Event Reviews

Debate Review: Ijaz Ahmad vs Bob Siegel

I’d like to reveal for public consumption, a review of my debate with Bob Siegel by a Christian from Canada. He’s a well informed individual, who’s read the review of other polemical Christians, such as Anthony Rogers from Answering Muslims. This is the Christian’s review:

I have listened to the debate between Ijaz Ahmad and Bob Siegel on the reliability of the Qur’an, and I must say that from the perspective of this detail-oriented Christian listener, the result of the debate could best be described as a stalemate. I do not find Ijaz’s arguments for the authenticity of the Qur’an (such as the claim that its message spread like wildfire throughout the known world and changed the course of history—a claim that almost any other religion could make, including Christian) to be convincing at all.

That being said, however, I cannot agree with my friend Anthony Rogers in his claim that Siegel “was dealing it to him so handily.” I found Siegel’s arguments for the reliability of the Bible to be rather unimpressive. He lacks knowledge on the discipline of textual criticism (e.g. He does not know what an “eclectic text” is, even though he was clearly attempting to articulate the concept).

Also, I had the distinct feeling that Siegel was relying entirely on secondary and tertiary sources for his arguments. This was made painfully clear when he attempted to address the contents of the Qur’an. Even when I might otherwise have been inclined to agree with his assertions, he never once backed up his assertions by citing chapter and verse from the Qur’an, and his failure to do so seriously hurt his ability to speak to the Islamic holy text’s claims.

I was also disappointed by the way Siegel and his moderator bounced from topic to topic. I was expecting a debate on the reliability of the respective holy texts, but there were issues being thrown around that had nothing to do with that topic. The discussion on heaven and hell comes to mind, as well as the one on whose holy text is the most violent. It has been my experience that when someone resorts to jumping from topic to topic, that is a sign that they have given up on attempting to argue for the central thesis of their debate.

As for Ijaz Ahmad’s debate performance, I have to give kudos to him for restraining himself from making any kind of snide comments or below the belt attacks in this latest performance (though I cannot speak to any of his past debates in that regard). The one thing that I respect about him is that he attempts to step up the game from previous Islamic apologists who have done little but parrot the claims of old-style polemicists such as Zakir Naik. He does attempt to critique Christianity at a scholarly level by looking into academic sources (including primary sources) on textual criticism and early Christian history. Whatever else one wishes to say about Ijaz, he is certainly no slouch when it comes to doing research in producing his arguments.

Finally, I must speak on the issue of Christians leveling ad hominem attacks against Ijaz in their reviews of his debates. I totally understand how in the heat of the moment, we can become very adversarial in our treatment of those we are in opposition to. However, some of the statements that are being made against him are simply unwarranted and—from a Gospel-centered perspective—un-Christlike. No, do not excuse your attacks by saying “well, he does it too”. The tu quoque fallacy was and still remains a logical fallacy, so resorting to it will do no good here. I would like to remind my Christian brothers of the words of the apostle Paul: “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:6, ESV). Perhaps once we all—Christian  and Muslim—rise above these petty personal squabbles, we can accomplish something genuinely constructive in our intellectual debates and exchanges with each other.

As for why the Christian decided to respond to my request of reviews, he says and I quote:

As for why I said yes to your request for a review, my desire is to help my fellow Christians as much as it is to help you. This is my way of telling them: “Come on guys, I know you can do better than that.”

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