This House believes the Sunni-Shia conflict is damaging Islam's reputation as a religion of peace
Tuesday April 29 2008
MOTION REJECTED by 39% to 61%
Participants at the latest Doha Debate have strongly defended Islam’s image after repeated accusations that it had been damaged by the Sunni-Shia conflict in Iraq.
In a series of robust exchanges, there was strong disagreement about the effects of violence between Islam’s two largest denominations.
Juan Cole, Professor of History at the University of Michigan, said recent polls showed that Americans believed Islam contained more violent extremists than other religions and sectarian fighting must have contributed to that impression. “People in the United States are beginning to see Muslims as inherently violent,”; he said.
This perception, he argues, enabled the major powers to exploit Islam’s splits and embark on “a policy of divide and rule”;.
Seconding the motion, General Ali Shukri, an advisor to the late King Hussein of Jordan, insisted clerics were not doing enough to counter extremist Muslim beliefs.
He warned that the civil war in Iraq was threatening to spill over into neighbouring countries, adding that it was “a very bad image as far as Islam is concerned”;.
Opposing the motion, Imam Sayid Hassan Al Qazwini, leader of North America’s largest Islamic centre in Detroit, said there was “no conflict between Sunnis and Shias”;. He added that any dispute was between minorities on each side and “the majority get along and are peaceful”;.
Supporting him, Dr. Hesham Hellyer, Fellow of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies and Director of the Visionary Consultancy Group, rejected the notion that conflicts between Sunnis and Shias had done any damage to the reputation of Islam. “The West has been critical of Islam for a thousand years and portrayed it as violent – and that has nothing to do with the Sunni-Shia divide.”;
He also criticized the Western media for exaggerating religious divisions, a view endorsed by most contributions from the floor.