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Thursday, 10 April 2008

Despite the fact that The Sydney Morning Herald is a sponsor of IQ2OZ, the very fact of the debate’s existence is a repudiation of the media who, presumably, are part of the “toxically emotional and the reflexively ideological” that, Herald reporter Tom Allard says, organisers want to “transcend”.

One might start by questioning (a) the credentials and (b) the track-record of those invited to participate in the “Oxford-style” debate.

But if one were able to do this exhaustively (we’ll assume that it would be fair, as well) one would probably be part of the very company of social actors deemed unsuitable to perform the essential task of telling voters what is right.

This is a brave attempt to transcend the stereotypical position that one must cut down the tall poppies, lest they cast a shadow over your own back yard. But in this case, the back yard is appropriately distant from anywhere you might be inclined to take some sun, watch the Saturday game, or set up a barbeque.

Blogger Kieran Bennet’s post was one of two that appeared in Google’s blogsearch page (using iq2oz as the search term), and she’s predictably ecumenical, damning the notion that Islam is somehow different in nature to other religions.

“All religions call upon their followers to accept their strange and fantastical beliefs. Most strands of religious delusion call upon their follows to accept the supposed words of their particular imaginary friend as the ultimate authority in governing their actions. And many of these cults will try and impose outcomes informed by these religious delusions upon the whole of society, and thus subverting the secular democracy.”

While she has a point, it’s not as valid now as it would have been around CE 1400, at the turn of the ‘Renaissance’ (a 19th century term of endearment from German Jacob Burckhardt). Most likely, Bennet is as ignorant of the history of the word (let alone the period itself) as she is of the functioning of mitosis.

The topic “is sure to inflame passions”, says a meeker poster on the Headlines blog (‘a look at the most relevant news articles for clients of left field’).

That’s it for the blogosphere. The comments in the Muslim Village thread are tame. A few alternative suggestions appear. Two posters remember that a western-Sydney sheikh had been asked to give it a go.

Tanveer Ahmed apparently said recently that “women who wear hijab and men who grow beards is analogous to rebellious teenagers wearing nose and belly rings”, recalls one poster.

Another suggests academics Jamilah Hussein or Abdullah Saeed for the debating team. None of these posters evince the ‘inflamed passions’ the blogger dramatically predicts.

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