I was invited by the globally prestigious think tank , ‘Chatham House’ [The Royal Institute of International Affairs] , to a debate on Thursday 7th December 2017, the title ‘Should Religion be Separate from State?’ .
The debate was decided by seeing which speakers managed to change the most minds by the end of the debate.
My opponents were Andrew Copson, director of the Secular advocacy group, ‘Humanists UK’, and Zineb El Rhazoui, an ex-Muslim, former columnist for CHARLIE HEBDO, who came to the event from France.
On my side was Nick Spenser, of the Christian thinktank THEOS.
Andrew Copson is a career campaigner for Secularism, and has been instrumental in repealing in the name of Secularism, a number of UK laws and policies that had established and recognised religious aspects of the UK state and society. He is a formidable, yet measured speaker, of which I’ve had the pleasure of debating many times.
Predictably, Zineb El Rhazoui, made a lot of anti-Islam (and anti-Morocco!?) comments and statements. She advocated the French system of ‘dealing’ with religious rights of people (which is usually in the form of banning public manifestations of it).
My argument was simple, the state represents the people, the people believe in religions, so not only should religion be not separate; but EVEN in the WEST, religion is not separate from state. In fact, I pointed out, that it is impossible to separate them (not least because laws are based upon morals and ethics, and morals and ethics are based upon a person’s worldview (which is what we call ‘Deen’ in Arabic)).
I mentioned that while the West allows and supports multiple religious communities and teachings, the Islamic Millet system was better than the West, at managing multiple religious groups, and protecting their rights – because Islam allows people of other religions to actually live by their own laws (and not have Sharia imposed upon them, like e.g. the prohibition of eating Pork is not imposed upon Christians), and rule by their laws amongst themselves. Something the West doesn’t allow .
Before the debate began, the audience was asked to vote. The event wasn’t open to the public, but only Chatham house members (policy analysts, journalists, politicians and academics), and a selected proportion of post-grad students.
The audience seemed to be all staunch Secularists! Literally 0% voted in favour of keeping religion and state not separate.
After the debate, the audience was asked to vote again, and we had managed to move 9% over to our side! Therefore, by Chatham House rules, our side were declared to have won the debate. Alhamdulillah!
We should all thank Allah (swt) first and foremost for granting our side victory, changing people’s minds, and manifesting the Haqq. I’d like to thank all of you who made Dua and supplicated to Him (swt) for His help.
The video will be out the morning of Tuesday 12th December 2017 Insha’Allah on all MDI platforms , which I will post a link to on this page.