Returning to the evening’s assignment, Hitchens said Islam requires the belief that the prophet Muhammad was “a perfect human being” and that the Koran is “a perfect book.” “These are categories that do not exist,” Hitchens said. “Yet any challenge to them is heresy. The demands that you believe these imperatives do not lead to peaceful outcomes.”
It is good to see Christopher Hitchens in the ring throwing punches and scoring points.
This debate is a good one that is akin to the classic rivalry between Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat and Ric Flair. Both Ramadan and Hitchens are at the top of their respective games. The latter a secular humanist, the former a religiously informed scholar. Styles make fights: Tariq Ramadan is at a profound disadvantage in this exchange as intellectuals who proceed from a faith perspective have already ceded too much territory in the terrain of rationality, empiricism, and truth to win any debate against Christopher Hitchens (or any other exemplary informed atheist or agnostic). Nevertheless, Tariq gives as good as he gets.
So, is Islam a religion of peace?
I have little taste for such questions as they are imprecise. Moreover, the trope that Islam is a religion of peace seems akin to a set of tired talking points that the well-intentioned and naive can recite without having to ask hard questions about the deeds committed in the name of Islam--and how said deeds are supported by selective citations of a text. But, I also don't think that Judaism or Christianity are religions of peace either. For in practice, individuals, States, charismatic personalities, and mindless followers of faith have committed any number of murderous deeds over the centuries in the name of their personal "God" (or "gods"). Here religion and "faith" seemed to embolden human wickedness and not temper it.
In these matters I follow a shorthand rule: in a secular society the religiously minded should learn to play nicely with others. Despite what some on the Right would suggest, religion and the claims thereof do not a priori and prima facie demand respect by virtue of their mere existence.
For example, in Europe there is a real struggle between the forces of the secular and politicized Islam. To pretend otherwise is to ignore the obvious when free speech is imperiled by threats of violence and murder; the obligation of the radicalized faithful to create a global caliphate, and where Sharia law is creeping forward. Likewise, in the United States the influence of Christian Nationalists, Christian Zionists, and Christian Dominionists is a dangerous encroachment on the public good in what is ostensibly a constitutional republic where church and state are separate.
Ultimately, I would respectfully suggest that the mysterious and the unprovable should remain private matters, as by virtue of the very necessity of faith to remove certain priors from debate what remains are matters unresolvable in the public square or through reasoned debate.
The full text of the Ramadan versus Hitchens debate can be found here.