Monday, 17 June 2013

Hamza Tzortzis will not debate me

After over a year of insisting that I am the one creating obstacles to prevent us debating, the possibility of a debate between Hamza Tzortzis and myself seems to have come to an abrupt end.  Hamza and I had finally agreed on terms under which we were happy to debate Islam when Hamza suddenly told me that if I wish to proceed I must ask iERA for permission.  Although I wasn't after an iERA affiliated event, just an informal one-on-one chat about Hamza's beliefs and the credibility of the claims for Islam, I thought I'd go through the next step of the process (obstacle) and all would be fine.

I was pleased at first to discover that despite Hamza's suggestion he might not be available until some point in 2014 his event coordinator confirmed Hamza only had prior engagements booked for April and May of 2013.  I received the occasional contacts from the event coordinator apologising for the delay and assuring me he'd have an answer for me that day / the next day.  Approximately 3 months later I received his tweet from Yusuf Chambers of iERA.

"Sincerity is measured as a mark of the importance of privacy to a given situation. Do we need cameras?"

I actually disagree. Sincerity of conviction to a publicly aired opinion is measured by one's willingness to be challenged openly; not by agreeing to a challenge but keeping the details secret... but I digress.  Although I am I open to change my mind (and indeed enjoy doing so) I doubt that Hamza or I would were likely to change each other's positions, the purpose of such a discussion is always for the benefit of presenting the audience with opposing arguments, so I replied to Yusuf Chambers letting him know it was pointless to have an unrecorded debate with Hamza.

Eight days later I received the following email from the events coordinator at iERA. (This has been posted publicly by Hamza via his Twitter account so is already within the public domain).

I hope you are well, 
At this moment in time Hamza Tzortzis is not available to participate in a recorded debate/discussion. We have received requests from various people to share a public platform with our Speakers but we unfortunately cannot say yes to all of these as in this day and age debates and discussions - to be popularised - requires influentials in the area. 
I understand Hamza reopened the invitation to yourself for a public discussion, but this was not within Hamza's remit to do so without prior permission from the iERA. You are more than welcome to discuss with Hamza at anytime though and I could arrange that. 
Please let me know if you have any questions. 
All the best

It seems like a somewhat odd response to me.  To be permitted to debate with Hamza as Hamza had already agreed (and insisted I was introducing obstacles to avoid it) I have to be an "influential".  A discussion about the Kalam argument and the miraculous nature of the Quran with me is not going to happen, but a debate partly on the miraculous literary nature of the Arabic in the Quran is a good subject to debate with cosmologist Lawrence Krauss?  Since when have cosmologists been interested in classical Arabic, and since when has fame been more important than Dawah?

I have not asked iERA to "popularise" this event nor do I necessarily require iERA to be affiliated with it in any way.  The request Hamza insisted I made (I thought) was merely professional courtesy towards his employer to let them know that Hamza and I were going to have a non-iERA-affiliated discussion.

Paricularly strange is Hamza's claim that despite being the number one debater of small operation such as iERA he has no power to influence iERA's decision about with whom he debates.  Even more strange is the offer at the end of the email; apparently Hamza is not available for a recorded discussion with me because it wouldn't be popularised, but I can have the same discussion with him at any time on condition that it is not recorded, which of course would not be popularised at all.

I have felt that Hamza has been running away from this agreed debate ever since the day we crossed each other on The Magic Sandwich Show and I gave him a grilling about hell. So to answer my Muslim nuisance caller with a London accent's question "Why don't you come out of hiding and debate Hamza you coward?" the answer is.....I tried; and to answer my critics I am not calling Hamza a coward, although I feel it would be "intellectually dishonest" of me to say that I think iERA aren't doing a good job of making him look bad.

To coin a phrase...."Allah knows best"