Maajid Nawaz, Director of the Quilliam Foundation, defended the motion “This House Believes that Political Islam is a Threat to the West” at the Doha Debates on 18th January 2009.
The debate saw Maajid Nawaz and Yahya Pallavicini, an Italian Imam and government adviser, in favour of the motion and Shadi Hamid, a senior Fellow at Stanford University, and Sarah Joseph, Editor of the Muslim lifestyle magazine Emel, against it. The debate was chaired by Tim Sebastian.
Speaking in support of the motion, Maajid Nawaz said that while Islam itself was not a threat to the West, it was its politicization that constituted a danger. He said he was against those who “engaged in politics with a fixed agenda using religious scriptures to back a political stand. We are not saying that there aren’t moderates or extremists, but that the ideology of political Islam gave birth to jihadism.”
Yahya Pallavicini, said the activities of those who misused religion for political purposes were harmful and a threat to the West because they “were brainwashing new generations with their utopian visions. To promote Shari’ah Law out of its context by such things as forcing women to wear burkhas and not allowing them to have an education is a misleading use of religion”.
Arguing against the motion, Shadi Hamid, insisted that some of the world’s most prominent extremist groups had renounced violence and were committed to the democratic process and that neither Hamas nor Hizbollah posed a threat to the West. Sarah Joseph suggested that political Islam was about the rights of Muslims to “self-determine” what the political systems in their countries should be, insisting that that there was no such thing as a separation between politics and religion.
The motion was narrowly defeated by 51% to 49%.