August 10, 2013 (Ypsilanti, MI) – Verbal fireworks erupted at one point and microphones were shut down by debate moderator, conference host and CEO of Ave Maria Communications Al Kresta this afternoon during a debate between Shadid Lewis and Robert Spencer. The two men debated the question, “Is Islam a Religion of Peace?”

Lewis, U.S.A. Regional Director of the Muslim Debate Initiative, argued that Islam indeed is a religion of peace and used quotes from the Koran to support his position. Spencer, director of Jihad Watch and author of a dozen books, began the debate by saying that since there had been so much controversy surrounding his appearance, he “decided not to show up” and instead would use direct quotes from the Koran and from Islamic scholars and other leaders to bolster his position that Islam is not a religion of peace but rather of extreme jihadist violence.

In a debate format with timed presentations, rebuttals, cross-examination and questions and answers from the audience, the two men made their cases. Spencer quoted passages from the Koran supporting violence against unbelievers, such as “If they turn away, kill them wherever you find them.” He also cited violent jihadist actions such as the Boston marathon bombing, the Woolwich attack and the 9/11 attacks. Lewis responded by saying that when there is a dispute about what Islam teaches or what the Koran says, you are to consult the Koran itself for clarification, quoting a passage which says shall I seek a judge other than Allah?” Then he proceeded to quote passages from the Koran supporting peace, such as one which says that if [unbelievers] turn away, your job is only to deliver the message.

Al Kresta, moderating the debate, at one point distilled the discussion down to two questions for the debaters: “this goes to the heart of the debate. Two things: can non-Muslims be targeted because they are non-Muslim, and secondly, can one reject Islam in good faith?” 

In closing statements, Lewis again asserted that the violent acts of a few should not taint our view of Islam as a whole. He compared jihadist Muslims to Christians who made flawed assertions about Christian beliefs in centuries past, and said that Islam warns Muslims against blindly following religious leaders.
Roberts again responded by quoting Muslim leaders who support violent jihad and concluded, “This is an awful lot of high powered misunderstanding of Islam… Unfortunately, there are not enough moderate scholars to have any influence on the violent jihadists….When was the last time you heard of anyone reading the Bible and committing an act of violence, with copious quotes? However, there have been many recent incidences of people doing exactly this with the Koran…. We can thank God that there are Islamic scholars who disagree with this, but it’s foolish to pretend that it’s not happening.”          

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