I will be arguing for today is, “this house believes Islam can be compatible with Western Society.”
Another possible way to word this proposition is, “this house believes Muslims can remain loyal to their faith and country while living in Western Societies.”
Both propositions are true, and I will attempt to demonstrate this using:
- The history of Western society and it’s relationship to the Muslim World,
- The unequivocal teachings of Islam on how Muslims are COMMANDED to live with non-Muslims and
Examples from the Muslim community in the U.K. – I am limiting myself to the Muslim community in the U.K. because that is the community Tommy is most familiar with
In order to successfully argue the opposition, Tommy will have to:
- Demonstrate that peaceful coexistence while living in Western societies is against Islamic teachings
- Demonstrate that his interpretation of Islamic teachings, and not my own, is mainstream and correct
- Demonstrate that anti-social and antagonistic behavior toward non-Muslims is the norm from Muslim communities living in Western societies
And believe me, this is an impossible task. Believe me.
Before we get started we need to define our terms.
I will be using the word Islam to refer to mainstream Islam.
That is, the Islam followed by the overwhelming majority of Muslims around the World.
This Islam includes the teachings of the Quran and the Prophet Muhammad, as recorded in compilations of hadith, interpreted and applied according to the understanding of Prophet Muhammad’s companions, which have been codified and developed in the four accepted schools of law.
Muslims, on the other hand, can be defined broadly as those who fulfill the minimum requirements of faith and religious practice to be considered so.
They can and do include those who belong to non-mainstream sects, and vary in their religiosity, whatever sect they belong.
Among them are Muslims so devout they are like the Amish or Orthodox Jews.
Among them are Muslims who are nominally religious – they were born into the faith and just follow it as tradition.
Among them are Muslims who are non-observant but identify as Muslims.
Among them are heterodox sects like Shias.
Western society is a little bit harder to define.
What is Western society, really?
Wikipedia defines Western society as a term used very broadly to refer to a heritage of social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, belief systems, political systems, and specific artifacts and technologies that have some origin or association with Europe. The term also applies beyond Europe, to countries and cultures whose histories are strongly connected to Europe by immigration, colonization, or influence. For example, Western Culture includes countries in the Americas and Australasia, whose language and demographic ethnicity majorities are currently European.
With such a broad definition, proving my point is effortless. Trust me.
Is Western society your Philosophical tradition? Muslims preserved and transmitted Greek philosophy for you.
Is Western society your Legal tradition? The Arab Christian orientalist John Makdisi wrote a 100-page paper tracing the origins of Common Law to Islamic Law.
Is Western society your political and economic system? Adam Smith’s best ideas are found in the works of Muslim scholars Ibn Khaldun and Al-Ghazali. John Locke was influenced by the Muslim scholar Ibn Tufail.
Is Western society your science and technology? Isaac Newton was influenced by Ibn Al-Haytham, who pioneered the scientific method. The word Algorithm is derived from the Muslim mathematician Al-Khawarizmi. Cryptography was developed by Muslim polymath Al-Kindi.
Because human knowledge is cumulative and because civilizations have an epoch, Western society owes the nature of its very being to the medieval Muslim world.
This is the first proof FOR the motion.
The second proof: What are the teachings of Islam regarding Muslims living in Western societies?
First, Muslims living in Western societies do so under a binding legal contract with the state to be a law-abiding citizen on the basis of their passport, visa or permanent residency.
The Quran commands Muslims to fulfill their contracts.
“You who have believed! Fulfill your contracts…” [Al-Ma’idah 5:1]
“…fulfill your contracts. Contracts will be asked about.” [Al-Isra 17:34]
It describes people of true devoutness as
“…those who honor their contracts when they make them.” [Al-Baqarah 2:177]
It describes true believers as
“…those who honor their trusts and their contracts.”
In the hadith, the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said,
“Muslims are bound by all the conditions they have agreed upon” [Sahih Al-Bukhari]
In another hadith,
“Muslims are bound by all the conditions they have agreed upon unless the contract or its conditions are against the principles of Islam in the way of making something unlawful as lawful or lawful as unlawful.” [Jami’ At-Tirmidhi]
Second, is that Muslims are religiously obligated to live peaceably with their neighbors, whether Muslim or non-Muslim.
The Quran says,
“Allah does not forbid you from being good to those who have not fought you in the Deen or driven you from your homes, or from being just towards them. Allah loves those who are just.” [Al-Mumtahanah 60:8]
“Allah merely forbids you from taking as friends those who have fought you in the deen and driven you from your homes and who supported your expulsion. Any who take them as friends are wrongdoers.” [Al-Mumtahanah 60:9]
It also orders Muslims to be good,
“…to neighbors who are related to you and neighbors who are not related to you…” [An-Nisa 4:36]
In the hadith, Prophet Muhammad said,
“By Allah, he does not believe! By Allah, he does not believe! By Allah, he does not believe!” It was said, “Who is that, O Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ)?” He said, “That person whose neighbor does not feel safe from his evil.” [Sahih Al-Bukhari]
He also said,
“Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, should not hurt his neighbor and whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, should serve his guest generously and whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, should speak what is good or keep silent.” [Sahih Al-Bukhari]
Third, this relates to how Muslims must deal with those in our community who violate these teachings and cause harm to Muslims and non-Muslims.
The Quran commands Muslims,
“You who have iman! be upholders of justice, bearing witness for Allah alone, even against yourselves or your parents and relatives…”
In the hadith, Prophet Muhammad ﷺ says,
“Allah said, ‘I will be an opponent to three types of people on the Day of Resurrection. One who makes a covenant in My Name, but proves treacherous. One who sells a free person and eats his price. And One who employs a laborer and takes full work from him but does not pay him for his labor.’ ” [Sahih Al-Bukhari]
He also said,
“Allah the Most High says ‘O MY slaves, I have made oppression unlawful for myself and I have made it unlawful among you, so do not oppress one another.’” [Sahih Muslim]
He also said,
“Help your brother whether he is an oppressor or an oppressed,” A man said, “O Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ)! I will help him if he is oppressed, but if he is an oppressor, how shall I help him?” The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “By preventing him from oppressing (others), for that is how to help him.” [Sahih Al-Bukhari]
He also said,
“Verily, the most tyrannical of people to Allah the Exalted is he who kills those who did not fight him.” [Musnad Ahmad]
This proves the proposition via Islamic scripture.
I want to re-iterate the fact that if Tommy wants to claim these are not the operative Islamic teachings relevant to Muslims living in Western societies, he must provide a compelling counter-argument based on Islamic scripture.
And believe me, I’m certain he will be unable to do so because what I have presented is the mainstream position.
If you went door-to-door to every single Imam and Islamic scholar in the U.K. and asked them whether this understanding is correct or not, I highly doubt you’ll be able to find even one who disagrees.
The third proof: the behavior of the Muslim community in Western societies.
As stated earlier, I will limit myself to discussing the U.K. community.
I remember watching this video of Tommy driving around Luton, the one where he gets sucker-punched by, I’m sorry to say, a Muslim who looks outwardly observant.
After calling him a chief Tommy says, “that’s Islam.”
No, Tommy, that’s not Islam.
Islam is British Muslims giving 100 million pounds to charity in June 2016, distributed within the UK and worldwide.
Islam is when the Yorkshire floods happened in December 2015, Muslims coming out in force to donate food and clothing, offer shelter, and help cleanup efforts, when Britain First, UKIP, and the EDL were nowhere to be seen.
Islam is Nabil Obineche, one of the stars of BBC2’s Muslims Like Us, the one who said, “when in doubt, don’t be a dick,” running a soup kitchen for the homeless.
Islam is Birmingham Central Mosque setting up a permanent food bank to help the homeless and poor year-round.
It is grossly unfair to use examples of Muslims in the UK violating the teachings of their faith and engaging in criminal behavior as somehow indicative of true Islam, to fit your narrative.
I also want to point out a double standard when people criticize Islam and Muslims.
When we say, to understand Islam you must look to its teachings and not the actions of individual Muslims (who are human and err,) you say, “Islam is the actions of its adherents; look at all these Muslim extremists in our country.”
Then when we show you examples of Muslims being peaceful, productive, law-abiding citizens in your lands, you turn around and say “they aren’t following Islam properly; look what it says in the Quran.”
Well, which is it?
After the Westminster attack, Tommy Robinson’s reaction arguably garnered more media coverage than the attack itself.
The rallying cries of “racist,” “islamophobe” and “bigot,” from Muslims and non-Muslims alike, flooded social media.
tommy robinson is a pig faced cube heeded prick, he belongs in a racist version ae fucking minecraft, no in front ae cameras inciting hatred
— Butt Sea (@Butsay_) March 22, 2017
Today on 'I'm so racist that I'm a bigoted fuckwit who's blinded by prejudice' we have Tommy Robinson! pic.twitter.com/nhEQZ60nTY
— Jon Longworth (@Jon_longworth) March 22, 2017
@verified why have you verified right-wing Islamophobe Tommy Robinson? Do you know that's not even his real name?
— Aishah (@AishahMak) March 24, 2017
Tommy Robinson having an islamophobic rant using yesterday's victims as a means of spreading his anti-Muslim message is utterly foul
— cecily (@cechitch) March 23, 2017
Friendly neighbourhood reminder that Tommy Robinson is the former founder & leader of the fascist English Defence League & v v islamophobic https://t.co/Y5Aco0Coe5
— fi (@lacunosus) March 23, 2017
Giving people the benefit of the doubt
As Muslims, it is not only a mistake but irreligious to callously dismiss genuine concerns held by our non-Muslim neighbors.
In philosophy and rhetoric, the Principle of Charity requires interpreting a speaker’s statements to be rational and, in the case of any argument, considering its best, strongest possible interpretation.
This is no different than the Islamic concept of Husn Al-Dhann (having a good opinion of someone or some statement.)
O you who have believed, avoid much [negative] assumption. Indeed, some assumption is sin…
Worded more simply, it is to give people the benefit of the doubt.
In a recent episode of the Between Arabs podcast, host Nour Goda referred to it as “intellectual empathy” – trying to understand the other person’s perspective and properly understanding why he feels or thinks the way he does before you respond.
Is Tommy Robinson a racist and an Islamophobe?
Applying the Principle of Charity to Robinson’s speech, I don’t see a monster.
I see someone who wears his heart on his sleeve.
I see a man trying to protect his family, friends, and community, as any man would.
This isn’t to say I agree with his claims about Islam; far from it.
His understanding of Islam is cherry-picked and out-of-context.
The verses, hadith, and seerah he refers to are a result of confirmation bias.
A confirmation bias resulting from his lived experiences with some members of the Muslim community in the U.K.
He has witnessed racism against non-Asians and bigotry against disbelievers in his hometown of Luton.
He has had several attempts on his life made by Muslims and barely escaped murder while serving time in prison.
He has witnessed several terrorist attacks by Muslims in the U.K. in his lifetime.
Can you blame him for hating Islam?
The worst thing we can do right now is, shout these people down or attack their character.
The only result is reinforcing their confirmation bias against Islam and Muslims.
Silence them and the ideas don’t go away; they go underground.
Ultimately, Muslims are the ones who are harmed the most by such behavior.
There will be more anti-Muslim sentiment, more harassment of Muslims, more cowardly attacks against Muslim women, and so on.
And yet, when I consulted my brothers about Tommy Robinson, I was met with dismissal.
“He’s EDL for God’s sake.”
The implication being that Robinson is not worth our time or attention.
I disagree. The reality is the opposite.
It’s time for real talk
Our problems as a community will not be solved by governments throwing funding at organizations like Quilliam.
Quilliam is trash.
It won’t be solved by official statements by ivory tower academics signing condemnations of Prevent.
Prevent is trash.
It will be solved by regular folks like Robinson and I sitting down and talking it out.
What Brexit and the 2016 U.S. election show is that ordinary people have the ability to exert their will and force change whether the elites like it or not.
I will debate Tommy Robinson on Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017
That’s why I have accepted an invitation to debate Robinson on Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017 for charity.
The debate will be jointly hosted by Write with Courage and Union Magazine.
It will be pre-recorded and uploaded to Union Magazine’s Youtube Channel.
The topic is, “this house believes Muslims can remain loyal to their faith and country while living in Western societies.”
I will be arguing for the motion. Robinson, against.
The real winner is the Amelia-Mae Foundation
Whatever the outcome of the debate it’s a win-win for all sides because we are donating a total of £400 to the Amelia-Mae Foundation to raise awareness for children with Neuroblastoma.
Neuroblastoma is an aggressive childhood cancer developing from nerve cells called neuroblasts and affects over 100 children per year in the UK alone. The treatment is particularly long in duration and intensive.
If you want to know when the debate is published
P.S. leave a comment below and let me know what you think. Do you think this is a good idea or a bad one?