IF you think that a case can be won by shouting at your opponent, yelling frantically at his face, hurling desperately “holy” words such “allahu akbar” (God is great) at him, you are definitely wrong.

What you need to win a case is a persuasive argument, valid data, and a sober reasoning. Yelling “allahu akbar” at your opponent won’t tilt the scale to your side!

In other words, to speak louder than your opponent doesn’t make you holier than him.

I’ve been invited to many discussions and seminars back in Jakarta and sat next to Islamist activists in the panel. What struck me was this: they always speak as if they yell at his fellow from a long distance in the desert. They shouted, they yelled, they screamed as if I am a deaf person. The audience returned the move with a thunderous chant: ALLAHU AKBAR!

I saw the other day a conversation on TV between Riziq Shibab, the head of Front of Islam’s Defender (FPI) and a young cleric, Kiai Maman. It was broadcast on SCTV, one of a major TV channel in Jakarta. They engaged in a heated debate on the supposedly “deviant” sect, Ahmadiyah, and violent act launched by a “thug” that belongs to FPI against people who rallied on June 1st in National Park to defend the religious freedom.

They sat on a two opposing benches: Mr. Shihab represented the conservative camp; Mr. Maman spoke for those who defend the right of Ahmadiyah to exist and exercise their freedom of conscience.

Mr. Shihab shouted and shouted during the discussion at his interlocutor, as if he delivered a sermon from a pulpit during Friday prayer. It was so annoying to see a scene such this on TV. Mr. Shihab spoke to a fellow Muslim and he is supposed to address his fellow with respect and civility. I noticed that he never looked at the eye of his interlocutor. He spoke without paying any attention to his “opponent”. He kept interjecting and interrupting other’s speech. When the moderator tried to stop him, he paid no heed and just kept talking endlessly.

Is this man so stupid that he is not aware that Muslim scholars developed over centuries what is called the ethic of disputation, adab al-munazara? The way Mr. Shihab behaved on TV screen at that time gave a very bad image about Muslim and Islam. I just imagine what non-Muslim viewers would think about this man, yelling and shouting at his fellow Muslim, pretending that he is on “God’s” side so that he is apparently entitled to harass and ridicule others.

To be louder, Mr. Shihab, does not make you holier than your opponent. What you did is exactly what “enemies of Islam” expect from any Muslim to do. You confirm other’s image about Islam as a violent religion. People like you are always mad and furious when others accused Islam as religion of violence. But, do you realize that what you did conforms squarely to the image that others have back in their mind about Islam?

Do you think that you have done a great service to Islam by acting so madly like that, Mr. Shihab?

Don’t ever think that this is a unique scene that you will encounter only in Indonesia. No, not at all. I saw a video of a debate between “Islamist” and “secularist” camp that was conducted during Cairo International Book Fair in Egypt. The Islamist camp was represented by Sheikh Muhammad al-Ghazali, a noted Muslim cleric who is also known as the ideologue of Ikhwan al-Muslimin, while the secularist was represented by Dr. Faraj Fouda. This debate occurred many years ago (I forget when it exactly happened; I guess in early 90s).

What struck me from that debate was that the audience which seemed to be predominantly “anti-secularist” camp kept shouting and yelling whenever Dr. Fouda had his turn to speak. As some you may know, Dr. Fouda was killed not long after that debate because of his critical stance against Islamist groups in Egypt.

What is that supposed to mean? Why do those guys always shout whenever they address other people? Are they so insecure and engulfed in a distress and anxiety that they shout so desperately? Is this shouting just a sign of frustration? Or do they think that they are on a higher moral ground than others so that they think they speak from a “supremacist” position?__ __