Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Review of Shabir Ally Getting Ambushed by Shamoun and Dakdok

In one of Imam Shabir Ally's debates with David Wood there was a farce of a QAsession  which just appeared to be a pre-planned gang-up on Shabir.  I want to offer a few comments on the exchanges that took place between Shabir and Sam Shamoun as well as Usama Dakdok. It's easy to criticise after the event as hindsight is 20/20 - I understand there are mitigating circumstances but there is criticism levelled at all concerned.

Firstly, what was that farce? A set-up. Shabir, did not bargain for such sneaky tactics on the part of the ABN crew to try and help David Wood. ABN even had the pics of their questioners conveniently handy, their ABN affiliated apologists were allowed much more time to grill Shabir than other questioners and Sam Shamoun got two bites at the cherry (unprecedented in debates?). Sam appeared to have colluded with David prior to the debate as David conveniently had the sources Sam was referencing in his Q.

Contrast that farce with Shabir's polite but forceful interjection in the QA session in his debate with Jonathan McLatchie to prevent a Muslim questioner overstepping the rules of fairness in debate.

Those ABN folk could learn something from Shabir about fairness.

Shabir rattled

This seems like a first. A rattled Shabir. Dakdok and Shamoun threw enough pressure, insult and antagonism for Shabir to veer away from his customary calm and collected manner. Shabir's debate challenge to Dakdok was born out of frustration and perhaps even an impulse to put Dakdok under similar scrutiny and pressure. Shabir was feeling the pressure.

His acceptance of Shamoun's debate challenge was another sign of Shabir being rattled. Accepting a challenge from a person one seemingly had no interest in debating for the last decade further suggests Shabir had departed from his calculated self. This was a Shabir we had not seen before.

Having said that, Shabir, in now expected to try and make these debates happen. Shabir made his bed...

I don't know how Shabir concluded Dakdok's diatribe against Islam suggested he was a debater but nevertheless there could be some good that comes out of Shabir acting on impulse. Dakdok was hailed by David Horowitz as a scholar. He's also part of the Geller and Spencer cabal. This is the best opportunity Shabir has of addressing the type of audience which is all about demonizing Muslims. That angry mob of Christian Zionists who are united more by politics than faith. Folk who believe President Obama is a Muslim (of which Dakdok is one). It's a different crowd to those Shabir has had the pleasure of addressing. The Shabir that countered Dave Hunt is required for this mission. Welcome back to that Shabir!

As for Sam, Shabir is clearly not in touch with Shamoun's polemics. How much Shabir can cram before a debate is not known but nobody on this side of the fence wants to see Shabir decide to debate a defensive topic with Shamoun. Those topics are vast due to the plethora of Hadith and Tafsir literature thus it's a task for folk in touch with the latest polemics out there nevermind  somebody who is not au fait with Shamoun's arguments. Besides Shabir's strength and experience is overwhelmingly in attacking Christianity. On top of this, Shabir's approach of questioning the authenticity of certain Ahadith  could cause  more confusion than clarity. It also rubs the Islamophobic Christian crowd up the wrong way. I believe this is one of the reasons why they were so quick to denounce Shabir as a liar in his misjudgement of David Wood's alleged 'sarcasm'.

Shabir will struggle and may even offer more confusion than clarity if he adopts an approach similar to that employed in this exchange. Shabir seemed quite unfamiliar with Shamoun's arguments - which was odd as Wood borrows from Shamoun thus one would expect Shabir to have been more prepared in offering a concise, clear and non-controversial rebuttal. In truth Shabir's moved on. This is not the Shabir of 15 years ago who would tussle with the polemics of folk of Shamoun's ilk. It will be a car crash of a debate in my opinion. Just look at the interactions between the two here and the now infamous tussle over whether one was misquoting or not. Car crash stuff.

Undervaluing oneself

Shabir undervalues himself, He's the best known and most respected Muslim apologist/debater yet it seems as though he does not know his own value. Think about it, name me the best known Jewish apologists. Perhaps you will say Rabbi Tovia Singer and Rabbi Schmuley. These folk come at a premium. For a Christian to get into the debate arena with Judaism's best known apologists that Christian has to have standing, mainstream popularity and scholarship. I also suspect those guys don't come cheap either!

Contrast this with Islam's best known apologist, Dr Shabir Ally. Shabir recently debated a guy who, with all due respect, was pretty much unknown in Muslim-Christian interactions. Jonathan McLatchie. Then it was Wood - a man who needed to debate Shabir more than Shabir needed to debate him. Shabir decides to debate this guy 6 times? Was it six or more? So Shabir has debated a guy who peddles internet lies such as the Necrophilia lie more than Licona and WLC put together. And now Dakdok and Shamoun. Who next? Are folk going to set raffles up in churches to see who debates him next :)

Shabir is co-authoring a book with James R. White (does the 'R' stand for reformed?). Why not a stand alone book? I'd buy it. A shed-load of Muslims would. Personally, I'd rather not give my cash to James White though!nIn any case, is there really much more Shabir-White can say that they have not already said in their numerous interactions in past debates.

This is where Muslim debaters could certainly learn from their Jewish counterparts. Don't undersell yourself.

A note for Christians: Shabir is not Islam's best apologist. In my opinion Dr Yasir Qadhi is perhaps the best English speaking apologist out there.  Bassam Zawadi and Waqar Cheema are all better at countering polemics and dealing with the sources. Sami Zaatari is better in handling defensive positions in debates. And let's not forget...

All debaters have their strengths and weaknesses. Shabir is more accustomed to tackling Christian subjects - that's where his expertise and experience lies. Keep that in mind before pronouncing some sort of victory.

Good-Bad fruit argument

Shamoun's first polemic is an old one which has an easy refutation to it. Shamoun coupled Mat7:16 with the Sharia's period of non-prohibition of Mutah, he then proceeds to call this the bad fruit of Prophet Muhmmad (p) - thus using it as an argument against Prophet Muhammad's prophethood.

Shabir went to the well of questioning the hadith - when he really did not need to and nor should have. We must remember a huge percentage of the Christian viewers on ABN would  be hardcore Islamophobes and/or those who have been regularly subjected to Islamophobic propaganda - including the nefarious propaganda that Muslims can lie about their religion (a distortion of the concept of Taqiya). Those people would have had nothing, absolutely nothing, from Shabir's answer to alleviate such suspicions. Perhaps Shabir's method of going to the well of questioning Ahadith which are in the more trusted collections would only have reinforced their misconceptions of Muslims.

Hindsight is 20/20 but it would have been better if Shabir had answered by appealing to the piece meal method of Revelation and that there were things which we know to be sinful now which were initially not prohibited by Islam immediately due to the nature of Revelation - including alcohol consumption, beating slaves, prostituting slave women, pre-marital sex as well as temporary marriage.

These matters can only be forbidden upon the Revelation of the Quran and/or an express statement from Prophet Muhammad p.

So for alcohol consumption to be first banned, I believe it would have happened at the time of the Revelation of Quran 5:90. And likewise for the prohibition of maids being forced into prostitution (Quran 24:33), prohibition of beating slaves I believe would have been the time Quran 4:36 was revealed or a saying of Prophet Muhammad p on this issue (whichever came earlier).

As for Mutah (temporary marriage), this was part of the pre-Islamic Arab society and was actually one of the forms of marriage in that society. This is said to have been prohibited by Prophet Muhammad in 7AH. There is Hadith literature to show this.

The point here is, there were times during Islam where there was no explicit prohibition of things we clearly know to be sins now. Does that mean Prophet Muhammad p was producing bad fruit? Of course not, we must look at the completion of the formation of the religion which was revealed through Prophet Muhammad p. That's only fair.

If we do this we see Sam's argument falls flat on its face. In fact, if Shabir adopted this approach he could have turned the tables around and moved from a defensive position to an offensive position in t he interaction to highlight the inconsistency and then even move on to really get stuck in to Sam.

Christians have a similar concept for things which they would now call sins being allowed in the OT, they believe Jesus p fulfilled the Law and thus only then matters such as  beating the slave to near death was forbidden [Exodus 21:20-21] as well as chopping a woman's hand off for a low blow on her husband's assailant [Deut 25:11-12].

Would Sam say Jesus p brought bad fruit because according to Sam's view, there was a point at which Jesus did not forbid such actions and folk were allowed to beat slaves to near death and chop a woman's hand off for defending her husband? These are now considered sins in Sam's Christian view.

Shabir could have gone further still and used the point of alcohol prohibition. Alcohol is a poison which even in moderation is a risk factor for cancer. Prophet Muhammad came with a Revelation which forbade this yet Christians believe their Scripture did not forbid this. Thus, Sam's argument of bad fruit backfires and he ends up arguing against Paul and his own Scripture!

Shabir, if he wanted to be even more adventurous, could have used the Nadir Ahmed argument (yes, Nadir Ahmed!) - which I have never seen refuted by a Christian. IIRC Sam in his last desperate  attempt tried to refute it by claiming Islam did not forbid alcohol consumption - an obvious fail on Sam's part.

And if he wanted to add more on the bad fruit idea he could have totally flummoxed Shamoun by presenting the stats concerning premarital sex - Muslims have the least premarital sex out of all major faith groups and as Pastor Joseph Najm learned here 80% of evangelical Christian youth engage in premarital sex

Shabir could have asked about the fruit of Paul. If Shabir wanted to get Christians thinking how about talking bombs; Christians are the only group to have decimated innocent people through nukes  something which  Christian apologist James White was shamelessly caught condoning here

Oh yeah, there's plenty to talk about when it comes to countering Shamoun's bad fruit argument. I sense a Shabir of 15 years ago would have buried Shamoun in a ton of rotten apples, banana peel and pineapple heads.

An opportunity missed.

Like I say, hindsight is 20/20.

Hadith of sins being put on Christians

I can see why Shabir automatically questioned the authenticity of this hadith (as it seemingly contradicts with the Quran) yet Shabir was not aware of the Hadith so it does not appear he was prepared for such a polemical approach (further highlighting how Shabir has moved away from dealing with polemics). Perhaps if he was aware he would have went down the route of mentioning Imam Nawawi who did not teach it to be literal. I think this would have been sufficient to take the wind out of Sam's sails, in showing that early Muslims did not believe the Hadith in the way Sam was representing it

To further show Shamoun's understanding to be flawed would have been to highlight the fact the Hadith in this case refers to a certain group of Muslims - not all Muslims. Some Muslims go to Heaven straight away - these people would have sinned yet they are forgiven without having their sins transferred onto others. The same applies to Muslims who go to Hell before being released through the Mercy of Allah (swt) - their sins are not transferred on to others.

Answering via this type of approach would have perhaps been better for the audience. Less confusion. Less controversy. Less frustration on the part of the Islamophobes.

It would have also quickly allowed Shabir on the offensive to talk about things he's really good at, such as pointing at problems in the Christian concept of atonement.

Final thoughts on Sam and Shabir

Shabir is a lovely man. I really feel these two should not interact. Just look at the division and argumentation the recent interactions between them caused between Muslims and Christians on social media. Many insults were traded. Much unedifying behaviour was exhibited.

It's also not good for Sam's health. I was in Sam's PalTalk class recently and somebody mentioned this Shabir feud is not good for Sam's health. Sam agreed.

Also, Sam upon realising I was in the class (and potentially recording) was very pleasant with me. Sam has it in him to be pleasant and friendly to Muslims. I think in the debate setting, especially with Shabir, Sam is prone to overstep the boundaries of acceptable dialogue.

No matter how bizarre it sounds, the thought of Shabir brings out the worst in Sam for some reason. Bizarre considering Shabir is such a lovely guy. This in turn leads to some Muslims to retaliate as Shabir is much-loved and is seen as a bit of a father-figure to most Muslims involved in online Christian-Muslim dialogue/apologetics.

Shabir's legacy will be him having pretty much single-handedly spearheaded a modernisation of Muslim apologetics here in the West. Arguments from the 80's are being pushed aside in favour of more appropriate and honest arguments.

I want to see Shabir have a flurry at the end of his career marked with respect, dignity, love and orthodoxy . Best not debate Sam. Debating Dakdok would be more beneficial in reaching people who are yet to hear Shabir's presentation.

As for Sam, I think 's important some Muslims try to engage with Sam behind the scenes. Build relationships and understanding so he can greater appreciate Muslims. Perhaps he will relent in his antagonistic stance. Perhaps he will become a Muslim one day. InshaAllah

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