April 15, 2008
On April 15, 2008, Dr. Paul Marshall, a Senior Fellow of the Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom, took part in a major public debate held at New York's prestigious Asia Society on "Is Islam Dominated by Radicals?", which will be carried by NPR.
Marshall argued for the motion that Islam is dominated by radicals as part of a team that included Asra Q. Nomani, former Wall Street Journal reporter and a professor in the practice of journalism at Georgetown University, leading the Pearl Project, a faculty-student investigation into the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl; and Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, vice president of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the author of My Year Inside Radical Islam.
Arguing against the motion were Richard W. Bulliet, professor of history at Columbia University, author and editor of numerous books (and widely reported to be a key figure in Columbia University's decision to invite Iranian President Ahmadinejad to lecture at Columbia); Reza Aslan, fellow at the University of Southern California's Center on Public Diplomacy and assistant professor of creative writing at the University of California, Riverside; and Edina Lekovic, director of communications for the Muslim Public Affairs Council.
The debate is part of a series organized by "Intelligence Squared," supported by the Rosenkranz Foundation and took place before a packed, sold out auditorium at the Asia Society.
In "Intelligence Squared" debates, a vote by the audience on the motion is taken both before and after the debate and the change in audience's votes determines the winning argument.
In this case the vote before was 46% in favor, 32% against, 22% undecided; the vote after was 73% in favor, 23% against, 4% undecided.
This was the largest switch in votes and the largest margin of victory in the history of "Intelligence Squared" debates.
Key to the win was how the debate was framed in Marshall 's opening statement:
"We argue that Islam is dominated by radicals.
By radical we mean those striving for a political order enforcing a repressive version of Islam, which rejects freedom of belief and speech, and denies civic and legal equality regardless of gender or religion.
At the outset let us be clear about what we are not saying:
We do not argue that Islam itself is inherently radical. Islam is diverse and has different expressions in different settings.
We do not argue that the majority of Muslims are radicals. Most are not.
What we do argue is that, in recent decades, the most forceful drive, the most powerful shaping force, in Islam has been radicals.
They succeed not by superior numbers but through focused goals, better organization, better funding (often by Saudis) and great commitment, including killing themselves and others, especially Muslims."
The debate will be broadcast on NPR, and made available on podcasts. More information, including a transcript, is available at the "Intelligence Squared" website, http://www.intelligencesquaredus.org/Event.aspx?Event=29.
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