- By David KennerDavid Kenner is the Middle East editor at Foreign Policy. He is based in Beirut, Lebanon, and has been with FP since 2009 (a long time, he knows). He worked for FP previously in Cairo, where he covered the early days of the Arab Spring, and before that in Washington. He has attended Georgetown University and the American University of Beirut and has reported from Libya, Egypt, Gaza, Turkey, Lebanon, and Iraq.
Intelligence Squared hosted some intellectual heavyweights on Oct. 6 to debate the motion: "Is Islam a religion of peace." Those who took part included Maajid Nawaz, the founder of the counter-extremism Quilliam Foundation, who argued in favor of the resolution, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the former Dutch MP and critic of Islam, who argued against it.
The result? Hirsi Ali won in a landslide. Intelligence Squared polled the audience before and after the debate, and she prevailed over almost all of the undecided audience members and even a segment of those who had previously disagreed with her. Here’s the hard data:
Before the debate:
After the debate:
This will be painted as a chilling sign of the rise of Western anti-Islam bigotry, but I’m not so sure that’s clear. Obviously, Islam isn’t a "peaceful" religion any more than, say, Christianity, Judaism, or Hinduism. If the audience was only convinced that the violent tendencies in Islam are on par with those religions, that does not necessarily mean that they’re all about to become fans of Geert Wilders. If anyone had asked my vote, I would have told them that it’s a stupid question.