Tonight, a coalition of various media, local government and not-for-profit groups (including the prestigious St James Ethics Centre) are hosting the first Australian Intelligence Squared debate. The formula is fairly straight forward – three speakers in favour of the proposition and three against. It’s the winning format that has made the IQ2 such a huge success in the US and UK.

Tonight’s sell-out debate topic is “Islam is incompatible with Democracy“. A reasonable enough topic. I’m sure one could find numerous Muslims who would argue the affirmative, and at least as many non-Muslims who would argue the negative. However, it seems that at least two speakers have given the organisers reason to be extremely perturbed.

Former connoisseur of magic cancer cures Paul Sheehan wrote a column yesterday referring to “Tongan morons” and claiming Goulburn jail “is dominated by Aborigines, Pacific Islanders and Lebanese Muslims”. Shakira Hussein mentions Sheehan’s past work includes the outlandish claim (made in 1995) that racially-motivated crime by African-Americans against whites had led to some 25 million white Americans victims over a 30 year period. And you thought the Nazis were nasty to the Jews. As if things couldn’t get worse for the organisers and sponsors.

DD McNichol writes in The Oz today that St James Ethics Centre Executive Director Simon Longstaff became extremely perturbed to learn that the keynote international speaker, Daniel Pipes, had delivered a speech to the rather geriatric crowd at Quadrant. The Oz ‘s opinion editor invited Pipes to submit the article for publication, and it also appears in today’s Oz.

Read the piece and understand why Longstaff has good reason to be extremely concerned. Daniel Pipes combines just about every ugly stereotype about Muslim migrants you could imagine: They breed like rabbits; They refuse to integrate; They incite “indigenous European Christians” to violence and even genocide; They aren’t content to become European but would prefer to dominate, turning Europe into “Eurabia”. If only this dude was around last November to tidy up that Lindsay pamphlet.

Pipes’ claims only make sense if you presume Europeans and Muslims are mutually exclusive monolithic groups. Pipes ignores millions of indigenous European Muslims, including those making up the majority in Europe’s newest nation, Kosovo. (One wonders why Rebecca Weisser would want her page to be promoting the kind of rhetoric that hardly six-and-a-half decades ago justified some of her distant relatives to be sent to the gas chambers). Had Pipes talked in this manner about Jews, he may have been refused a visa for inciting hatred and violence toward a portion of the Australian community. And rightly so.

Among the stated goals of the IQ2 debates are “rais[ing] the level of public discourse on our most challenging issues” and “transcend[ing] the toxically emotional and the reflexively ideological”. Saying Muslims incite European Christians to slaughter them is hardly the sort of stuff that raises the level of public discourse.

I hope for the sake of the organisers that these noble goals can be met notwithstanding utter contempt being showed for them by two out of six speakers.

Meanwhile, spare a thought for Mr Nooooo Bingo, my fellow White Ribbon Day Ambassador Tanveer Ahmed, who finds himself on the same side as Pipes! I hope Tanveer doesn’t have any Bangladeshi relos in the UK…

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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