Salafists disrupt liberal Islam debate in Amsterdam

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Radical Belgian Muslims disrupted a debate on Wednesday evening about a liberal approach to Islam. The leading debaters were Canadian writer and Muslim activist Irshad Manji and Green Left Party MP Tofik Dibi. Both describe themselves as liberal Muslims.

The debate at the Balie venue in Amsterdam consisted of a dialogue between Manji and Dibi about "how reformist Muslims can prevent the Islam debate from being hijacked by extremists, be they Islamophobes or radical Muslims". Irshad Manji, a known critic of Islam, is the author of The Islam Dilemma.

A group of 30 Islamists waving the Salafist flag entered the hall and began shouting "Sharia for Holland". They threatened and spat on Ms Manji. The Islamists, who also threw raw eggs, demanded that the debate participants leave the stage; the debaters refused. Mr Dibi later tweeted that the debate “about a promising new generation of Muslims” was later continued at the request of Ms Manji.

Eventually, the police were called in to remove the protestors. A police spokesperson later said that two of the 22 men involved were arrested, one for making threats, and one for insulting Ms Manji. Tofik Dibi accompanied her to the police station where she filed a report.

Tofik Dibi, speaking later the same evening on public TV talkshow Pauw & Witteman, said that “the disruption of the debate shows that it is necessary to continue the debate on a free and moderate Islam.” Ms Manji added that she had experienced her share of fierce opposition but that she had never before seen anything like this.

It is not clear whether the protesters belonged to an organisation, nor why they were all from neighbouring Belgium.

Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders tweeted: “Dibi does not deserve eggs from radical Muslims or disruption of the meeting. He must be able to say what he wants.”