This House believes in the separation of mosque and state

Tuesday November 30 2004


This House believes in the separation of mosque and state

DOHA—Tonight the Doha Debates, a monthly series of discussions focused on Arab and Islamic issues, welcomes four distinguished panelists to argue one of the most contentious issues in Arab society: the separation of mosque and state.

The discussion, which will be chaired by Mr. Tim Sebastian, host of the BBC’s HARDtalk, will focus on a central proposition: 'This House believes in the separation of mosque and state.' The debate will follow the form of the traditional “Oxford Union” debates: Two panelists will speak in favor of the proposition and two will speak against it. Afterward the floor will be opened to questions from the audience, who will ultimately vote for or against the proposition by a show of hands.

Speaking first for the proposition will be the acclaimed Egyptian author and international petroleum strategist Tarek Heggy, along with Sudanese author Dr. Abdelwahab El-Affendi, a senior research fellow at the Centre for the Study of Democracy, University of Westminster.

Speaking against the proposition will be Tun Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad, the former prime minister of Malaysia, along with former Jordanian Member of Parliament Laith Shubeilat, a longtime oppositionist to his country’s government.

Hosted by the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, the Doha Debates are intended to promote open dialogue on the burning issues of our time and to explore new solutions to old and intractable problems.

“We want people to see debate as a vital component of a functioning democratic society,” said Mr. Sebastian.

“We are dealing with controversial issues in an important time for the region—a time of change, a time of flux,” he added. “I think we’re going to surprise people who tend to see the region as monolithic, and those who don’t appreciate Arab diversity.”

The Doha Debates take place in the foyer of Qatar Foundation headquarters at Education City before an audience of 250, roughly half of whom are students at Education City’s various institutions of learning. The debates are filmed, and negot iations are underway to have them broadcast internationally.

Tonight’s event is the second in the series. The first debate was held on 13 October, 2004, when the proposition under discussion was 'This House believes that Arab governments are not interested in genuine reform.'