Muslim avoiding Debate Initiative

When I first heard of the MDI (Muslim Debate Initiative) I thought, what an excellent idea for an organisation. A robust exchange of ideas is not only the basis of a strong, diverse society but also a sign of respect…

Last year, when ran the Perspective Course for a second time and as part of our session on Islam, Nicola had arranged a speaker from the MDI to come up to Leeds to present a talk.

Being a student society we are very restricted on funding so the MDI had agreed to pay the travel costs associated with sending someone but we set about providing a welcoming atmosphere, moving our social away from the pub and to a local sheesha bar.

Then, on the day before the talk, the speaker phoned me saying he was about to book his train and wanted to check that we were fine to pay all the costs. I explained that Nicola had already agreed with the MDI that they would pay the costs but he denied this and insisted we pay the £70 train bill. I reluctantly agreed, presuming the situation was sorted.

However, twenty minutes later I received another phone call from the speaker saying that actually because he was booking at the last minute, the train bill would come to £250 and were we alright to pay this? To which I, of course, said no and he decided he wouldn’t be able to attend after all. Thankfully, within a day, the Leeds Makkah Mosque were kind enough to provide us with a speaker.

Maybe this was a mix up. I can understand that sometimes this happens.

Earlier this year we began planning a big debate between Andrew Copson, chief executive of the British Humanist Association and an Islamic speaker, so we once again contacted the MDI, presuming on good faith that last time has been a mix up. They agreed to send a speaker and after many emails being exchanged, everything seemed to be in place.

Then, when we contacted them a week before the debate was due to take place to confirm all the final details, the speaker emailed us back saying he had been told the debate was cancelled and so would not be attending.

I then contacted the MDI to find out what was going on and they confirmed what their speaker had said – they had decided the event was cancelled and told him not to go. They then asked if they would like them to provide another speaker and I said yes – and then never heard back from them.

Another debate successfully avoided.

What is interesting, is the parallels between these incidents and the infamous February 2009 debate with the Islamic Society at Leeds in which they actually went out of their way to prevent the event from going ahead. After all of this, I find myself very nostalgic for the debates we had back in the day with the Christian Union.



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This entry was posted on Saturday, December 4th, 2010 at 1:10 pm and is filed under Humanism. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.