The Doha Debates


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As controversial and timely as the latest headlines, the Doha Debates are swiftly making news themselves, drawing attention to the transformations underway in Qatar. Here are a few of the stories that have aired or been written about us:

Is the Sunni-Shiite rift mostly politics and media hype?
Christian Science Monitor, May 1, 2008
"...Mr. Qazwini, the Iraqi-born imam of the Islamic Center of America in Detroit, was one of four panelists debating the motion "This House believes the Sunni-Shiite conflict is damaging Islam's reputation as a religion of peace." The event was part of the prominent Doha Debate series, hosted and funded by the Qatar Foundation, an educational nonprofit organization, and broadcast by BBC World." �more

Shia or Sunni, we are all Muslim and must stand up to al Qa'eda
The National, May 1, 2008
"...Tomorrow, BBC World will air the Doha Debates filmed a few days ago, on the motion "The Sunni-Shia conflict is damaging Islam's reputation as a religion of peace". It's a timely topic; and a very time-sensitive topic, because it is a question that can only be asked now"...more

Forward Thinking
Oryx, May Edition, 2008
"...I think it is great to bring to this region debate of this quality. It is progressive and important. We need this debate in our life in this part of the world. It is very positive and I can only admire them. They play an important role in changing society"...more

The Publicist
Oryx, April Edition, 2008
"...Husain harbours hope for change. 'We need to investigate how the Doha Debates model of civil society, free discussion, scrutiny, transparency and accountability can be replicated in other Arab countries. We are working towards a better model for creating democracies and stopping extremists than the current Iraqi model, which involves the US and the UK coming in from outside and trying to impose it. The Doha Debates can be at the forefront of all this."��more

Reading between the lines: A eulogy for S.Rosenfeld's world
Jerusalem Post Online Edition, April 17, 2008
" the context of the Arab media world, The Doha Debates is generally a breath of fresh air, almost always worth watching"....more

'It's Arabs who are showing us how to tackle extremism'
The Observer, March 9, 2008
"..Unable to tolerate the pernicious extremism in Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries, I gave up hope and returned home to Britain in 2005. And then I was asked by the avant-garde Qatar Foundation to return to the Middle East to debate the presence of extremism among Muslims..." more

Muslims failing to combat extremism
National Public Radio,March 7, 2008
Listen to Doha Debates speaker Arsalan Iftikhar interviewed on 'Faith Matters' on National Public Radio in the United States about his participation in the Debate, 'This House believes Muslims are failing to combat extremism'.

'We must speak out against extremism'
Gulf News, March 6, 2008
"...Students asked whether the West should be blamed for the emergence of extremism and how destitute people in war-ravaged countries such as Palestine or Iraq could fight radicals".�more

'Courting Controversy' Interview with Tim Sebastian
Oryx, March Edition, 2008
"...Where else in the Arab world are people discussing whether the Arab League should be shut down, whether Arab states couldn't care less about Darfur, debating the Palestinian question, the Iraqi issue; whether there is genuine reform in the region? These are complex subjects and this is the premier forum in the Arab world where they are discussed..."more

'Darfur Dissected'
Oryx, February Edition, 2008
" is having the local audience grill [the speakers] that is a true measure of Doha's 'intellectual revolution'. The BBC airs the Debates to tens of millions of people worldwide. What makes it good television is that we have an extremely enthusiastic audience, mostly made up of students, who intelligently interact with our guests. Their arguments showcase the variety of opinions in the Arab world..."�more

'Operative Words'
Oryx, January Edition, 2008
"... The very existence of the Doha Debates - broadcast on BBC World from Qatar - is testament to the progressive thinking of the nation's leaders. Where else in the Middle East might a courteous platform be extended to a former Israeli foreign minister, from which he might properly expound his views?..." more

Arab World's 'Washington DC'
Qatar Tribune, 15th December, 2007
" is having the local audience grill [the speakers] that is a true measure of Doha's 'intellectual revolution'. The BBC airs the Debates to tens of millions of people worldwide. What makes it good television is that we have an extremely enthusiastic audience, mostly made up of students, who intelligently interact with our guests. Their arguments showcase the variety of opinions in the Arab world..." more

Debaters today, leaders tomorrow
The Peninsula, December 1, 2007
"...Nominated for demonstrating considerable talent in previous Doha Debates, these students had come to England to participate in a unique episode of the programme, filmed in the historic chamber of the Cambridge Union. As the timetable included workshops with top Cambridge debaters and a discussion with the Israel and Arab societies, the potential for heated argument was great....more

Britain's Role in the Middle East
The Today Programme, BBC Radio 4, November 26, 2007
Listen to Doha Debates speakers Sir Malcom Rifkind and Shlomo Ben Ami interviewed by James Naughtie on the Today programme - BBC Radio's flagship news and current affairs programme. The interview was broadcast on the morning of the Doha Debate held at the Cambridge Union with the motion, 'This House believes Britain's role in the Middle East is in terminal decline'.....more

'Potential for Qatar to become top debating nation in region: expert'
Gulf Times, September 25, 2007
"A Qatari student debating team could compete internationally as soon as next year, according to leading debating coaches from the world famous Oxford Union in the UK...more

'It's time to start talking with Al Qaida'
Gulf News, September 07, 2007
"....In the chair, Tim Sebastian's trademark combative style kept the debate focused on the question, and channelled the wide range of points from the audience to the issue at hand......more

"Waite: We must talk to Osama'
The Sun, September 07, 2007
"Former Beirut hostage Terry Waite says the West must open peace talks with al-Qaeda boss Osama bin Laden...more

'Nothing to talk about'
Opinion, Gulf News,September 06, 2007
"....At this delicate moment in American foreign policy, the BBC is due to launch the new season of the controversial Doha Debates, with the first debate due this week on whether it is time to talk to Al Qaida..........more

'Doha Debates now a brand to cherish'
Editorial , The Gulf Times, September 05, 2007
".... And while other countries in the Middle East would have approached such an initiative with varying degrees of caution and apprehension, Qatar has once again proved that it is not backward in coming forward on the world stage....more

Family values: An 'honour' killing caused shockwaves in Britain but it is part of a wider social tyranny that has blighted the Middle East.
Comment is Free, The Guardian Unlimited, June 13, 2007
"....This is an issue that rarely gets discussed in public forums, though it is beginning to come to the surface. Last year it was tackled in one of the Doha Debates, with the motion that "This house believes the family is a major obstacle to reform in the Arab world." One of the problems highlighted was the way families take it upon themselves to make decisions - on career choices and marriage partners, for example - which, in the west, would more usually be a matter for the individuals concerned....more

'Zionist lobby' paranoia is growing
The Times Online, June 02, 2007
" Times columnist David Aaronovitch speaks about the topic of the first Doha Debate to be held abroad - the influence of the pro-Israeli lobby on debate about Israel's actions. Mr. Aaronovitch was a speaker at the Doha Debate held at the Oxford Union in the UK in May 2007...more

Med student hones his debating skills in Oxford
Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar Report, June, 2007
"For the first time the popular Doha Debates were held outside of Qatar at the world famous debating society of Oxford University, and WCMC-Q medical student, Fouad Otaki, was there. "It was such an interesting experience," he said. "Oxford is a place I've heard a lot about. Professional debating really is an art form. It's something I'm an amateur at so it was great to be given the opportunity to develop those skills.....more

Doha Debates at Oxford criticises Israel 'red lines'
The Peninsula, May 4, 2007
" .. This was the first time that the Doha Debates, a unique forum for free speech in the Arab world, have held an event outside Qatar. The debate, hosted by award winning broadcaster Tim Sebastian, took place amid mounting controversy over the role of the pro-Israel lobby in the United States and accusations that it has suppressed criticism of Israel - a charge that the lobby vigorously denies...more

Bassem Eid V Ali Abunimah
Should the Palestinians give up their full right of return?

Comment is Free, The Guardian. April 06, 2007
In March 2007, the Doha Debate motion was, 'This House believes the Palestinians should give up their full right of return'. Two of the speakers, who were on opposing teams, carried on the debate on the pages of the online version of the Guardian newspaper.
" It was a pleasure meeting you at last week's Doha Debate on the Palestinian right of return. I think that both of us are in very interesting positions to discuss this issue as we are both refugees, but neither of us changed the other's beliefs. As Professor Ilan Pappe put it so eloquently at the Doha Debate, no people should have to choose between military occupation and forced exile...more

Debates changed perception
Gulf Times, February 21, 2007
" ...The Doha Debates, now in its third year, has changed the perceptions of its anchor, noted TV personality Tim Sebastian, about the Arab world. Sebastian said he was surprised to see "how sophisticated, passionate, serious, engaged and enthusiastic the participating students are. One can easily find different shades of opinion...more

Muslim peer calls for end to 'divisive' full face veils
Independent, February 20, 2007
" .. Lord Ahmed of Rotherham .... who last night spoke out over veils in a debate in the heart of the Arab world, stressed that a sensible discussion was needed urgently within Muslim communities about whether veils represented a danger to integration in British society. He backed the motion "This House believes the face veil is a barrier to integration in the West" at a debate in Doha, Qatar...more

Peres rejects Qatari leader's proposal for direct talks with Hamas-led government
International Herald Tribune, January 30, 2007
...(Shimon) Peres answered "tough and controversial questions" from 300 Arab students who took part in the debate later in the day...more

The Muslim World is Lost at Sea without a Captain
Asharq Alawsat, February 7, 2006
".....This month's debate was as pertinent as ever - does the Arab media need lessons in journalism from the West? Al Jazeera TV quickly answered that question for me when I turned on the television in my hotel room in Doha...more

A speaker's impression of the Doha Debates
By Marc Lynch, Abu Aardvark blog. January 2006
Marc Lynch, speaker at January's Doha Debate, recorded his impressions of the night on his blog...more

Will the presence of big name BBC journos lead to greater freedom of speech in the Middle East?
Communicate, November 2005
".....More recently, Tim Sebastian, famous in the region for his go-for-the-jugular Hardtalk interview program on the BBC, has appeared as the chair of the Doha Debates series funded by the Qatar Foundation...more

Qatar opens debate on thorny Muslim,Arab issues
National Public Radio, Day to Day, June 3, 2005
"The government of Qatar has initiated a series of public debates about controversial issues facing the Arab and Muslim world, including women's equality in Muslim nations...more

Double standards in war on terror questioned at debate
The Peninsula, May 1, 2005
"Addressing the now-prominent Doha Debates on Thursday, the Grand Mufti of Bosnia claimed that 70 per cent of refugees in the world are Muslims...more

Attack highlights Qatar's importance in the Gulf
International Herald Tribune, March 21, 2005
"...The Qatar Foundation, headed by Sheika Mozah, also runs the Doha Debates, a debate series that has tackled such contentious propositions as "The House believes that Arab governments are not interested in genuine reform." Its guests have sometimes been as controversial as the issues they discuss...more

Road map still alive, say Debates participants
Gulf Times, February 26, 2005
"The Middle East Road Map peace plan is still alive and it can form the basis for negotiations aimed at solving the Israel-Palestine dispute, the majority of the participants at the fourth Doha Debates have said...more

"Israel is holding up UN aid for Palestinians"
Khaleej Times, February 25, 2005
"Israel is holding up UN aid shipments to Palestinians through Ashdod port, aid from Turkey by road through Jordan, and also hindering aid distribution through the Palestinian territories, according to Ghassan Al Khatib, Minister of Labour in the Palestinian Authority, speaking to Khaleej Times in Doha after attending "The Doha Debate on the Roadmap to Middle East Peace"...more

Another revolution in the land of Al Jazeera, February 22, 2005
"In the land that launched Al-Jazeera TV, there's another revolution under way. This time, they call it the Doha Debates, a monthly forum tackling issues at the heart of troubles in the turbulent Middle East...more

Qatar's first lady tackles the future, February 22, 2005
"Her Highness Sheikha Moza, the wife of the emir of Qatar, has set out to transform the oil-and-gas-rich state into a model for reform in the Persian Gulf...more

BBC to air Doha Debates
Gulf Times, January 29, 2005
"The latest in the series of Doha Debates, focusing on tomorrow's elections in Iraq, will be televised on BBC World today at 5.10pm and tomorrow at 1.10am local time...more

We can solve our own problems, re-iterates Al-Douri
Gulf Times, January 19, 2005
"...Let the occupiers leave Iraq first and then we can solve our problems, by our ways, between ourselves," said the former Iraqi ambassador to UN, who attended the monthly Doha Debate organized by the Qatar Foundation on Monday night...[he] said the new parliament would not represent all the Iraqi people and believes that elections should not be held in the "current severe consequences"...more

Neighbors want democratic Iraq, finds debate
Gulf Times, January 19, 2005
"Around 63% of the audience at the third Doha Debate voted against the motion that Iraq's neighbours have no wish to see a democracy in the war-hit country...more

Efforts transform Qatari culture
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, November 28, 2004
"Yasmine Abdel-Rahman stirs in her seat a bit but waits patiently to challenge a Saudi Arabian debate panelist on his view that Arab people, not their governments, shoulder the blame for the slow pace of reform in the Middle East...more

BBC presenter hails frank talk
Gulf Times, October 16, 2004
"The debut episode of The Doha Debates proved to be really interesting, said BBC HARDtalk presenter Tim Sebastian, who chaired the event. "The participants and audience engaged in a frank discussion," he said...more

Arab regimes censured at Doha Debates
Gulf Times, October 16, 2004
"A MOTION stating that "Arab governments are not interested in genuine reform" was carried with a majority vote at the inaugural episode of The Doha Debates hosted by the Qatar Foundation (QF)...more

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