My thoughts on yesterday’s #bbctbq ‘Is countering extremism compatible with freedom of religion?’


Many of Quilliam’s critics appear to fail to address the issues at hand and instead focus on making accusations and making guilt by association arguments. In so doing, there is a failure to engage with the matters under discussion.

I appeared on The Big Questions yesterday to debate the topic: Is counter extremism compatible with religious freedom? I shared a platform with Dr Ridwaan Sabir who argued: Quilliam is an echo chamber for the government and supported the new counter extremism Bill which introduced banning orders and disruption orders. He argued this despite the fact that only last week Quilliam had openly criticized the government’s Bill for being counterproductive and anti-liberal. Even a cursory of a glance at Quilliam’s social media activity would have made this point obvious. In addition, I had spent a good few minutes criticizing the government regarding the Bill before Dr Sabir’s comments but I was still made out to be a supporter. I wondered whether this was due to a failure to listen in the heat of debate. Though possible it seems unlikely. There seems to be almost a deliberate failure to engage and listen to opposition arguments and a failure to use objectivity when debating and even basic research of the facts.

I had a similar experience with Roshan Salih from 5 Pillars earlier this week. On this occasion, Quilliam was accused of being an ‘uncle Tom’ due to their working with the government. Following this, Salih argued that the government should work with so called nonviolent extremist organizations rather than work with Quilliam. It was rather disconcerting that he was unable to see the patent contradiction in his statement. The Classical scholar Imam Shafi’i is noted to have said I never once argued with an opponent except that I made dua (prayer) to God to show me the truth on his lips. Shafi’i, here pointing out that the objective of a debate is that it is means for the truth to prevail not for one to become the winner.

Even if the accusations were actually true they fail to demonstrate an actual argument. Every time you dismiss an argument or opinion because you dislike its source you commit what’s called the genetic fallacy. Regardless of the actual merit of the views themselves, the genetic fallacy makes the mistake of supposing that the source of an argument affects its validity. It could well be that you detest the government and that the government is right.

The issue here is not merely a matter of oversight, but a type of siege mentality that plagues so many who argue from Quilliam’s opposing camp. What clearly prevails is an obstinate mind that suspends any analytical or critical thinking. This is even in the case of a reputable academic, which is particularly worrying. Ultimately, we all need to try a little harder to listen to one another.



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Monday 23rd May 2016

Comments: 1

1 thought on “My thoughts on yesterday’s #bbctbq ‘Is countering extremism compatible with freedom of religion?’”

  1. 1. Echo chamber
    2. Government stooge
    3. Three Year-old extremist
    4. I’m not listening anymore
    5. You’ve got a shit job
    6. Where’s your funding from
    7. Racist

    I know the script by now, because it happens every time and with different “debaters”. Why they cannot see that they at the very least come across as petulant, is beyond me.

    I was curious as to why Rizwaan Sabir was not picked up on his refusal to say that calling for the death of a member of the armed forces was extremist behaviour. It seemed to pass people by. I am now concerned what on earth he lectures about at university.

    Apart from knowing the script, the only other thing that is true, is that on The Big Questions, the front panel is always made up of the reasonable on the left (as viewed) and the loons (and serial interrupters) on the right.

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