Mafiq’s annual Muslim Youth Debate Tournament is a project of the Mafiq Foundation in the DC, Maryland, and Virginia area that focuses on developing and exercising skills in parliamentary debate, critical analysis, and verbal delivery in the context of relevant faith-related topics. In our Muslim youth, we help nurture eloquence and wisdom in how the world works– this one, and the next.
Why We Do It
Eloquence has historically been a highly valued skill in Islamic culture. Surah Ta-Ha tells us that when Allah sent the Prophet Musa (pbuh) to call the Pharaoh to Islam, the prophet replied “O my Lord! Open for me my chest [grant me self-confidence, contentment, and boldness]… and make loose the knot [the defect] from my tongue, [i.e. remove the incorrectness from my speech].” (Surah 20:25-27). The Arabs at the time of the Prophet Muhammad (S) placed great emphasis on articulate speech, and throughout Islamic history, Muslim societies have maintained a proud tradition of spirited philosophical debate. Even the greatest miracle Allah has given us – the Qur’an – is itself a masterful demonstration of eloquence.
One of the greatest benefits of learning to debate is developing lateral thinking skills. This allows one to see issues from different perspectives, enabling one to understand the other side. Debate also fosters critical thinking skills, allowing one to clearly identify the root or premise of an argument and consequently its flaws or merits. This helps a person respond not only to an opponent’s argument at a superficial level but to the underlying concept as well.
Further, debating teaches one quick thinking, organizing thoughts and structuring arguments in a logical, quick and impromptu manner. This is a skill that benefits one not only in our verbal interactions in life but also in our writing. It is especially useful in exam writing and writing papers for college and school as they are more readable and structured and makes an average paper into an excellent paper.
Some topics are not debatable because they are simply statements of fact (“the earth rotates around its axis”); others are not debatable because they are too broad or vague in scope. The answers to many issues, however, are far from black and white, lying instead somewhere in between. Debate teaches one to search these shades of truth, develop an informed opinion, and effectively argue his or her position.
Public speaking is as important now as ever before. Given the current social and political climate of the United States, the American Muslim community is coming under increasing scrutiny, and we are in great need of articulate, active brothers and sisters who are able to positively represent their faith in society. It is our hope that, through activities like the Muslim Youth Debate Tournament, young Muslims may be encouraged to foster these skills within themselves and gain the confidence to use them in society at large.
We thank you for your participation in this program, and we ask Allah to bless your efforts and make this and future tournaments a success.
There are several different formats for debate practiced in high school and college debate leagues. Most of these formats share some general features. Specifically, any debate will have two sides: a proposition side, and an opposition side. The job of the proposition side is to advocate the adoption of the resolution, while the job of the opposition side is to refute the resolution.
The resolution can take many forms, depending on the format. But in most cases, the resolution is simply a statement of policy or a statement of value. Some examples include, “Be it resolved, that the federal government of the United States should legalize marijuana”; “Be it resolved, that when in conflict, the right to a fair trial ought to take precedence over freedom of speech”; “Be it resolved, that men should wear boxers rather than briefs,”; etc. In many debate formats, there is a requirement that a policy resolution (a resolution regarding the policies followed by some organization or government) represent a change from current policy, so that the opposition team will be defending the status quo.
Usually, there is also a judge present in the debate whose job is to decide the winner.
A comprehensive analysis of different forms of debates can be found in the California State University, Northridge website at: http://www.csun.edu/~dgw61315/
The emphasis in the Parliamentary form of debate is on persuasiveness, logic, and wit. Unlike in other forms of debate, where the resolution is established well in advance of a tournament and is the same for every round in the tournament, in Parliamentary debate the resolution is usually not established until 10 minutes before the debate round begins, and there is a new resolution for every round of debate. Since it would be unreasonable to expect teams to research every topic they could be possibly be asked to debate, parliamentary debate requires no evidence whatsoever.
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