Oxford students agree that “Islam is a religion for peace”.


The Debating Chamber of the Oxford Union Society.

The Debating Chamber of the Oxford Union Society.

Hundreds of students from Oxford University every Thursday pack the debating chamber of the Oxford Union Society to listen and participate in a debate on an issue of current interest and importance. On 23 May the motion under discussion was “That this House agrees that Islam is a religion for peace”. After a two-hour intensive debate participants voted 284 in favour and 186 against, and the motion was passed.

OXGAPS Mehdi Badali was in the debating chamber following the proceedings:

Last week’s debate at the Oxford Union was preceded by the unfortunate attack that resulted in the death of British soldier Lee Rigby at the hands of two men who saw the killing as revenge for all Muslim deaths caused by the British Forces. It also did much to attract attention to the debate, taking place the next day, as a packed debating chamber watched events unfold.

The opening of the proposition posited that the victims of a terrorist attack are not only those who are physically affected by it – it encompasses all those who feel insecure or under threat as a result of it. As such, Islam was in effect taking a double-hit – not only was it being misappropriated by people with otherwise criminal intentions, but its real followers were also being put under duress as a consequence of the actions of Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale,

The notion of Islam as a religion of justice was a topic that featured heavily in the proposition’s argument. Adam Deen, founder of the Deen Institute, spoke of how Islam warns against an enthusiasm for war, but that an aversion to action must not be identified as moral cowardice. Rather than encouraging devastation, Mr. Deen argued that Islam has a clearly defined jus in bello – underlining the importance proportionality of attack and fighting only those who fight.

Al-Jazeera presenter and writer for the Huffington Post Mehdi Hasan followed on from this, saying that qualities such as kindness, empathy and compassion were emphasised in Islam. Furthermore, he attempted to extricate the religious element to terrorism by stating that terrorists had a secular aim in forcing the hand of democracy in regaining land considered their own.

Anne-Marie Waters, Labour MP hopeful, spoke to the audience from the viscera as she repudiated the argument that Islam was misappropriated by extremists, putting forth that Islam’s mainstream brand lacks such Western ideals as freedom of speech and allows for the ready marginalisation of women. Daniel Johnson, founder and editor of the magazine Standpoint, picked up on Ms. Waters’ reference to apostasy. The execution of Mahmoud Taha for postulating that Islam in its original form accorded all people equal rights, he argued, was a sign of the religion’s inherent belligerent conservatism. He did, however, attract calls from the crowd after urging the crowd to keep ‘our’ university free of apparently anti-Western characteristics.

Peter Atkins brought the opposition to a close with his speech that highlighted Islam’s need for cultural advancement. Unconvinced that acts of kindness and compassion assuaged the force felt by barbaric punishments, Mr Atkins held that an Islamic enlightenment would embrace humanity and free thought.

 The result of this debate was looked forward to with marked excitement. In the end, after the usual mix of high emotions and interesting floor speeches (one in particular stressing Islam’s apparent ambiguity towards violence), the proposition prevailed in what proved to be a fair comprehensive victory.

 Mehdi Badali

What is the Oxford Union?

The “Union”, as it is affectionately known by generations of students, is steeped in history. It was founded in 1823 as a forum for discussion and debate, at a time when the free exchange of ideas was a notion foreign to the restrictive University authorities. It soon became the only place for students to discuss political topics whilst at Oxford. W.E. Gladstone, later to become one of the greatest British Prime Minsiters, was one of the leading figures of the Union’s early years. Gladstone was President of the Union in 1830, shortly before entering the House of Commons. Many others have followed him into politics, and the Union can boast dozens of former members who have been active in its affairs whilst at Oxford and then gone to become both nationally and internationally prominent figures.

The Oxford Union has been at the centre of controversial debate throughout its history. As the most prominent debating platform outside Westminster it is no surprise debates have been unrivalled in their quality and impact. One of the most famous motions, “This House will under no circumstances fight for King and Country”, was passed in 1933 by 275 votes to 153. The result sparked off a national outcry in the press, and Winston Churchill denounced it as “that abject, squalid, shameless avowal” and “this ever shameful motion”; some say that the result encouraged Hitler in his decision to invade Europe. In 1975, days before the referendum on EEC membership, the motion “This House would say ‘Yes’ to Europe” was carried by 493 votes to 92. This debate was arguably a considerable influence on the referendum result.

In the words of Michael Heseltine, the Union has “managed to absorb the greatest diversity, the wildest firebrands, the most outspoken and non-conformist people.” Diversity and outspokeness, central to the Union’s foundation, remain its guiding principles to this day.

For more information on the Oxford Union Society visit www.oxford-union.org.

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12 Responses to Oxford students agree that “Islam is a religion for peace”.

  1. Pingback: Oxford Debate: Is Islam A Religion of Peace? | FrenchNewsOnline

  2. h says:


  3. Fred Mozart says:

    I find this result stunning. Says a lot about either the speakers or the audience. Ask yourself this: If Islam truly is a religion of peace, then the peaceful Muslims should be the world’s biggest opposition to fundamentalism and terrorism in the name of Islam. Yet, it remains remarkably silent on that front. The only thing that non violent Muslims do after there has been yet another attack on innocent people (and there will be one next week, we all know) is rush out in front of a tv camera and proclaim that Islam is a religion of peace. If that is true, where are the prosecutions of those who commit these atrocities in name of your religion? Where are the courts, the justice, the police and the armies, hunting down the terrorist who are really offending your deepest beliefs? Where is the resounding outcry of Muslims all over the world after the September Kenya killings? If it exists, I must say you are doing a hell of a job keeping it silent.

    • Editor says:

      Thank you for your comment. Please note that both OxGAPS as well as the audiences that participate in the Oxford Union debates are made up of persons of different religions.

    • Jane says:

      If that’s the way you’re going to think then the same can be said about people from any religion. There will always be bad people in the world. You can’t generalize an entire community based on them. You’re a human being. Why don’t you go out and protest against the LRA in Uganda. Where do you get your knowledge of the Quran. Have you ever read it. Do you even know what’s in it. Is every single murderer/rapist/thief/criminal in
      all the prisons of your country a muslim or can you find people of all backgrounds and religions there. Wake up. Learn a little humility.

  4. Harley J says:

    The result may appear astonishing on the face of it, and will doubtless have been influenced, as implied by the editor’s comment above, by the diversity of religions (read number of muslims) participating in the debate. However, we also have to remember that British society in general is renowned for its tolerance and acceptance of different cultures, religions, beliefs etc., and it is hard for British people generally to condemn something, in this case a religion, if it risks causing offence when muslims are present in the same room, or when they, as most of us do, have muslim friends who we know to be the most respectful and caring individuals that we could ever wish to meet and whom we would also not wish to offend by criticising their innocent beliefs. It is therefore inevitable that such a forgiving attitude will lead to such a result.
    The irony is that, when considered on a global scale, it is our ‘moderate muslim’ friends that are the minority, not the vast numbers of extreme radical islamists who we so frequently see parading their streets in their millions proclaiming ‘death to the west’, or shouting of ‘god is great’ every time some western interest in destroyed in allah’s name. Such practices are totally incompatible with the concept of peace, yet if anyone was to suggest to any of these vast numbers of committed muslims that they didn’t actually believe in the true islam, they’d doubtless think you were insane. It is the actions of this vast majority of muslims that are having an increasing influence throughout both the muslim and western world, and which present an increasing threat to peaceful relations with the west. By their sheer numbers, these nations simply cannot be described as a ‘minority’.
    However awkward we may feel about criticising our neighbours, their beliefs or their behaviour, the facts presented by Walters, Dean and Atkins remain irrefutable. And the criticisms raised by muslims about the violent behaviour of christians, or about pacifism being incompatible with islam according to the quran, are quite shameful when you consider that christ himself advised all men to love, respect and care for each other unconditionally as equals. Remember, christians are those who live as christ would have them live; those who claim to be christian but live otherwise are NOT christians and should not be referred to as such. And yes, muslims will make the same argument in support of themselves, yet they cannot escape the fact that the quran’s teaching is not only inconsistent within itself, but sees non-muslims as inferior, providing strict guidelines upon how muslims should behave towards non-muslims, for example, stipulating that ‘non-believers’ should be forced to either turn to islam or pay a tax to the muslim authorities in return for being allowed to live freely amongst muslims. It is teachings such as these that have for years driven the belief that muslims should establish their presence in all countries throughout the word with the one single ultimate aim of converting those countries to islamic states in the name of allah, and ensuring that those who do not honour allah as the ‘only god’ live subservient to those who do.
    Such teaching is in complete opposition to the fundamentals of christ’s teaching which insists that all men are equal. What’s more, islam’s elitist belief in the need to gaining control of allah’s world is by it’s very nature a threat to the freedom of all mankind, while christ on the other hand gives men freedom of choice without conditions. For this reason alone (and there are many others), islam simply cannot be considered a religion of peace.
    When I discuss this with my muslim friends, their only response is that ‘it’s how individual muslims respond to the teaching in the quran’ that will ultimately dictate how ‘peaceful’ muslim societies are in the world. The trouble is, that this debate is not about about ‘how muslims respond’, it’s about islam according to the quran. And if we do take into account ‘how musims respond’ then we have to look at the response of those millions of hate-filled muslims throughout the muslim world, as mentioned above, who would destroy all things non-muslim given half a chance, and all in the name of allah.
    You also have to remember that islam is not just a religion – it’s a political system, and as such one can be a muslim without being committed to the quran, although you are assumed and required to be both, hence the penalties for apostasy.
    As long as there is anything at all in the quran that has even one person believing that allah wants them to behead an innocent soldier on the streets of London, then again, islam can in no way be considered a religion of peace.

  5. Ali habib says:

    The motion really argued as to why islam is peacful!

  6. mc says:

    the entire debate took place straight after the beheading of Lee Rigby, which show how great cowards students at Oxford Union are. One has to betray own senses to claim that Islam is a religion of peace, especially in contemporary times, when terrorist attacks in the name of Islam are occurring on daily basis.

  7. I bilive and you bilive that ,That Islam is apeacefull religion.

  8. zohaib says:

    no offence intended but i need a answer to one point..am here in uk from about three months and on last friday on my university gate a person came to me and directly said to me i hate muslims and i am racist and bashed me into university gate and when i for police it took them about one hour to come on site just to tell me that realistically its very difficult to get that guy when the place onwhich this whole event happened had a cctv camera recording it all or if not all atleast hi face…point is just because of one person should i see my self insecure,if not the why raising point of insecurity…

  9. Dibbs says:

    Gentlemen I ask you this single question.

    What we should be debating is the viability of dehumanizing the peoples that make up the diverse range of ethnicity that live in the very same planet we ourselves live in.

    Dehumanizing any one ‘group’ by categorizing them as ‘us’ and ‘them’, we can not have a war without a us and them.

    You may claim do be a (insert your ethnicity here), that is a proud (insert the name of your state of residence), but my pride doesn’t come from those things.

    I am proud of my species, I’m a proud homo sapiens, a species that has existed on this planet for about 10,000 years, isn’t that cool?

    I embrace every culture, religion, language, and culture because they do not belong to any singular group, democracy existed because of we homo-sapiens existed.

    Isn’t it cool that while we may come from different backgrounds that we created everything that is both good and bad, why because we’re not perfect.

    Isn’t it cool that the earth that is the home of homo-sapiens belongs to us all, equally?

    If any group is deprived of their humanity, then genocide is committed. The trans Atlantic Slave trade treated Africans not as people but as animals.

    Do you want to advocate the dehumanization of Islam because you may believe that it threatens your way of life?

    Now the simple question, who are you?

    The war on terror is genocide, war itself is genocide.

    It’s man vs man, not European/western/American vs Iraqis. It’s people butchering other people under the guise of ‘us’ and ‘them’ .

    So who are you?

    Are you a fellow homo-sapiens that wants these petty matters to disappear?

    or are you something else?



    Just my 2 cents

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