In the Name of God, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful.
By Dr Tabasum Hussain
On the 9th November 2009, Alan Craig on his public blog site, wrote:
“I’ve joined a Christian debating team called ‘Codgers’ [sic] and recently found myself enjoying the new experience of leading on a couple of Muslim/Christian debates…the second was ‘Jihad on trial’ with Sami Zataari of the Muslim Debate Initiative. They’ve been well-attended and amicable affairs with friendly relations across the faiths. The Muslim organisers are pleasant guys (yes, only guys, no girls of course – this is Islam) who seem genuinely interested in grappling with the issues.”
In his latest article, ‘Off with their heads?’ Alan Craig takes a shot at the Muslim Debate Initiative (MDI) and Islam in general when he states that there are no Muslim women on the MDI team. Reading a recent blog comment below the article someone stated that perhaps Alan should be given the benefit of the doubt in having missed the fact that I, Dr. Tabasum Hussain, am a female member of the MDI team!
It would seem there is little room for generosity in giving someone benefit of the doubt when it comes to individuals resembling Britain’s version of the American Christian Far-right, who make sweeping assumptions about Muslim organisations and Islam excluding women without really having a clue about what Islam actually says or the membership of the organisations he demeans. Mr. Craig took it upon himself to write an article and make a baseless statement about MDI without doing his research (or perhaps conveniently ignoring certain facts to make an invalid point against Islam). As a politician Mr. Craig should be expected at the very least to do his research by simply navigating the MDI website (for which he has a link in his article) and read the member profiles to discover that Dr.Tabasum Hussain is a female member. Perhaps Mr. Craig assumed that the ‘Dr’ title means ‘it’s just another guy’, and did not bother to read that it is a woman’s profile. If so, then he would be both a victim as well as a propagator of the very same gender biases and misogynistic world views that he publicly denounces – or did he conveniently side-step my existence as a part of deliberate strategy to attack Islam and Muslims?
Does Mr. Craig have any excuse for his ignorance of the existence of myself (a Female speaker in MDI)? Well since joining the Christian Evangelical organisation ‘The Codgers’, Alan Craig recently had to mediate a misunderstanding between MDI and The Codgers, as regards to a promised debate between myself and a member of their group. This debate which was meant to take place before Summer 09 (and constitute the 3rd MDI debate to date!), but this had been delayed by The Codgers who cited an unexpected lack of availability in the schedules of their speakers. I had asked Codgers to send one of their members to debate on an MDI platform, and was hoping to have one debate in the UK shortly before I relocated to Canada, but unfortunately this didn’t happen.
After I had left to Canada, the current acting Director of MDI, Abdullah al Andalusi was outraged at the Codgers apparent stalling of scheduling a debate with myself (which had to that point been going on for 5 months!). Abdullah then intervened and expressed his deep disappointment with the Codgers, and warned of a cessation of any debates with any of the members of the Codgers until they had confirmed a time and date to debate myself. Alan Craig, being a member of the Codgers, resolved to mediate between the Codgers and MDI. This led to representatives of MDI meeting up with The Codgers over coffee, to resolve the ‘misunderstanding’.
The question is, how and why did Alan make such comments that there was ‘no women’ in MDI, when he knew perfectly well there was, and even had offered to mediate a dispute that arose MDI was outraged due to the Codgers seemly unenthusiastic approach to debating a Muslim female member of the MDI team?
Furthermore, before Alan Craig’s claims he meant there are no women in the decision making team of MDI. MDI was and remains a group of semi-autonomous Muslim activists and speakers that work as a team. Working as a ‘team’ does not necessarily mean that organising all the debates is left to ‘one person’. Regardless of my absence from the UK, I have been trying to organise a debate with a female member of ‘The Codgers’ Christian debating team (as Mr. Craig is well aware of), so that the debate can coincide with one of my return visits to London at a month’s notice. Alan Craig was well aware of this. Abdullah only intervened when he saw no progress from the Codgers side. Now that there is a resolution in place, we shall see if the The Codgers keep to their word on that one.
Lastly, the MDI team is definitely recruiting both women and men that choose to step forward — I am just the first woman to step forward. The MDI does not take any old conscripts to bolster their credentials; women (like the men) choose to join. Please take the time to navigate our website and read the MDI team member profiles. What may come as another shock is that the Muslim men of the MDI team did not object to a woman becoming a team member. However, Mr. Craig may claim that women are not at the forefront, so please note that I am the only one with the ‘Dr’ title amongst all the Muslim men on the MDI website so far (and hence the most qualified member of MDI at the time of writing!). Furthermore, North America’s largest Islamic organisation is headed by Dr. Ingrid Mattson, a woman as well as a convert from Christianity (that’s what the North Americans call a double whammy!). If anything I find it patronising and/or insulting when women are often simply put under the limelight for reasons pertaining to political correctness or strategy. I do not care much for playing the role of “Mrs. Jack Van Impe” nor do I necessarily feel that a woman’s input and activism is only commendable when she is in the front lines of fire.
At the end of the day the MDI team have become somewhat accustomed to Mr. Craig’s ignorant and often hateful comments about Islam in general, and in his failing to get his facts straight on this whole issue he himself does a great job of highlighting the lack of credibility in anything else he may blurt out against Islam, Prophet Muhammad (saaw), Women, and Muslim organisations. Overall, this is an embarrassing reflection of how some of our Christian debating friends need to get their facts straight, or else cease making comments and stick to preaching the New Testament, with all it’s ‘Liberal’ teachings on women.
Unfortunately, Alan Craig has not learned from his lesson (and yes, he still has not retracted his fallacious statement after we pointed it out to him) and continues to attack us and Islam in regards to our alleged gender bias:
Alan Craig -15/12/09 on his official blog, he wrote:
“Last Thursday I was panellist at a well-promoted ‘Big Debate’ at Conway Hall in Bloomsbury. It was organised by the Muslim Debate Initiative on the subject ‘Islamification of Britain: Myth or Reality?’… 400 people listened for nearly 3 hours while the six-man panel (no women of course, this is Islam) debated the hot issue.”
MDI did attempt to contact Melanie Philips and invited her to attend as a debate panellist, but she did not take up our offer. According to Alan Craig’s statement, it would seem he does not consider Melanie to be a woman!
Finally, if Mr. Craig feels that this is an exaggerated response, generalizing based on a single incident, or assuming the worst about the other’s intentions, then he should take this moment in time to reconsider his modus operandi towards his Muslim `friends’.
Dr. Tabasum Hussain (Muslim female MDI speaker)
The MDI Press Release does not mention that we recently welcomed another woman to our MDI Team in London, Nazli Ali. You can read her profile here