On Thursday, 30 June 2011, MDI sent an official invitation to the English Defence League (EDL), to openly debate their issues and contentions against Islam and Muslims in a live public debate at a neutral venue.
Muslim Debate Initiative (MDI) is an open speech platform, that believes that respectful expression, discussion and debate is the key to promoting co-existence between communities, while maintaining a healthy intellectual environment.
Over the last two years in the UK, the effects of globalisation, the break down of the social fabric of society, individualism, foreign policy, the War of Terror, media sensationalism, extremism of every denomination, and ignorance have lead to a rise in intercommunity strife and intolerance.
Out of this milieu, organisations like the English Defence League (EDL) have arisen, driven by the belief of an impending take over of the UK, by Muslims and Shariah law. The EDL see the media as afraid and therefore, mostly quiet on Muslim expansionism, but eager to cherry pick bad examples of the EDL movement and label them as racist and fascist in an attempt to demonise them. The EDL believe the government is mostly dominated by ‘weak liberals’ who, out of ‘fear of Muslims’, suppress criticism of Islam and Muslims and kowtow to the demands of the Muslim community over the needs of others. Consequently, the EDL believe that Muslims pose a threat to the UK.
Muslims living in the UK see that Media sensationalism, government rhetoric and foreign policy has led to rise of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred throughout the UK. Muslim communities believe that the media cherry picks examples of negative behaviour by a tiny minority of Muslims, and ignores the vast multitude of examples demonstrating the positive contribution of the mainstream Muslims to British society. Many Muslims believe that the British government wages war for profit, and then suppresses the resultant legitimate political dissent under the pretext of ‘preventing radicalisation and extremism’. Muslims see the emergence of the EDL as the rise of fascism and ultra-nationalism, which is not only symptomatic of political agitation by the government and sensationalist media, but also of a depressed economy.
Which of these narratives is true? EDL argue that they have not been given a fair chance to express their ideas; they also argue that Muslims wish to silence criticism of Muslims and Islam.
Therefore, in the 1,400-year Islamic tradition of open discussion, it is members of the Muslim community who are openly inviting the EDL to express their views[i] – uninterrupted, at a renowned neutral venue (the Conway Hall in central London), with an impartial moderator and an equal allotment of time for all speakers.
MDI have a proven track record of inviting controversial groups on to our platform in the past. These include fundamentalist evangelical Christians, militant Atheists, Secularist campaigners and the British National Party. Throughout, MDI has successfully ensured peaceful, fair and civilised events, and has received numerous commendations from invitees.
As Muslims, we welcome criticism and debate. If someone should hold issue with Islam or Muslims, they have a right to express their views, as long as they accept other peoples’ right to disagree with them and debate those issues. Therefore, this event will be a peaceful but unrestricted public debate in front of a multi-cultural audience, on the topic of “Muslims or the EDL: which poses a threat to the UK?” (N.B. title is provisional at this stage) between two Muslim speakers from the MDI leadership, and two representatives from the EDL leadership.
We expect that if the EDL hold to the courage of their convictions, and believe that their ideas are true and need to be communicated to the public – they will welcome such an opportunity to express them.
MDI will publish an update with the response we receive from the EDL.
The MDI Team
[i]Please note, that MDI already has allowed one EDL member Joel Titus (his real name) to give a short presentation – without interruption or harassment – at our event on 9th December 2009 (available to watch here), and another EDL member, Bill Baker was invited for a TV debate in 2010 (available to watch here).
For more information on our past events involving controversial topics and speakers, please refer here.
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