So I went and saw the Hitchens/Ramadan debate: Is Islam a Religion of Peace? After the debate I got the chance to get Hitchens' autograph on two of his books that I have. I even made him laugh when I joked that one of the versions of his book that is a different size was the King James version. I told him that I'm a huge fan, and he replied "don't be a fan, don't be a fan." He doesn't like followers or "fans." I'm not sure what term he prefers for those who respect him. I also managed to get a really, really bad photo of him and me as he was autographing the books, but it's so blurry it's almost useless. I shook his hand and said "thank you sir" and he gave me a weird look, almost that of discontempt, at my fawning over him. I don't think he wants his fans to worship him like a religious figure or god, like the ones he so deeply criticizes, rather I think he wants critics who'll challenge him.
About the debate itself it wasn't what I expected. I mean there was meat in it, no doubt, so I'm not saying it was void of substance. They never actually analyzed the Qur'an's verses itself, especially the really violent ones, and from that I'm a bit disappointed. Instead, Hitchens focused on critiquing Islam's claim to be the answer for everything, and to being impeccable on every level, while notoriously not being able to handle criticism very well. The audience was pretty much all for Hitchens, and they cheered wildly when he ended his rebuttal on saying what we need is a secular government, with a godless constitution, and not Islam.
Tariq Ramadan replied, when asked during the Q and A if Islam's goal is to have the world living under Sharia Law eventually, he beat around the bush but basically answered yes. I almost couldn't believe it. It's been a fear of many critics of Islam, including me, that Muslims want to slowly populate the West, peacefully, and then when the time is right, when they have enough Muslims in power, try to impose their religious based laws on the people. I'm pessimistic of the future, when I say that I think the West and Islam are locked in an ideological battle, that might only just be getting started, that we and our children will have to be engaged in for our entire lives. That's why I think Atheist like me should become more outspoken, and shouldn't hide our beliefs, and when cornered, show the enemy no mercy.
Hitchens clearly won the debate, but even Tariq Ramadan and Hitchens both admitted that the question whether Islam was a religion of peace, was poorly chosen. Tariq said Islam is about life, to which war and death are sometimes a part of. Islam is suppose to encompasses everything, he says. Tariq is very good at giving very political answers and avoiding questions head on. He is also trying to take the position as the western-friendly, "moderate" Muslim, but I'm not buying it. I think his sympathy and loyalty will always be with Islam, no matter what passport he holds, or what cosmopolitan city he currently resides in. He may be cultured in the West, but he'll always be a Muslim.
So it was a great debate that I wish had lasted an hour longer. I fucking met Hitchens, my hero, and two days later I saw Sam Harris give a lecture on morality and science. So, this past week I saw half of the big 4 Atheists, the so called "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse." I love living in the Secular Metropolis!
Here's a clip from the debate: