This House Will Defend the Debaters

An eloquent riposte to the recent controversy over a local varsity debate on the papal seat.

“This House Opposes Sharia”

“This House Believes That Allah Is For Everyone”

“This House Believes That People Should Interpret Sharia and Not Ulamas”

“This House Believes That We Should Have A Female Mufti”

“This House Believes That Halal Meat Production Is Against Animal Rights”

“This House Believes That Praying Halls in Mosques Should Be Desegregated”

“This House Believes That Polygamy Should Be Banned Despite Religious Approval”


Ladies and Gentlemen,

If we were to compare the above list of motions that we debaters have often debated in Malaysian varsities and schools (yes, Malaysian varsities) to “This House Would Let The People And Not The Cardinals To Elect The Pope” – the ‘papacy debate’ is as tame as a fluffy bunny.

Yes, we debaters debated over religious issues. We, Malaysian debaters who come from all walks of life, creed, race, political beliefs and universities. Conservative Muslims, staunch Catholics, traditionalist Hindus, Buddhists, Atheists and liberals of all faiths – have debated over all these issues and argued for all sides. We abide by the rules and the Constitution. We adhere to our faiths and respect one another. But when it comes to debate, we debate.  Can we do that? Yes, we can. It was so mentioned in the constitution. Did we do that in our campuses? Yes, we did. Surprised? Don’t be.

The controversial piece | Source: The Star, 24th March 2013

The main issue with the recent brouhaha caused by an article that was published in The Star on 24th March 2013 is this: our ultra-conservative society is still unable to stomach the fact that a group of Muslim students debating about the throne of St Peter – or, in essence, a group of people from a different faith discussing yours. To certain Catholics, it is rude and perhaps blasphemous for a group of non-Catholics to be arguing over who can best lead the Church. To certain Muslims, it is unacceptable for these young Muslim minds to be exposed to Christianity at such an early age.

To the Catholics who were offended, I ask you this: would your narrative of the whole event be different if the motion was debated by Catholics only? To the Muslims who were offended, I ask this: are we not allowed to learn from those of different faiths in a civilized manner?

I see no reason for anyone to be offended by the debate. Rather, I am offended that such putrid and offensive words were thrown at a group of aspiring debaters who had the courage to debate and argue such a motion. In the most typical Malaysian narrative, the issue is at once ‘politicised’. The ‘tudung clad’ girls are deemed ‘UMNO-bred students’, while the motion is seen as a ‘charge against Christianity’. Malaysian debaters as well as debaters around the globe could only cringe at such words. We debaters have debated over those issues, and we see such hatred as a breach against our freedom of speech. We sincerely believe that our right to debate should be defended and not presented as ‘fear or hate mongering divisive arguments’.

Debate is an intellectual discourse that transcends all divisions – religious, political and national. True, not all debaters get their facts right in their arguments, but why should that stop them from an intellectual discourse where they would eventually learn what and where they have gone wrong in the first place? Mind you, we are discussing about school and varsity debaters here. After all, having wrong or distorted facts has never stopped our YBs from arguing in the so-called august house.

As far as I am concerned, these school and varsity debaters have more substance and style as compared to those tub-thumping clowns we call YBs. Debates in schools and varsities are about the battle of intellectual prowess, and the ability to showcase your talent and knowledge in current issues, global affairs, politics, religious issues and of course, your oratory skills. You don’t debate to get a group of people to support you. Nor do you debate to get people incensed and whack one another because the bottom line is this: a debate is supposed to be an intellectual discourse for the public to judge and observe how different arguments clash. As compared to our politicians’ speeches that drive people to hysteria – ala Munich in 1933 – these debates are done with proper decorum with everyone, including the debaters, showing respect towards one another. And we debaters are proud to tell you that we have maintained our decorum even when the issues presented to us were more contentious than ‘the papacy debate’.

Secondly, debate is the only avenue where students are allowed to express themselves beyond the ever watchful eyes of university authorities and school disciplinary boards. Bear in mind that all these sensitive issues are not to be discussed in schools and universities, despite the fact that these places are dubbed as intellectual platforms. Yet there are still a number of students with the itch to discuss on these bold issues. These are the students who have the urge to argue, dissect and elaborate on these issues beyond the headlines. These are the students who would eventually understand issues in the newspapers beyond the ever twisted headlines and biased deliberations.

The fact that these debaters are able to argue – regardless of the level of arguments – over such ‘sensitive’ topics behind closed doors or in special forums such as the debate club, brings much relief to them. Bear in mind that these are the minds with the potential to bring us out of the cycle of fanaticism we face in Malaysia. And the shoving of authorities in to this avenue marks the beginning of an end for what is left for students’ freedom of speech.

Nonetheless, I think the main issue here is the perceived discrimination felt by Catholics specifically, and non-Muslims generally over the debate. Here, my Catholic friends and debaters, as well as a host of non-Muslim debaters, could testify that ‘Islam’ or issues pertaining Muslims are always up for debate. In fact, issues pertaining the Muslim world or Islamic faith have always been favourite topics among debaters. We have argued against the hijab, against Palestinian freedom and against sharia in our debates, and these debates are conducted here, right here in Malaysia. We have never heard of International Islamic University of Malaysia (IIUM) shying away or objecting to such debates (but they do shy away from nightclubs for ‘break nights’ … Astaga!).

Nor does the UiTM debate team (commonly known among debating communities in Malaysia as the “UT MARA”) ever do that. To quote a Catholic friend of mine, “To put this situation into perspective, I’ve debated against the formation of an Islamic state that imposes Sharia Law in IIU (International Islamic University) with Muslim audiences and I didn’t see people posting stuff on Facebook.  The key over debating such issues is by trying to deliberate such topics in a non-offensive manner, which I believe the girls did.” (Okay, now some Muslims are going to hate the debaters. Oy, vey! You cannot really please everyone!)

As I and my fellow debaters are cognisant of, we have debated for and against Islamic principles, Catholic dogmas, secular senses and other religious or sensitive issues where we argued with passion without bias for a brief 30 minutes. My colleagues and staff who witnessed a varsity debate voiced out their displeasure over the fact that some debaters were criticizing Islamic principles. My response was simple,

In an intellectual discourse, it is not about mocking a religion or discrediting them but rather the deliberation of the opposing views that such topics bring.

Such a revelation is rather shocking to our community – Muslims or Catholics.

Is the Catholic community in Malaysia the only one harbouring such attitudes? No, I don’t think so. By and large most Malaysians have that attitude due to their misconception of what goes on in the debating community. If it is a group of skirt-wearing Chinese girls arguing against ‘female genital mutilation’ or ‘polygamy’, I can assure you that our dear Ibrahim Ali will walk down the streets shouting insults against those debaters. And I doubt certain leaders would just sit still if the students in the picture were instead arguing against the caste system.

It boils down once again to our society’s disregard for the debating culture and community. We are seen and deemed as a group of students who would only argue for what the government allows us to argue. We are deemed as those who argue with information provided us by government mouthpieces. Or rather, we are deemed as tools for the opposition to reach out to students.

I am sorry, but you are wrong.

We are just a group of people who argue over issues which we believe are of importance, or over issues which we cannot argue or discuss freely in our society. Pretentious? Maybe. But at least we are no pseudo-intellectuals who would fan the public to vilify or deify certain individuals or groups. The most damage that can possibly be brought by us debaters is to ‘wreck our own brains’.

One thing I urge the public to understand is this: in the debating community, we may argue over religious, political or national issues – but we never let our emotions take over. So, before you point your fingers at us for being anti-Catholic or anti-this-and-that, bear in mind that you may be pointing at the only group of people amongst our new generation who could argue over ‘so-called sensitive issues’ without coming to blows.

There, I’ve ranted enough. Now I need my sleep. Cheers.

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A maverick of his own brand! A wanderlust, debater and a workaholic; he wishes time has a reset button. Although non conformist in attitude, he accepts conformity as being one of the norms of a human being.

Posted on 25 March 2013. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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46 Responses to This House Will Defend the Debaters

  1. gawd I miss those days…to live for the 7 mins.
    How I've forgotten…. Thank you for the jolt and the great memories!

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  3. Pauline

    Permit me to pose a comment from Rev Deacon Dr Sherman Kuek on this issue


    In regard to the matter of the notion being set forth by the organisers of the ninth Datuk CQ Teo Debate Challenge recently held at the KDU University College, the following points are my thoughtful response to all reports and communications that have been published so far in print and online:

    1. At the outset, I begin by stating that the issue is not such a serious matter so as to warrant another national-level debate on whether such a topic being debated in the public-education square is permissible. It really is no big issue, even from the Catholic perspective. The election of a pope is, to be sure, a matter of faith and dependence upon the Holy Spirit's guidance, but it is also a matter of Church discipline and not unquestionable dogma. Over the centuries, the intricacies of the papal election process have been altered many times, and it is all right for the matter to continue being discussed.

    2. But this is where the line might have to be drawn: the discussion is to be undertaken by the CHURCH itself (or at least with the express guidance of the Church), not by spectators. Inner workings of the religious community can be understood only by people within it. And I think it is rudely presumptuous for the organisers of this debate to assume that such a concrete matter could be competently handled and debated by students of other religions and assessed by judges who lack the competence to understand the election mechanism that is being discussed. This is precisely what I would deem offensive, not so much the fact of the topic itself.

    3. The Catholic Church is very much at the forefront of interreligious dialogue and welcomes all sorts of conversations about its faith and the beliefs of all other religious peoples. But at the same time, dialogue must be respectful. To debate over a certain religious practice without due consultation with and respect for the justifications of the relevant religious institution for the said practice betrays a lack of simple manners and courtesy. The fact that this debate took place as a series of mere simulated arguments does not diminish this point.

    4. I am personally glad that the organisers of this event deemed the recent papal election a matter worthy of discussion and sustained reflection by its students. However, to avoid a misguided sensationalisation of the real scenario, a simple courteous act of inviting an official from the Catholic Church to be present at the said event, and to clarify the mind of the Church regarding this matter at the end of the series of debates, would have been a most respectful gesture. It would have been even better if an official of the Catholic Church had been invited prior to their preparation for the debate to give a lecture (on this topic) to the students and judges in order that they might become well-informed contemplators of the subject in question, not debaters and judges informed by little more than secular ignorance and interpreters of ecclesiastical mechanisms from purely political perspectives. Such a gesture would not then have appeared as if the debate was a "gossip between neighbours" behind the Catholic back. Furthermore, it would have reasonably prevented the organisers and participants from speaking of the papal election process in a way that misinterprets the self-understanding of the Catholic Church. After all, would you want to debate the topic in a way that is reflective of its concrete reality, or would you prefer to debate a straw man that is little more than a figment of your imagination probably by equating the papal election with a Malaysian General Election (which is what I suspect has happened in this recent debate)?

    5. Another thing is, having perused the statement of the KDU Vice-Chancellor, it can only be surmised that the organisation regrets the situation in a way that is short of being sorry for having been offensive. They are "regretful" because this debate "has caused some concern among members of the public", not because the approach taken by the organisers itself was intrinsically offensive and disrespectful to one's religious neighbour. In other words, "We are sorry that you have to be so sensitive about this". Nobody is demanding an apology, to be sure, but if the KDU management had a greater sense of professionalism and social sensitivity, they would have to do better than this. You cannot call the bluff of an intellectual public by expressing regret over something for which you are not actually sorry, Professor Khong. To say sorry in a face-saving way is to not be sorry.

    6. Finally, I leave this topic to rest with a series of questions lingering in my mind: would the organisers of this debate have been open to formulating a debate topic that pertained to some other religion more prevalent in our country than the Catholic faith? If yes, why have they never done so? If no, would it have been because they were afraid of the potential reactions from adherents of some other religion, but at the same time felt that Catholics were too passive and docile (or too powerless) to react, and therefore, that it would have been all right to let the Catholic Church be the subject of uninformed scrutiy?

    Rev. Dcn Dr Sherman Kuek OFS
    Deacon, Diocese of Melaka-Johor
    Director, MJD Pastoral Institute

    • Sam

      Dear Pauline, don't know whether you have express permission from the Reverends et al, for this posting. But it would help to take a big chip off your shoulders, if you would take the trouble to go through earlier comments first, before embarking on an burdensome, borrowed counter-comment, culminating in point 6 (which seems to be the prime mover of your own comment).

      If you care to back track the comments, one Rafie has already answered this oft-repeated baseless accusation of "selective anti-Catholic topics" 4days ago.

      But Pauline dear, you like so many others, seem to not clear of the concept of these debates. The winner of a debate is totally irrelevant to, non-reflective of and non-binding on (thank goodness!) the realities/entities outside of the debate hall. No one outside of the hall, (or even beyond the duration of the debate), is in any way bound by the points/issues raised, or the support or defeat of the motion.

      "To debate over a certain religious practice without due consultation with and respect for the justifications of the relevant religious institution for the said practice betrays a lack of simple manners and courtesy. The fact that this debate took place as a series of mere simulated arguments does not diminish this point. "

      Whaaaaaaaaat??????? This statement comes from EDUCATED people?

      For the love of sanity Pauline, this isn't the High Court of Malaysia or the Malaysian Parliament that's doing the debates! If this is the general outlook of all Catholics, not surprising at all, that in the 21st century real world, (outside of the Debating Societies,) the whole world (Catholic and non) is today witnessing the shocking unveiling of a sickening string of long-hidden shameful goings-on within the Catholic church. Oh I'm sure your Reverends et al will have quite a lengthy point-by-point about that too………..?

      Fareez, please organize a push for debating to be made part and parcel of the education syllabus lahSam………..

  4. Fareez

    As I anticipated, still no emails from anyone. A certain kind of poultry comes to mind…

  5. PaulD

    I find that leaving sensitivities to be debated among only the community that deems it a sensitivity isn't entirely unreasonable. Let's call this 'community that deems a sensitivity a sensitivity' a 'stakeholder community'. It all works well up to when the stakeholder community overlaps. Remember the incident of burning a certain book, using a certain word? What then? Now you have 2 stakeholder communities vieing for different sides of an ultimate sensitivity.

    Which individuals from the 2 communities would be willing to engage in peaceful dialogue? People who stick to "You are you, and we are we, but let's try hard to understand each other" or "You are you, and we are we". Now, which has been happening much much more lately in the national arena?

    As pointed out by some, perhaps the girls weren't aware of the Holy Spirit's role in this and therefore their arguments were doctrinally wrong. If the other bench had corrected them and allege that they were misrepresenting the faith and provide fair reasoning, that would have been a valid contention. It was unfortunate, however, that this point was not put across. Due to the controlled setting of debate, only points that were brought up may be weighed. The judge is not even allowed his/her own opinion. In a badminton match, if LCW has caught LD off balance and could definitely nail it with a cross court smash, but didn't, then that's that. He doesn't get the point. What if he did? Then a point will be rewarded to him by all means. There was no dubious line judge in this debate other than the media.

    I would rather have a medium that promotes genuine attempts to understand each other and getting things wrong rather than one that represses all forms of dialogue deemed to be sensitive. I know that during a major clash where 2 cultures share the same sensitivity, those who have been brought up in such an environment will come forward with constructive dialogue in mind and a willingness to understand, not a thirst for blood. On that day, I hope that this incident did not generate repercussions as to wipe potential arbitrators from the future (a bit dramatic I know, but think about it, this community is young). Malaysian society may well have shot ourselves in the foot.

    What is the solution? As I was telling a friend, the Catholics are not being unreasonable (those who are Respectfully making their demands in the comments here). This has been played the other way before against them. I'd say go ahead and clamp down on persons who attack other creeds, or play the controversial race card with malice. Their wrongs reek of intent and premeditation. Slam the media for biased reporting.

    But do not touch the debate community. It has been one of the only segments of tolerance and dialogue between all creeds, a haven for so many who just wanted to get along. It continued to be the Malaysia that gained respect within the international community when relapses were happening all over, the same one that saw our very own guys put down Harvard in this year's world championship. Apart from badminton it has been one of our internal strengths and does not deserve to be regressed and assigned with the same intended/premeditated malice that you would certain hoodwinks.

    In other words, let this be an issue between the Christians and Muslims of the debate community. Leave it to us and leave us alone.

  6. Fareez

    Saya memahami pendirian saudara tentang isu ini. Saya juga memahami bahawa saudara berpendapat bahawa isu pemilihan seorang Pope itu adalah isu yang kritikal dan sensitif kepada seorang Katolik. Saya ingin bertanya, walaupun saya seorang Muslim, saya telah dibesarkan dengan pendedahan terhadap agama Kristian Katolik yang boleh dikatakan mendalam. Saya mempunyai ahli keluarga yang juga penganut agama Kristian Katolik. Adakah saya juga tidak layak untuk berdebat tentang pemilihan seorang Pope hanya kerana sayan seorang Muslim? Jika demikian, adakah orang Kristian Protestan juga tidak layak untuk berdebat mengenai pemilihan tersebut? Jika demikian, adakah perlu kita menggubal undang-undang untuk mengharamkan apa-apa debat mahupun perbualan mengenai pimilihan tersebut? Perlukah anggota polis ditugaskan di setiap warong warong di Malaysia untuk menahan diskusi awam mengenai isu ini? Mungkin saudara kurang memahami dunia perdebatan antarabangsa. Di dalam dunia perdebatan antarabangsa tersebut topik topik sebegini adalah lumrah dan didebat oleh segenap individu tidak mengira bangsa, agama ataupun kewarganegaraan. Mungkin saudara boleh ketahui lebih lanjut jika saudara hadir untuk latihan debatbdi mana mana universiti awam dan swasta di Malaysia. Silalah.

  7. Fareez

    In my humble opinion, you are missing the point. But its ok. I still see no emails in my inbox from someone with courage enough to attend an actual debate training. Talk is cheap. I have extended my hand in the hope of understanding our point of view. The ball is in your court.

  8. DeePo


    Pemilihan Pope involved aaaaaa looooooootttttt of prayers and meditation prior going inside the conclave. It never shown to the public.

    In fact, 1.2 bilion catholics do involved in this prayer. We all pray for the ''papal election''.

  9. Orang sarawak

    Shalom semua, (I use BM because I don't have bombastic grammar like you guys)

    1. Sebagai warga Katolik, sebenarnya penganut Katolik ''konon-konon'' punyalah marah tu bukan sebab sama ada pendebat itu adalah Muslim atau tidak. Isu utama di sini ialah PEMILIHAN POPE. Sebagai Katolik KAMI PERCAYA bahawa Pope dipilih bukan dengan ''kertas undian'' semata-mata. KAMI PERCAYA bahawa seseorang Pope itu dipilih kerana beliau dipilih oleh ROH KUDUS (Holy Spirit) itu sendiri. Roh Kudus telah hadir dlm 120 kardinal utk memilih beliau. Jadi, sama ada saudara-saudari sekalian percaya atau tidak dengan kehadiran Roh Kudus itu, itu bergantung pada kamu. Pada kami, ya, KAMI PERCAYA. Seperti juga kami percaya Roh Kudus telah hadir dalam diri Yesus semasa beliau memilih Petrus (St Peter) sebagai pengikut beliau yang pertama. Adakah kami menyoal kenapa? Tidak, ada sebabnya kenapa Yesus memilih beliau.

    2. DI dalam gereja Katolik, ya, memang kami amat terbuka apabila membincang isu-isu kami yang kritikal. Isu2 seperti pencabulan seksual kanak2 di kalangan Paderi, Paderi perempuan, Priest celibacy, pengguguran anak (abortion), penggunaan ubatan kontraseptik,penerimaan LGBT dan sebagainya. Malah, kami amat terbuka dan hangat membincangkan isu ini di kalangan komuniti kami sendiri. Tetapi apabila menyentuh pemilihan Pope, ya, kami sensitif. Sebab hanya umat Katolik sahaja faham kenapa kami sensitif, kerana isu ini melibatkan iman. Sama juga dengan agama2 lain, mereka ada sensitiviti mereka juga dan kita kena faham kenapa mereka sensitif.

    3. Kalau saudara penulis mengatakan boleh debat apa sahaja isu, bagaimana kalau saudara debat ''adakah bangsa Penan tak patut hidup nomad''? Atau ''adakah rumah panjang sesuai dengan hidup masa kini orang Iban?'' atau orang iban tak patut bertatu etc. Bagi saya, pemilihan cara hidup adalah hak asasi manusia juga. Begitu juga dengan agama. Kalau nak debat, biarlah di kalangan komuniti itu sendiri kerana mereka lebih memahami. (Ini hanya analogi untuk kes debat hal agama)

    4. Kalau saudara saudari sekalian nak kata kami umat Katolik TERLALU sensitif dan obses dengan agama, persilakan. Sekali lagi ingin saya tekan kan, kami umat katolik tidak pernah meng-cop kalian sebagai anti-katolik, anti-pope atau sebagainya, apa yang kami minta, biarlah pemilihan Pope itu menjadi isu kami sahaja. Sama juga isu hudud dan lain lain. Biarlah di kalangan mereka sendiri yang debat.


  10. Rafie

    For all of you harping on 'sure, why don't we debate about this or that', you all need to understand that these issues are debated very frequently in the Malaysian debate community.

    A few examples; – Affirmative action, secularism, special rights, the state of the monarchy, sex education, race-based politics, the rights of LGBTs, abortion, drug legalisation, hijabs, gender segregation, sharia law, among other things.

    In fact, we are always in favour of things being discussed in pursuit of intellectual discourse. We do not condone mud slinging, and we have always been a community that promotes respect amongst its members. If we are factually wrong about anything, we will be corrected by those in the know. We say our apologies and move on, because hey, every day is a school day.

    A deeper understanding of things we do not know is supposed to be the bedrock of human advancement.

    • fairreporting

      Though these issues are supposingly debated very frequently in the Malaysian debate community, what I respectfully do not agree is the fact that only selected issues being debated are reported in the media, whether it be mainstream or alternative. If a topic from the few examples you mentioned (and I think such topics should be tabled, to be fair) appears the next time at a debating event such as that organised at KDU or at any other venue of importance (like universities, colleges, etc.), then it should be reported accordingly.

      • Rafie

        I'm all for it. And I invite anybody who thinks that we're a bunch of idiots to come and see one of our sessions to see what we truly are like. Fareez's offer up above still stands.

  11. debatersgoforit

    The way the OP expresses it, we should be able to debate on anything and any topic under the sun and moon without fear of being accused of sedition or facing repercussions. And such debates should be published in national newspapers like the Star, as well as in alternative news sources, since it should be ok to do so, as it is merely an intellectual discourse that transcends all divisions.

  12. Greg Volker

    Debating for the sake of debating……..??

  13. mrthong

    So since debate is an intellectual discourse that transcends all divisions, it should be okay to debate anything. Why not start debating on issues like the status of the monarchy in Malaysia, the legitimacy of the present government system, the exclusive protected rights of certain segments of Malaysian society, etc.

    Since it's just a debate, one shouldn't be found guilty of sedition. Try it and see. After all, it is not merely a debate? Why not have topics like these and more?

    • Kamal

      I'm pretty sure there's been debates over Bumiputra rights at many levels.

      As for debates over constitutional rights- I believe that happens in Parliament! Perhaps even a few times in the past… we do have a few amendments to our costitution.

      • rwefreetodebate

        Why only in parliament? Why not in an open setting like that organised at KDU? After all, the OP did mention that debate is an intellectual discourse that transcends all divisions. Therefore, shouldn't it be open to everyone to debate anywhere? Or is this no longer an intellectual discourse nor one which transcends all divisions?

        • Terence

          Just go for any inter varsity and you'll see similar motions popping up.

          Even UiTM's VC Cup 2012, one of the pre-lim round's motion was "THBT all forms of monarchy are obsolete." It's an open setting where everyone are allowed to watch and it's in UiTM. What more to say?

  14. Lara

    Wow.. I don't mind muslims debate about Pope Selection. It is only I dare the media to publish a debate by non-muslim on muslim issue.

  15. clay

    "Religion does change to suit society" This is one of the points forwarded by the winner of the best debater.
    If she really did her research, and acquire enough knowledge of Catholicism to have a healthy debate, as you claimed, this argument should've never come out, because it goes AGAINST the Catholic faith. The Church adapts, but it never changes! I applaud Sofia Anne, one of the debaters from the opposition, for standing up to this.

    • PaulD

      Some wise guy said: It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.

      It goes against every faith, to Islam it is blasphemous. But in no way was that debater renouncing her own faith either. She was now an intellectual actor, so she choose to role play a particular view (which may or may not be advantageous to her depending on how she argues it).

      Both these premises are considered assertions with no substantives:

      1. Religion does change to suit society
      2. The Church adapts, but it never changes

      I wasn't in the debate, and you weren't either, to verify which statement stood in the end. We need to know how the debaters argued them to say so. I do agree with you. It does go directly against the Catholic faith, but does that invalidate it's use in intellectual argument? Every single view, no matter how widely accepted it is, has another in opposition. Furthermore if you take out controversy from debate, can there really be a debate at all? I think you get the point on how we really put aside sentiments. Debaters will generally provide an assertion, reasoning behind it, example/evidence to support it, and link back on how it's relevant. That's how a substantive is weighed regardless of the motion.

  16. tashajohari

    I'm so unbelievably embarrassed to have my uni friends here in UK to read about this. I was a debater myself back home in Malaysia and adjucated debates too. We debated on sensitive topics like 'THBT the Pope should get married' and 'THBT headscarves are not allowed in school' but nobody was insulted or offended in any ways. It was debated with respect and knowledge and frankly, these issues teaches us to think in a wider concept with all due respect to religion. These mud-slingers are definitely NOT a debater.

  17. Fareez

    I'm still waiting for Simon to email me. Or anyone interested in something more than just slinging mud from their armchairs. Looks like there are no takers for my challenge.

    • Sam

      Fareez, disappointing that so many out there can't differentiate between TRUTH and an intelligent debate about TRUTH. As if the mere attempt at articulating a conception of TRUTH can immediately cause TRUTH itself to disintegrate! The universal human reluctance to face up to TRUTH, has led people with vested interests to shy away or even violently oppose civilized debate by arbitrarily classifying select topics as "sensitive".
      Where can I get hold of a schedule for upcoming debates? Would love to attend one. How about uploading the debates to Youtube?

  18. Non-debater

    no, you are wrong, because for Catholics, the election of the Pope is guided by the Holy Spirit… and so, by default, it's a non-issue, and shouldn't have been debated… there are other 'sensible' issues to be debated apart from arguing about something that you don't understand… i don't really understand Hukum Hudud, should i debate on it? no, i shouldn't…

    • CuriousCat

      Why not you take an initiative to know about hukum hudud? Be curious. It's knowledge, no harm. That's why we have debate, to gain knowledge and it promotes better understanding. Be positive!

    • Fareez

      You asked a question and then you answered it yourself. That's interesting. Maybe you should find out more and come debate it with us. I promise not to get offended and say things like hukum Hudud is divinely ordained and guided by the Quran and so by default, its a non issue and shouldn't have been debated. Learn about it. find out the facts, and then come and listen to the arguments.

      Again you are missing the point. Its not about sensible issues, its about intellectual discourse. The medium is fair and open to ideas. Again, come to some training sessions. We discuss all religion all the time. Catholicism is not being targeted by anyone.

    • moramora

      It's a misguided assumption that these debaters do not understand the election of the Pope. I'm guessing that you think they couldn't possibly understand the workings of it because they are not Catholics. Please lah, these girls know more about Sudan than the average Malaysian would even be able to about their own country.

      You do not reach the finals of a debate competition, deliver a seven minute speech each AND win, without having some understanding and knowledge of current events.

      Everything is debatable and almost everything that has happened has been debated. Whether it's on the existance of God, or Hudud laws or creationism vs evolution, it's all been debated by Muslims, Catholics, atheists, agnostics etc. Just because these girls won doesn't mean that the people should elect the pope. So many people have missed the point. It's a debate competition. In essence, the person with the best argument, wins. Doesn't mean that they were right. IT MEANS THEY HAD THE BEST ARGUMENT. Msian catholics be getting mad because they think this is an insult to their religion. I'm sorry, but you are insulting the intelligence of all Malaysian debaters when you a. assume that we don't understand enough to talk about the topic, b. assume that we could not have debated it in a reasonable, respectful manner.

      All the young women who were in the finals are amazing and are everything I hope my daughters will be, someday.

    • PaulD

      Well, as a Christian (but non-Catholic) I've debated Hudud numerous times. Once even with 2 Singaporean teams in the room and not a single Muslim in sight. Do you take it that we showed them what was right and what wasn't with their faith?

      Allow me one side issue. The debate was 'This House Would Let The People And Not The Cardinals To Elect The Pope'. The Holy Spirit's guidance isn't really contended. It would have been whether the Holy Spirit guides only 120 in 1.1 billion faithful. I apologize if phrasing it that way is perceived as offensive but I harbour no disrespect for Catholics (my debate mentor was one). I may be wrong if the Magisterium does in fact, have a papal definition that puts its foot down in stating only cardinals have the guidance of the Holy Spirit. If so, I ask that you enlighten me with that definition. One that should stand alongside the Immaculate Conception of Mary, the Beatific Vision of the Just Prior to Final Judgment etc.

    • ejames

      Think about it for a bit: if you don't know an issue, being forced to defend or attack it will force you to learn everything you can about said issue, from ALL perspectives.

      Imagine what a Christian can learn about the Islamic faith if he or she is forced to learn all he can in preparation for a motion. Conversely, a Muslim would have to do the same when debating about Christianity.

      You become a better person as a result of this intellectual effort.

  19. ally

    The freedom of speech in a discussion like debates Is a way to view things in another perception. Yet it need to be viewed the relevance of the topic. The topic was to incorporate politic style of elections into Christianity. Do u think it will work? Many would tell u no due to the fact that it is the law of the church n if it does, cardinals would be obsolete. I think to elect an imams must use the same way too. So does Buddhism n Hinduism. Think before u speak or suggest such topic s it is right now it is sensitive n not the right time for the Christians after the resignation of pope Benedict. This debate is being staged at the wrong moment.

    • Fareez

      And just what is the right moment? Will there ever be a right moment? Or is it one of those pious platitudes that always get thrown at sincere and genuine attempts at free thought and speech? Again, people are missing the woods for the trees, the Debating community in Malaysia and elsewhere in the world are not your average lynch mob. We discuss issues people deem 'too sensitive' precisely because of that. And we do it with respect and tolerance. Who decides what is relevant anyway? Do you? Does anyone? We decide what is relevant and what we should debate and when we debate it. Why? because we are mature enough to think for ourselves without emotions clouding our judgement. Sadly a trait that is lacking in our society today. Again, I ask that if anyone has any further issues with this debate, please come and watch a debate training session sometime soon. My details are above. Armchair critics go nowhere.

    • PaulD

      As a Christian I understand where you're coming from, Ally, when it comes to choosing a successor to St Peter. Yet in debate, things are viewed in a simulative context. We become intellectual actors. In that instance, you may appear to be a Muslim telling Christians what's best for them, or a Creationist telling Evolutionists what's best for them. Only you're actually not. For more than 56 minutes, Personal Beliefs are left behind and in the heat of the moment you become the intellectual vessel of an ultra-conservative/radical Christian who begs to propose/oppose the motion. You may be an atheist/agnostic/Spinoza-worshipper but for an hour, You are now a passionate creationist vehemently arguing for intelligent design.

      It's absolutely your prerogative to disagree with 'electing' such a persona as the Pope, whose selection should be under the aegis of God Himself. But it is not the high schoolers nor the organisers whom you are against. It's the view that the vote of the masses and not the 120 cardinals mattered in appointing a successor to Saint Peter. That God's Chosen can also be discerned through the rest of the devoted, not just the 120 elite. That the essence of His will does not just permeate from the marginal 120/1.1 billion but thunders with might across the faithful.

      Debate is about being knowledgeable and being able to engage in discourse about current issues. Benazir Bhutto was assassinated during the world debate championship. We debated that the very next day. I am not trying to equate the Pope to Benazir Bhutto, but don't you think it could've struck a nerve with the Pakistani teams (in negative proportion to the significance of the conclave)? Now, being just vessels of discourse, could one really infuse the claim that we were trying to show how we were truer Pakistanis than them? I respect your opinion on this Ally, I really do, but I must point out that it is a particular view you are opposed to, not these high schoolers nor the choice of motions.

  20. Simon

    shut up u idiot. I was an ex debater myself. We all understand the Malaysian mentality, hyprocrisy and culture towards religion. To tackle an issue so personalized to the whole of the Catholic church is just blantant insult to the Catholics. Those debates relating to Allah and Muslims are not issues very personal to the Muslim faith. But the Pope is the "Head " of the Catholic Church, an epitome of its faith and to argue how he is selected is just an insult. Has any debate been done on how Imams are chosen, even though they dont represent the head of the Muslim faith or has any debate been done to decide who was the chosen one that took after Mohammed, Abu Bakar or Ali?

    • Terence

      Yes there are. There are even debates how Islamic Law is wrong. There many debates about how religion itself is wrong. No one is sparred.

      If you acknowledge the Malaysian mentality is so, then shouldn't it be logical to debate more about it so that there is a change of such mentality?

    • Fareez

      My dear Simon, to resort to such name calling and telling others to shut up only betrays your lack of courtesy and intelligence. I invite you to come to my training sessions in IIUM and see for yourself that such topics can be handled with respect and courtesy, be it about Islam or Christianity. I myself come from a background that has both religions. I highly doubt the fact that you were an ex debater. An ex varsity debater would not behave in such a close minded way, nor resort to calling people names. Email me if you are serious about coming for the training. Bring your friends. We'll arrange for a debate about the person that should have took over from the Prophet Muhammad S.A.W. just for you.

    • Fareez

      Further, your assertion that the topics are nit personal to the Muslim faith is wrong, misinformed and ignorant at best. Just taking the furst topic as an example, the Sharia is the system of Islamic law established through years of development and juristic opinion with the guidance of the Quran and the Sunnah. It is the cornerstone of any Muslim's faith. We debate it. Christians debate it, we debate it overseas, foreign debaters from different countries debate it. We do it in the spirit of intellectual discourse. Something that you are obviously unaware of. Maybe you should get a handle on things before you call people names. It makes you look foolish if you don't. By the way, this is my email [email protected]. I look forward to arranging for a debate for you soon.

    • Mahar

      I was raised Catholic in arguably the most Catholic country in the world. Definitely the most Catholic in Asia. And we have debated against the College of Cardinals electing the pope. It's not a new topic for us. Conversely, we have also argued about the various tenets and principles of Islam.

      We argue about any substantial issue that will significantly affect a group of people, and not just our own.

      ~Mahar, the Philippines

      • Fareez

        Exactly. Thanks Mahar :-) at least the Philippines has a healthy culture of intellectual discourse. I'm not surprised really, Ateneo and UP and UST have log been mainstays in the Asian debate scene.

  21. Arvind

    gawd I miss those days…to live for the 7 mins.
    How I've forgotten…. Thank you for the jolt and the great memories!

  22. Nathalie

    Excellent write-up.