Dr. Abdullah Hadban, the host of the “Al-Bayena” [The Evidence] talk show which appears on Iqra TV described my previous article [The Gender Mixing Debate] as being unfair and slanderous. My previous article commented on his lack of neutrality when presenting the first part of the debate “Women Believers and the Battle of Gender Mixing” between [Mecca CPVPV Director] Dr. Ahmed Bin Qassem al-Ghamdi and Sheikh Ahmed al-Hamdan and Sheikh Mohamed al-Nujaimi.
On Friday, an Arab-based news channel announced that “the presenter of the Al-Bayena talk show denied the accusations made against him by Asharq Al-Awsat columnist Mohamed Sadiq Diyab in his article ‘The Gender Mixing Debate’ in which he accused Dr Abdullah Hadban of ‘abandoning his neutrality.’ Dr. Hadban responded to this by saying “This is an injustice and slander, what I did was part of gently stimulating [the discussion], and my program is not a debate program, but rather a forum for intellectual dialogue, and I have previously spoken to others in the same manner as I addressed al-Ghamdi.”
It seems that Dr. Hadban was not paying attention during this episode, as he was far too busy rooting for one of the two teams taking part in this dialogue, for if he was paying attention he would never have described what I wrote as an injustice and slander. As for his statement that his program is not a debate program but rather a forum for intellectual dialogue, I would claim that a debate is a type of intellectual dialogue, and since Dr. al-Nujaimi was on the program to act as arbitrator between al-Ghamdi and al-Hamdan, it is clear that this was a full-fledged debate.
Perhaps it was the criticism directed towards Dr. Hadban for his performance in this first episode which caused him to be more objective in the second episode. He was able to present a more balanced and fair episode in which all the guests had an equal opportunity to express themselves within the time limit. Those watching this show – including myself – were able to understand the viewpoints put forward by the guests in a more positive manner than during the first episode when Dr. Hadban seemed to be mimicking the presenting style of Al Jazeera present Faisal al-Qassim, but in an even more disorganized style.
The importance of neutrality when moderating a debate is contingent upon the importance of the topic being discussed by the guests. Since Sheikh al-Ghamdi first put forward his opinion on gender mixing in Okaz newspaper, this issue has been at the top of the agenda of all social gatherings. Therefore it was a good thing that the “al-Bayena” talk show aired a debate between Sheikh al-Ghamdi and two [opposing] Sheikhs such as Sheikh al-Nujaimi and Sheikh al-Hamdan, so that the audience could see each side’s view.
In the same manner that I criticized Dr. Hadban for being biased in the first episode, this requires one to be objective and fair in evaluating his performance in the second episode. Therefore I am surprised that a media figure as capable and talented as Dr. Hadban did not manage to present the first episode to his usual high standards.