|Shadid Lewis and Mustafa Akyol debated |
on behalf of Islam being a peaceful religion
Akyol, comparing Islamic-Christian differences to those between Judaism and Christianity, claimed that “Islam respects Jesus and Mary and so is closer to Christianity.” The question Akyol wanted to address was, "Can we get along?" and he claims that Islam actually recognizes Judaism and Christianity as valid monotheistic faiths.
"It is interesting that most persecution against people of other faiths has happened in the 20th century, for example the Armenian genocide. Yes, Christians have suffered under Muslims, but it was due to nationalism since the Christian Armenians had coexisted with Muslims for centuries before that." Akyol pointed out that the source of 20th century conflicts could be land, resources, or tribal, and said that we should not over-religionize these conflicts because their sources are usually not religious.
However, Akyol claims, the biggest problem in Islam today that threatens religious freedom is the ban on apostasy or conversion from Islam to any other religion. Akyol himself defended "freedom for Islam and from Islam," and said the ban on apostosy doesn’t come from the Koran but from post-Koranic literature on which much of Sharia law is built. It’s also coming from an era in which religion and politics were more intertwined - In medieval times, conversion away from Islam was akin to joining the enemy army.
Akyol argues that Islam can support religious liberty if these are reformed.
Richard Thompson then took the stage and began by telling conference attendees that it’s "disrespectful of Islam" to not take them at their word. "What does Islam stand for? 9/11, Boston marathon bombing, Somalia, anti-semitism, forced marriages, death for blasphemy and apostasy." He went on to explain that most Muslims are not jihadists but most Germans were not Nazis - there is a small group that directs the agenda of the whole. Thompson says that Akyol wants Islam to be something it isn’t, and used a WWII example to set the stage for what he was about to do: “Tell the truth; use their own words.”
Thompson went on to quote Akyol's book, Islam without Extremes: “Islamic societies in the modern world are not beacons of freedom.” He gave this and other examples from Akyol’s book to show that "Islam is a violent religion, was borne of violence, and spreads by violence. We have to understand that if we are to survive as a nation."
Thompson says that Muslims already "fought that battle" between moderate and extreme Islam centuries ago, and the moderates lost. Even Turkey, once held up as an example of moderate Islam, is becoming more extreme today. He says we don’t have time to change Islam, since Muslim countries are beginning to acquire nuclear weapons. Thompson concluded, "We have to be vigilant and understand the nature of the enemy, which is to destroy the United States of America."
Debate followed, and cross-examination ensued, moderated by Kresta. The remainder of the debate focused on trying to identify who is the enemy, since both men agreed that not all Muslims are violent but that some Muslims are extreme jihadists who pose a threat to the U.S.