Mission Statement: "Might is not a justified argument"
The Dialogue with Islam forum is dedicated platform whose sole aim is to provide a bridge of understanding and discussion between the Western Intellectuals and the Muslim community in Britain.
The Need for Dialogue:
Islam has always encouraged interaction with other viewpoints from an intellectual angle. Whereas in the past, the debate has been with different faiths and beliefs, the modern era is composed of more complex ideas of identity, ethnicity, citizenship, belonging and otherness.
Islam and the Islamic world needs to address these viewpoints through dialogue which examines and analyses these viewpoints.
Through these intellectual debates we hope to disseminate and deconstruct the unjustified fear of Islam in the Western world.
Dialogue With Islam is not a religious or political group nor is it affiliated with any political or religious group. It is an independent platform for frank dialogue.
Shahinoor Ali (Director)
1) What is Dialogue with Islam?
DwI is a neutral and independent platform to facilitate Dialogue between influential Western Intelligentsia & Commentators and Islamic thinkers from the Muslim Community.
2) What are the aims?
We would like to achieve the following three goals:
i. Foster better understanding between the Western world and Muslim Community
ii. Establish an ‘Etiquette of Debate’ discussing issues from distinctly differently viewpoints, welcoming both agreement and polite disagreement between the speakers and audience
iii. Finally to encourage the Muslim community to suggest solutions to the Problems the West and the World in general is facing from a distinct viewpoint.
3) When was it founded?
Dialogue with Islam (DwI) was founded in April 2004 by its present director.
4) Are you funded by the Government or by any Muslim organisation?
No – despite the fact we have been offered funding from a number of different sources, we have decided to remain independent and not sought to make a profit.We rely on minimum cost ticket sales. There are number reasons for this – chiefly:
a) We would like to maintain our neutrality and independence of our organisations. We are not linked to any organisation nor do we seek to promote any particular viewpoint of Islam.
b) We believe it is important that we should ‘Stand on our own two feet’ rather than go after handouts. We hope we are giving something valuable to society.
5) How do you choose your panel?
Western speakers are normally high profile thinkers, politicians and commentators. We rely on good references – if a speaker is impressed with the event he/she will suggest other speakers others whom we can approach for future discussions.
For the Muslim panel we tend to go for Islamists Thinkers or Orthodox Traditionalists. As we believe that there is very little discussion in this space and it most likely to bear the most fruit, as this is making a conversation between those of often differing viewpoints rather than simply facilitating a conversation between like minded people. We try to get speakers who have substantial following and have expertise on the topic at hand.
None of our speakers are paid they all give up their time voluntary.
6) Why do you allow speakers such as Hizb ut-Tahrir, Hamas, Tabligh Jamaat and Wahabis etc. on your platform – are you not giving them publicity to air their views which may be offensive to some people?
The bottom line is that we believe in constructive debate and engagement between Western society and some of the viewpoints carried by the afore-mentioned groups and others. Our conditions are that there be no breach of the law, and that there is a minimal level of civilised debate.
When these groups are being invited we do try to bring an opposing or differing Muslim argument on the same panel – but this has not always been possible. In any case Groups such as those mentioned above are already given ample of publicity by global Media outlets such BBC, CNN, Al-Jazeera.
We have had some similar criticisms of some of our non-Muslim guest speakers, but apply the same standard.
As much as possible, we try to avoid popular trends that either elevate or demonise any particular intellectual viewpoint for the sake of achieving our main aims.
7) How successful have your discussions been?
Please read our previous speakers comments and judge for yourself.
However we are always trying to improve so any constructive feedback is most welcome.
8) What is the format of the debate?
We try to start off with opening remarks by the chair and speakers (normally 5 to 10 minutes each) and then we launch into interactive question and comments with audience. This normally lasts for an hour. Ideally we aim for a balanced panel.
9) What about audience?
Our average attendance is 75 people depending on who is speaking. Most of these are members of local Muslim community who are either professionals or students. We are also getting an increasing non-Muslim presence in the audience.
10) How do I get to see previous events – are they recorded?
We endeavour to video our events and previous events are normally put on our website – alternatively you can email us to purchase DVD’s of previous events and we will send it out to you subject to availability of course.
11) What is ‘Dialogue within Islam’?
This is a relatively new project. Here we have an all-Muslim panel from different groups, schools of thought and understanding of Islam. We explore the differences that they may have and ask them to debate current issues and formulate solutions to modern day problems.
12) What about the Director of DwI which group or organisation does he belong to? What are his views and opinions on Islam?
The Director does not belong to any group or organisation. He is absolutely not part of any group nor affiliated to any of the organisations or speakers that have been guests. He has been listening to different speakers since 1990 but as he is not an expert on Islam he frequently ‘flip-flops’ his views.