This House believes the Sunni-Shia conflict is damaging Islam's reputation as a religion of peace

Tuesday April 29 2008
MOTION REJECTED by 39% to 61%

Speakers

Juan Cole

Speaking for the motion
Juan Cole

Juan Cole is the Richard P. Mitchell Distinguished University Professor of History at the University of Michigan. He is the author of one of the most influential blogs on the Middle East called Informed Comment and also writes a regular column for the news website Salon.com.

Professor Cole writes extensively about contemporary Islamic movements as well as issues related to Egypt, Iran, Iraq and South Asia. His articles on contemporary Sunni radicalism include 'Muslim Religious Extremism in Egypt' in Middle East Historiographies (2006) and he has authored several journal articles on Shi'ite movements in present-day Iraq.

His books include Sacred Space and Holy War: The Politics, Culture and History of Shi'ite Islam (2002) and Napoleon's Egypt: Invading the Middle East (2007).

Professor Cole speaks Arabic, Persian and Urdu and has lived in a number of places in the Muslim world for extended periods of time.

Juan Cole earned his BA in History and Literature of Religions at Northwestern University, his MA in Arabic Studies/History at the American University in Cairo and his PhD in Islamic Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles.

 

Imam Sayid Hassan Al-Qazwini

Speaking against the motion
Imam Sayid Hassan Al-Qazwini

Imam Sayid Hassan Al-Qazwini leads North America's largest mosque - Detroit's Islamic Center of America.

He took up the position in 1997 and a year later founded the Young Muslim Association which is aimed at educating Muslim American youth. It is now one of the largest Muslim youth organisations in North America.

Imam Al-Qazwini was born in Karbala, Iraq, in 1964 to a family of scholars and religious leaders. His father, Ayatollah Sayid Mortadha Al-Qazwini, helped establish several Islamic schools and institutions and served as the principal of Imam Assadiq Islamic School in Karbala. In 1980, Imam Al-Qazwini's grandfather, Ayatollah Sayid Mohammad Sadiq Al-Qazwini, was arrested and imprisoned by Saddam Hussein.

The Al-Qazwini family fled to Kuwait where Imam Al-Qazwini decided to follow the family tradition and become a scholar of Islam. He moved to Iran with his family and in 1980 joined the Islamic Seminary in Qum. During his studies, he administered an Islamic journal called Annibras, orThe Eternal Light, which addressed social, historical and Islamic issues. He also authored two books: Meditation on Sahihain, a critique of Sahih Al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim, and Prophet Mohammad: The Ethical Prospect. He graduated in 1992 after twelve years of study.

Imam Al-Qazwini and his family immigrated to the United States in 1992 and lived in Los Angeles for four years. There, Imam Al-Qazwini directed the Azzahra Islamic Center, founded by his father.

In 1993, Imam Al-Qazwini was invited by Detroit's Islamic Center of America, the oldest Shia mosque in the United States, to be their guest speaker during Ramadan. He was invited back the following year and was later invited to head the centre.

Since the September 11 attacks Imam Al-Qazwini has spoken about the teachings of Islam in the media and at churches, colleges and universities. He has met President Clinton and President Bush to discuss issues related to Muslim affairs.

 

Ali Shukri

Speaking for the motion
Ali Shukri

General Ali Shukri was an adviser to the late King Hussein of Jordan for more than 20 years and is now a private security and business consultant.

Ali Shukri joined King Hussein's office in late 1976 after starting his career in the military. He was appointed head of the King's private office and head of communications - positions he held until King Hussein's death in 1999.

During that time, he rose to the rank of General. His duties included advising on security issues, especially in relation to Jordan's policies with Iraq and the Palestinians.

When relations between Jordan and Iraq became tense at the beginning of the Iran-Iraq war, General Shukri established and managed contacts with tribal leaders in Iraq's Anbar province which borders Jordan. He travelled frequently to Iraq for meetings and maintained a role in Jordanian-Iraqi relations until leaving office.

After retiring from the military in 2003 General Shukri was appointed Senior Associate Member of St Antony's College at Oxford - a position he held for a year.

 

Hisham A. Hellyer

Speaking against the motion
Hisham A. Hellyer

Dr. Hisham A. Hellyer is a Fellow of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations at the University of Warwick and Visiting Fellow of the Institute for Strategic and International Studies in Malaysia. As an independent academic, he has regularly advised the British government on Muslim community affairs.

Following the 7th July 2005 bombings in London, Dr. Hellyer was nominated as a Warwick academic to be Deputy Convenor of the British Home Office working group on Tackling Extremism and Radicalisation.

From September 2007 to March 2008 he examined state-Muslim community relations in Europe as an Economic and Social Research Council Placement Fellow, hosted at the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Dr. Hellyer is now focusing his academic research on examining religious authority for Muslims in other minority contexts, including Southeast Asia, Europe and North America.

Dr. Hellyer has written for academic journals such as the Journal of Islam & Christian-Muslim Relations and for publications including The Washington Post and Islamica Magazine. His latest book The 'Other' European on European Muslims is due to be published this year by Edinburgh University Press.

Dr. Hellyer is a signatory to the Amman Declaration, the British Sunni-Shia Unity Declaration and the 'Common Word' between Muslims and Christians worldwide. He is a member of the International Institute of Strategic Affairs in London and founder-director of Visionary Consultants Group, a global policy consultancy.

 

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