I’ve taken some time to think about the debate I had on Friday past with Reverend Steven Martins. Before, I speak on the debate itself I’d like to thank Br. Asad – the event’s host, Br. Haseeb – the videographer, MYTT – the organizers, and Pastor Kris – first time debate moderator and local host of Reverend Stevens. The event was well attended, some 200 – 300 persons, although we got off to a late start ~30 minutes, by the time the opening statements began we had a sizable crowd which grew steadily throughout our presentations. Due to our late start, we also had a late conclusion to the event, close to midnight according to our host and organizers. I however, having just come out of surgery, left 30 minutes after the debate. Reverend Steven’s timing wasn’t the best, but having just come out of surgery two weeks prior to the event, I was skeptical as to how I’d be able to manage a first time stage debate in front of such a large crowd. Thankfully, I was able to hold down my own and go through with the event.
The crowd seemed very well pleased with both presentations, occasionally I’d glance at the crowd and see quite a number of smiling faces, as well as a swelling crowd of guests. I have to admit that I was completely thrown aback by both Reverend Stevens and Pastor Kris’s (on the ‘s, see William Strunk Jr. and EB White’s, “The Elements of Style”) kind words. Pastor Kris’s introduction of, “I’ve only met Ijaz a few minutes now, but I must say he is a handsome young man”, was an excellent start to the night’s proceedings. No doubt, I do agree with the Pastor (why yes, I am being cheeky). Reverend Stevens is a very good orator and I must applaud him for speaking clearly, consistently and loudly enough. Myself on the other hand, had the mic adjusted a few minutes into the debate but the audio recording was not affected (the audience may have been affected, but that was a minor issue as far as I was told). Unfortunately, the Christian videographer had issues with his recording and thus despite having two cameras present, only one actually recorded the event.
Beyond that hiccup, the event proceeded smoothly. I have been told by persons who were at the event that the one on one between myself and the Reverend during our crossfire section was extremely thrilling and quite the spectacle to have watched. The question and answer following the main debate was quite interesting. Unfortunately there was one belligerent (Christian?) man who found my comments in relation to 2 Corinthians 12:6-7 to be somewhat offensive. Although my memory could be wrong, I have conferred with several others and they have agreed that my recounting of the events is indeed accurate (if I’m wrong, shoot me an email or place a comment, I’ll gladly correct myself), it proceeded as follows:
Questioner: Why are you using your intellect in reading scripture? The message of the cross is foolish to those who think they are wise! (He then proceeds to ask me a series of loosely related questions).
Me: I’m sorry, I don’t understand what you’re asking, can you please clarify?
Questioner: (Expressing his ire with my not understanding him proceeds to ask several more questions and shout after the mic has been taken from him; both Christian and Muslim sides agreed this would be done in the event someone wanted to start their own debate.)
I do fear that my reaction may have gone over his head. I have been told that some of my comments were too witty for certain sections of the crowd (I’m not sure how to respond to that), but essentially, if I turned off my intellect as the man was demanding I do, then it’s quite clear I wouldn’t be able to understand what he was asking. I will excuse him though, his anger and emotions may have gotten the better of him. Although the irony is difficult to escape, there was a deeper level of irony that occurred to me then but alas there was no time to mention it (time limit of 2 minutes had rushed quickly by!), here is a man who reads his scripture without using intellect, while those who constructed his scripture (textual critics) are required to use their intellects in their discipline! I seem to have angered the man with my being unable to understand him, but perhaps if he used his – intellect – it may have helped. Nonetheless, that was the only odd event for the evening and we proceeded to finish line shortly thereafter.
Following the event, I’ve received great feedback from both sides on the presentations for the debate. Fortunately, the questions the audience asked were directly relevant to the next topic, “What is the True Path of Salvation: Islam or Christianity?”, which sets a great stage for the next debate. I’m concerned that the Christian side which is arranging the recording may not be able to follow through on those arrangements for the next debate. I’d be quite disappointed if that is the case, but I do hope and pray that this next event goes as smoothly if not more smoothly than the first. Reverend Stevens and myself do certainly approach these topics quite differently, and I think the audience benefits greatly from our differences. I do look forward to our second and last event for his Trinidad Mission’s Trip. Please keep us in your prayers.