I have been increasingly frustrated by the direction in which Phil, Sebastian and maybe one or two others are taking the comments in my post on the Dove World Outreach Center’s burn-a-Quran day. Instead of focusing on the obvious Islamophobia motivating the event, they want to interrogate Islam, Islamic values, the values Muslims hold, etc., and it seems to me that they want to do this in part in order to determine whether or not the Islamophobia my post was pointing out is at all justified. (I might be wrong about this; it is just the feeling I get.) For example, as I pointed out in a response to Phil, there is a big difference between asking, as he does:
Does that mean, then, that it is always wrong to wonder how many millions of Muslims hold extremist views?
Does that mean, then, that it is always wrong to wonder what percentage of Muslims hold extremist views?
The former version of the question seems to me clearly Islamophobic, not because there might not be millions of Muslims who hold such views, but because the question proposes its own answer in a way that frames Muslims as “the enemy.” If we were talking about any other religious group, I don’t think this kind of rhetoric would be allowed to stand unchallenged, and I think people from those groups would, rightly, refuse to engage the conversation precisely because the rhetoric of the question is so biased and inflammatory.
To give a specific example, an awful lot of people have a problem with the idea within Judaism that the Jews are God’s “chosen people.” I can understand why someone who is not Jewish might not care that this phrase does not have a monolithic meaning within the Jewish community, that they might, in other words, find offensive any way in which the phrase can be understood. It is, however, one thing to say, simply, that this belief and therefore Judaism is offensive; while it is quite something else to demonize the Jewish people as, for example, Zionist conspirators who want to rule the world and feel it is their right to do so because they are God’s chosen people. (And I would like, please, to leave out of any discussion of this what Christians mean when they talk about the Jews as God’s chosen people.) Similarly, as I pointed out in another comment: It is one thing to point that there have been despotic Black political leaders in the world, demonstrating–as if it needed to be demonstrated–that Black people are just as capable of being evil and oppressive as everyone else, but it is quite something else to start talking about those leaders when the discussion at hand is about anti-Black racism in the United States.
There is nothing wrong with asking questions about Islamic values, beliefs and traditions, even for the purpose of critiquing them; there is nothing wrong with asking how many of which Muslims hold which kinds of beliefs, religious, political or otherwise; there is nothing wrong with pointing out that Sharia law has within it, as do Jewish and Christian law, elements that we today consider barbaric, and there is nothing wrong with pointing out that those regimes which put those elements into practice are, in fact, behaving barbarically.
I hope that statement is unambiguous enough. Because there is something wrong with using those questions to demonize Muslims and their religious tradition. And that is why I have given this post the title I have given it. I just wish I knew enough about Islam to write Islamophobia 101.
(Edited to add a link back to the post about Quran burning that started this discussion. –RJN)
It seems like the original post is critical of more than one thing: the rhetorical strategy used to criticize Islam via a book-burning stunt, and also the characterization of Islam and Islamic beliefs.
I view criticism of religion(s) as important and healthy, so to me, the greater transgression is the mischaracterization of Islam. But it’s not clear to me whether my view is consistent with the OP. Is it ever legitimate to criticize a religion?
This reads like a statement of statistics. That is, if something is not the exception to the rule, then it must occur more than fifty percent of the time. A lot depends on how one defines “moderate Muslims” versus “extremist Muslims.”
I don’t think it’s racist or bigoted to avoid downplaying the number of Muslims there are who hold extremist views. (An example of such a belief: “Violence against infidels is justified.”) We’ve definitely seen/read widely publicized examples of extremist Muslims, and I think there are plenty of documented, though less notorious, examples of non-extremist Muslims.
But I don’t personally know how the statistics break down, and I get a sense that Richard is simply relying on conventional wisdom. It seems pretty likely that the U.S. proportions of moderates/extremists favors the moderates, but is it unreasonable to at least wonder what the breakdown is worldwide? There are entire nations where children are raised on anti-infidel or anti-Westerner propaganda, after all. It seems pretty likely that there are tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions, of people who hold what a secularist would consider “extremist views.”
And how does one talk about this without sounding like a bigot? Polls have shown that the majority of U.S. Catholics are pro-choice, so you could say that most Catholics are pro-choice. But Catholicism, as a religion, couldn’t be more opposed to choice. So you could say that Catholics are anti-choice and you wouldn’t exactly be wrong.
I have no trouble with the thinking that it is wrong to characterize “moderate Muslims” as a sect of Islam. But I’m curious: is it wrong even if it’s true?
I don’t even know how to respond to this, frankly. It sounds an awful lot to me like the canard used against Palestinians that they all raise their children to be, or hope that their children will become, suicide bombers. I know you are just wondering, but this kind of just wondering–and I am talking here about your rhetoric, not what you actually believe–is precisely what Fox News does.
Well, yes you would be wrong if you said “Catholics are anti-choice” and you meant all Catholics. That’s why you would need to say “the Catholic Church is anti-choice.”
This seems to me a silly question, which makes me wonder if you mean something else by it. Of course it’s not wrong if it’s true, but the term “moderate Muslim” is not a term that emerged from the Muslim community to define a particular kind of religious practice, which is what Sunni, Shiite, etc. denote. Rather, it is a term that has emerged in the West’s rhetoric about Islam to define a particular kind of political stance towards the West, and that is the problem with it’s being used as if it denoted a sect of Islam.
When I was a kid I was taught that everyone in the Soviet Union hated the US. Unlike us good people, who were worried about Soviet power and Soviet expansionism, and had troops all over the world in response to that threat, and who were assumed to share the wisdom that Communism and communism were both evil, but who didn’t hate the people of the Soviet Union, who were probably good folks but deluded, and maybe even freedom-loving but oppressed. And I think this statement would be a good summary of the way we thought about it:
And it’s just as incorrect in the one case as it was in the other.
Since the original post was about rhetoric, let me point out that you are twice engaging in the association fallacy here. You pick a generally-agreed-upon villain, say that I am doing the same thing as them, and then ignore the content of what I said.
People who make false or exaggerated claims about Palestinians and Fox News engage in rhetoric that is similar to mine. Okay. Does that mean, then, that it is always wrong to wonder how many millions of Muslims hold extremist views?
My point is that there has to be a way to criticize a religion without being labeled a Fox News commentator. My personal belief is that all supernaturalist beliefs are probably wrong. So I don’t buy it when someone says that X is a “true” Islamic belief and Y is a “false” Islamic belief, or “not really Islam” or a “misinterpretation,” etc. In my book, it’s all false.
So when an authoritative figure makes a claim like, “Actually, Islam is not a violent religion,” I think that’s meaningless. There is no “actual.” All of Islam (and all of Christianity, and all of Hinduism, etc.) is probably wrong. It is no more bigoted for a Westerner to suggest that the majority of Muslims hold unsavory beliefs than it is for a Western to suggest that the majority of Muslims hold pretty, easy-to-agree-with, pleasant-to-Westerners beliefs. It’s just as meaningless to say “Muslims aren’t violent! Muslims aren’t sexist!” as it is to say “Muslims are violent! Muslims are sexist!” The truth is that some Muslims are violent and sexist, and some are not.
You insinuated in your original post that “moderate Muslims” are a minority; that they are not the exception to the rule. That’s a statistical claim, and you didn’t provide any evidence for it. I didn’t refute your claim, I just pointed out that your claim is not necessarily true, and I asked if it is unreasonable to wonder what the breakdown is.
You’re talking as if it’s wrong to characterize a particular kind of political stance as a Muslim belief. And again, I ask, is it wrong even if it’s true? If (some, or many, or most) Muslims believe their religion requires them to hold a particular kind of political stance, aren’t you really just saying, “In my Western view, that is not a religious belief, so I will separate your political beliefs from your religion even if you don’t”?
I want to disclaim that I apologize if I’m phrasing this in a way that makes someone feel marginalized. I don’t think it’s possible to talk about a religion in a way that doesn’t feel, in part, like other-izing, because we’re talking about beliefs that people hold, and I (and presumably many others in this thread) don’t hold these beliefs, so we’re talking at least in part about other people. I understand that there are all kinds of pitfalls in this, but it seems to me that the only way to avoid them is to not discuss religion, or to assume things are true without evidence, and I don’t think those are good solutions either.
Hey guys, this discussion is very interesting, but can we take it to an open thread, so that I can join back without having to worry about derailing the thread and violating Richard’s wishes? Could a moderator move the posts Richard does not want here somewhere else?
You know what, Phil? You are avoiding the point of the original post and also making my point. If you don’t see the difference between asking this question as you have asked it:
If you don’t see that your version of the question is biased and inflammatory, then, frankly, you are being Islamophobic and I am going to ask you to stop posting to this thread.
ETA: I think Sebastian is right. His and Phil’s comments ought to be moved to another thread. I have just put up a post where they would fit. Could someone who knows how please move the comments from Phil’s @94 on down, and any others that make sense, to that post? Thanks.
In the context of the current kerfloofle, I’ve made an impression on a couple of friends by sending them to the recent NYT article on Sufis.
Can you provide a link? Thanks.
ETA: Maybe it’s this one?
Thank you, Richard. My exhaustion with this stuff has kept me away from a lot of the discussions.
That said, I might know enough for your 101. What kind of information would you need?
A phobia is an irrational fear. If you’re going to write an “Islamophobia 101”, it’s going to have to be limited to statements that show a fear of Islam, and fears that are irrationally based. Mere disapproval of Islam or opposition to it or the actions of those who hold its beliefs is not a phobia.
This is perhaps off-topic, but I’d like to address this, even though I’m probably an odd choice to do so.
Ron, a “phobia” may be an irrational fear, but it does not follow that “Islamophobia” is an irrational fear of Islam any more than “homophobia”is an irrational fear of homosexuals. When Richard used the term (and applied it to what I wrote, as you can see) he was clearly referring to prejudice against Muslims, and not to a clinical phobia. That is the generally accepted definition of the term, and a quick Google search would illustrate that.
It makes me want to claw my eyes out every time I read a blog commenter or columnist who argues, “I’m not homophobic! I don’t have an irrational fear of homosexual(s/ity)!” As if a word cannot possibly mean anything other than the sum of its root words. When you say that a news event may cause “hysteria,” you don’t mean that women’s uteruses will act up. You can still play loudly on a “piano.” And if someone calls you an “Islamophobe,” they aren’t talking about a clinical fear.
Your analysis, to me, seems politically nuanced, perhaps, but mathematically illiterate. The only difference between the two sentences you presented were the phrases “how many millions of” versus “what percentage of.” Any “percentage of Muslims” greater than 0.19 will involve millions of people. Your phrasing–“what percentage of Muslims”–is ambiguous; it could be interpreted to mean that a percentage of each individual holds a belief. (I’m not kidding, either: I am criticizing your phrasing as bad writing. If you Google “part of me believes,” you will get 152,000 hits. And so forth.) Since the answer to the question containing the phrase “how many millions” could be “zero” or “.03” or some other answer which represents any possible number, I think your criticism is a little heavy-handed.
For example, you explained your analysis of my question by saying that it is wrong to “demonize the Jewish people as, for example, Zionist conspirators who want to rule the world and feel it is their right to do so because they are God’s chosen people.” As if I had said anything close to that.
I think the reason to try to avoid prejudice (against everyone, but in this case, against Muslims) is because Muslims are people, just like you and me, and equal to you and me in every way, and possessed of the same inherent worth as every other human being on the planet. I don’t want to sound Islamophobic, but more than that, I don’t want to be Islamophobic, and it’s possible that those can be two different things.
I entered the discussion on your previous post to analyze one claim you made that I think was suspect. I wasn’t trying to comment on the entirety of your post. You insinuated that “moderate Muslims” are not a minority, which I interpreted to be a statistical claim. You didn’t provide any evidence for the claim, and you have labeled several of my inquiries about the claim as offensive, inappropriate, or Islamophobic.
I’m not trying to demonize Muslim people, but I think it’s patronizing for you to say, “We must always act and speak as if all Muslims hold pretty, pleasant-to-Westerners beliefs.” The subtext of the particular comment of yours that I quoted in the previous thread is that the right thing to do is to assume that the majority of Muslims believe the things that we believe, and it’s Islamophobic to wonder whether that assumption is true. I disagree with you, and I think that attitude is condescending. Not toward me (well, maybe a little bit) but toward a massive, complex international population of individuals.
The subtext of the particular comment of yours that I quoted in the previous thread is that the right thing to do is to assume that the majority of Muslims believe the things that we believe, and it’s Islamophobic to wonder whether that assumption is true.
While this Socratic method of deciding what the majority of Islamic people believe is all very interesting, how about adding a little decadent data to the mix? Has anyone seen any surveys of Islamic people and their beliefs? In particular, since this discussion arose from the Cordoba discussion, how about data on what American Islamic people believe and whether they can be considered “radical” (whatever that means)?
The only difference between the two sentences you presented were the phrases “how many millions of” versus “what percentage of.” Any “percentage of Muslims” greater than 0.19 will involve millions of people.
About 2% of Christians believe that birth control is immoral and should not be used under any circumstances (according to a random web site…but let’s go with it for now.) Do you see no difference between saying, “Two percent of Christians oppose birth control” and “Millions of radical Christians oppose birth control”? Especially if you follow the statement up with a discussion about how Christians want to use this as a means of controlling women, overpopulating the earth, and raising a massive, starving army for their crusades. All of which is or has been true at some point but none of which represents the reality of the “average” Christian.
First, thanks for taking on RonF’s response to the term Islamophobia. I appreciate it.
Second, pretty much what Dianne said, but just to push the point a little bit further:
I am very aware that in purely mathematical terms–leaving aside your “part of me believes” example–there is no difference between asking “how many millions of Muslims believe” and “what percentage of Muslims believe,” but political nuance, not statistical accuracy, is precisely the point here. Rhetoric matters when it comes to these kinds of discussions, and your rhetoric was what I originally questioned. Nothing more. Here is what I wrote in comment 2 on this thread:
The defensiveness on your part that followed this comment speaks, I think, for itself.
Also, you wrote:
I never said that. What I said in the original post was that I found Rick Sanchez’s tone, the way he said “there are moderate Muslims out there”–or whatever his precise wording was–troubling because he made it sound as if “moderate Muslims” are “somehow the exception to the rule.” My point was that he, by accepting in his tone the framing of Muslims worldwide as immoderate or extremist, was falling into a rhetorical trap by accepting the Islamophobic rhetoric of people like Terry Jones as somehow the starting point for discussion. Again, it was about political nuance, not statistical accuracy. I understand your point about the subtext of what I wrote, since I did not make what I just said entirely clear in the original post, and if you had asked, simply, does anyone know that to be true or not, from a statistical point of view–which is an entirely legitimate question–instead of getting caught up in making politically not-nuanced assertions, like “There are entire nations where children are raised on anti-infidel or anti-Westerner propaganda, after all” we would probably not be having this conversation right now.
You ask what I need to know. I think that part of the problem is that I don’t know what I need to know. I find myself, as in this post, arguing by analogy–as in my examples elsewhere about the similarity between antisemitic and Islamophobic rhetoric–but I think that is not always constructive, since it takes the focus off Islam and Muslims and makes it easy for people to get defensive and deflect, as in Phil’s assertion that, in order to avoid dealing with the content of what he had to say, I smeared him by associating him with, in one case anti-Arab (specifically Palestinian) racism and, in the other, antisemitism.
Two percent of Christians is about 42 million people, Dianne. So, no, I don’t see huge difference between saying “Two percent of Christians oppose birth control” and “Millions of Christians oppose birth control.” The statements might “feel” different to someone who is bad at math, but that’s not really an ethical issue.
But adding the adjective “radical” changes the statement, doesn’t it? As does ascribing various nefarious motives to the holders of that belief. Which, if you’re critiquing my statements, is a straw man.
Here is the logic that I glean from your post: “It is wrong to say that because 42 million Christians oppose birth control, they all want to control women and take over the earth. Therefore, it is wrong to say that 42 million Christians oppose birth control.” I find that logic faulty.
I’m not trying to decide what Muslims believe. I’m not _refuting_ Richard’s claim that “moderate Muslims” are not a minority; I’m just pointing out that without evidence, it is an unsupported assertion of a statistic. I don’t think there is a lot of hard data about what percentage of a major world religion’s adherents hold various beliefs. But the New York Times article that Richard linked to in post 8 describes Sufis as if they are, indeed, a sect of “moderate Muslims.”
The statements might “feel” different to someone who is bad at math, but that’s not really an ethical issue.
Which means most people. And you have to take into account the context in which you make a statement: Saying “there are millions of radical Muslims” on Alas will get an argument. At a Tea Party rally it may well get a riot or a lynching started. That is an ethical issue, whether you acknowledge it or not.
Richard, I think our real problem is that we are both correct. I could respond to some of what you just wrote in a strictly logical manner, and I would, of course, be right. But applying strict logic to a statement about religion can be offensive, as you rightly point out. One can be offensive without intending to be.
Here’s where your stance confuses me: you’ve quoted several sentences I’ve written, and called them “Islamophobic” or politically not-nuanced instead of calling them false. I am willing to concede that it might be offensive to say “There are entire nations where children are raised on anti-infidel or anti-Westerner propaganda,” and that I might be wrong. But unless you are refuting the substance of that statement, then what you’re saying is, basically, that such a statement is Islamophobic whether it is true or not. You can’t have it both ways. If what you’re doing is merely analyzing rhetoric, then you’re saying that a statement can be both Islamophobic and true. Therefore, to avoid being Islamophobic, we must either refrain from making certain true statements, or say things that are false. That’s fine, if that’s what you’re trying to say. But if it’s not what you’re trying to say, then I don’t see how you can critique a statement like that without first establishing explicitly whether the statement is accurate.
Seriously, Dianne? This is the example you come up with in a thread about how it’s wrong to make inflammatory statements about a group of people who happen to be adherents of the same basic philosophy?
I hail from the town where the Quran burning is to be held. It’s unfortunate that this progressive pocket in Florida is best known for this 30-member “church” that preaches hate and for football, not the fact we have an openly gay mayor, we were one of the first communities in Florida to allow cohabiting couples (regardless of sexual orientation) to register for benefits, etc.
But I wanted to ask: is all of this really Islamaphobia or is it symptomatic of something greater and perhaps even more dangerous: nationalism? Consider the fight over border security, Arizona’s law, other states wanting to mimic that law.
In no way do I mean to dismiss or lessen the attacks of my Muslim sisters and brothers. But the groups being attacked or somehow “okay” to attack seem to be growing every day. I fear we’re dealing we, as a country, are seeing a rise in nationalism.
Just a thought.
Phil, are you seriously equating being Islamic with being a member of the Tea Party?
Demeter: I think you’re right. In NYC recently there have been attacks on a taxi driver because of his religion and several people because of their ethnic origins. Guess which religion and ethnic origins they were.
I am going to sound here like the English professor I am, but I want to be clear about the assumption out of which I am writing: In any piece of writing, especially one in a situation where reader and writer don’t know each other, rhetoric is one of the ways, if not the primary way, in which you earn your reader’s trust and that, for me, is the issue here, not accuracy but trust. By way of personal example: I might agree completely with someone about a critique of the Israeli government, but the moment the rhetoric of her or his critique becomes antisemitic, the fact of our agreement becomes irrelevant to me, and not only will I not discuss with them the specific content of our agreement, but I also will not sign petitions, go to protests of whatever sponsored by them or an organization they represent, because I no longer trust them–at least not until I can determine if the antisemitic rhetoric was, for want of a better word, unintentional or not.
It’s the same here. The first problem with a question like Does that mean, then, that it is always wrong to wonder how many millions of Muslims hold extremist views? is not whether or not it is accurate; it’s that the rhetorical presentation of the question–whether that rhetoric is intentional or not–conjures the image of hordes of Muslims hell bent on destroying the US. (Which is not what you meant and not what you said; again, I am talking about the rhetoric.) To put it plainly, in other words, the way you phrased your question, and several other of the assertions in your comments, made me question whether or not I could trust you. ETA: Phil, I should have added here, but I was writing quickly and I missed it, that the reason I have kept talking with you is that I do think you are, fundamentally, saying what you have to say in good faith.
Questions about statistical accuracy, or statistical facts, do not exist in a vacuum. Asking whether, in fact, most Muslims are moderate or otherwise, is not ever, but especially not in this context, a disinterested question; something is at stake for both the person asking the question and the person of whom the question is being asked. The rhetorical form in which the question is asked, therefore, cannot help but imply something about the agenda of the person asking. And this gets to something else you wrote:
Of course, something can be factually accurate but presented in an Islamophobic way. The same facts, however, logically, could therefore be discussed in a way that is not Islamophobic. A fact is not, cannot be, Islamophobic (or racist or antisemitic or sexist or whatever). It’s what someone does, or plans to do with those facts, that is or is not oppressive.
I hate to sound too aggressive here, but it seems that you are
1) making your own determinations of what you consider to be islamophobic; and
2) placing those determinations as MORE important than the underlying “accuracy,” i.e., reality.
#1 makes sense; it’s a personal issue.
#2 makes it nearly impossible for your opponents to talk to you, because it implies that you will only enter discourse with those who already agree with you regarding the boundaries of what you classify as islamophobia.
Doing so is certainly your right. But claiming that the resulting “agreement” or “conclusion” is in any way objectively true, or objectively relevant, is entirely dishonest.
You have initiated a self-enforced limitation on the data you will consider in making your conclusions; how is anyone to trust the outcome? Sure, some people agree with you… but people who trust the accuracy of an outcome merely because they previously agree with the conclusion are, irrespective of the issue, not reliable.
It’s interesting, because I have a similar limitation which now makes me unwilling to continue this conversation with you: I will talk to anyone irrespective of their initial position and beliefs. But I will not waste my time talking to people who have stated an unwillingness to change their beliefs; an unwillingness to consider or discuss data which might contradict theirs; and/or an unwillingness to engage my own position in good faith, as I expect to do theirs.
Don’t ask for trust you’re not willing to give, or respect that you’re not willing to share on your own. Don’t ask for people to drop or hide their current state of belief in order to talk to you, unless you are willing to do the same.
Or, at least don’t try to hold the resulting fiasco up as anything approaching intelligent fact-seeking discourse.
gin and whiskey:
Good, since I fit that bill for you I should not have to tell you that you are banned from this thread to make sure that you don’t comment here anymore, but just to be clear: You are banned from this thread.
(Sorry, this is going to be a bit rambly…) I have been following this thread as well as the other related ones for a while now. And there is one thing that I with my social-psychology trained brain cannot get out of my head in this context: The way you do frame things has an impact on how people understand the facts described as well as what they will remember. This isn’t just speculation or – it is something that has been found consistently in many, many studies. This is why I get upset when clinical psychology articles (written by people who should know better) talks about “depressives” and instead of “depressed people” or “people with depression”. The information given seems the same, but in fact there is plenty of evidence showing that a noun-label makes the reader perceive the described persons differently (namely as more likely to fit the stereotype implied by the label) than an adjective-label. And this is just one of the examples how language influences thinking. I do not know any research investigating how descriptors like “millions” or “0.1%” are perceived differently, but it has been long known that people (yes, even mathematically gifted people) are notoriously bad to take baseline numbers (i.e., the number of a specific group in the world) into account in an everyday context. Can people correct for these mistakes by thinking carefully about the facts? Yes. But to do this they need to analyze every piece of information carefully. Unfortunately, people (yes, even highly intelligent, mathematically gifted people) do not have the mental capacity to actually do this consistently.
@Demeter, (nice handle!), nationalism, islamophobia, racism and zenophobia all interact really well together. There is no need to subsume the more inflammatory labels like islamophobia or racism under a more benign heading like zenophobia or nationalism. They can be all of these things at the same time, there is no false dichotomy between these words.
Firstly, because I couldn’t give two shits about offending people who do or say racist/islamophobic/antisemitic/sexist/transphobic/etc. things. If they take offense at their words or actions being labelled as such, maybe they should reconsider them. Unfortunately, most, like laura schlessinger, don’t.
Secondly, because it’s whitewashing. Calling an event organized by a christian church in florida by an apparently white man “nationalism” ignores the facts that 1. there are muslim americans 2. there are white muslim americans, and sets up “real” americans as white cis christians, whereas muslims are implied to be foreign POC.
I had a class on Islam in college that served as my 101, and I think it really is necessary. I don’t remember all the finer points about it (such as the tenets for belief other than God/Allah, Muhammed is his prophet, Kuran, and angels) but I would most definitely read a 101 that anyone was willing to write to refresh my memory.
@Dianne You asked for some data on the subject, here is what I was able to dig up. It is not perfect, but I suppose that support for suicide bombings might be a pretty decent metric for “extremism”.
Also, my 2 cents worth, rhetoric is important. How you say something is just as important, if not more important, as what you say. There is always a subtext and context that your words fit into, and failure to take that into account before speaking (or writing) can be as bad as saying something false.
As a non-American Muslim, living in a Muslim country, I’ve been following the various debates, arguments, screeds and what-not over Islam on this and other blogs and news sites with interest. I’ve generally avoided getting involved, but I hope you don’t mind if I use the opportunity of this post to put down a couple of thoughts.
There was something that I found a little disturbing about the way these debates unfolded that at first I couldn’t quite put my finger on, or articulate, but finally it occurred to me that what is most troubling with many of these discussions is a matter of representation. Who is representing ‘Islam’ and how is it being represented? It felt a little odd to read long, raging discussions over what the real symbolism of ‘Cordoba’ is for muslims, or what their “real intentions” are by the building of a mosque in NYC. Reading arguments where people were quoting the Quran or Hadith (saying of the Prophet) to argue that all muslims believe so and so or such and such. It is a little surreal to find yourself and your family, your friends, your community and basically most of the people who have ever met in your life, from the guy who bags my groceries at the store, to the traffic cop who helped me park today, to my boss at work, to my mother-in-law, all being put under a microscope and being analyzed in this kind of way. What do they really believe? How do they really think? Can we classify them as moderate? Or Extreme? WHAT JUDGEMENT SHALL WE PASS UPON THEM? Quote some random Hadith and then ask, does this mean they all want to destroy us?
The first time I was told in a discussion on some forum about how I hate America because American troops were stationed in Saudi Arabia and that this desecration of land I held dear had driven me to a murderous rage, I disputed with the person who had said this, and he turned around and quoted some Hadith I had never heard before to prove his point. Then I made a mistake, instead of going into some longwinded sociological analysis about texts and the changing meanings and reinterpretation of texts with different emphasis given to different sections and meanings across different societies and different time periods, I questioned how important this Hadith this was in actually shaping people’s views. The guy came back with a quote from some western scholar (I guess it was a scholar) in some western textbook that categorically stated that this Hadith was very crucial in shaping the attitudes of Muslims towards the west….
Well, that was me told!
Later on I saw how Muslims (or others) how tried to contribute to some of these online debates were shouted down. They were fifth columnists! When they try and speak rationally and say “moderate” things, that’s just them practicising Taqqiyah! It’s a trick! You can’t trust what a Muslim says about what he really thinks or feels, instead you need turn to some authentically un-Muslim source of knowledge to find out about what Muslims really think!
Which is why when this whole Cordoba mosque thing blew up, I didn’t want to get involved with these discussions. Knowledge of what Muslims are “really’ like only comes from like-minded (and often close-minded) people reaffirming each other views and prejudices – its a closed circle.
Is this Islamaphobia? I don’t know. But surely it must be a kind of racism, or ethnicism, or religionism, or whatever the correct term is.
I’m glad you guys are looking for an Islamophobia 101 or Islam 101. I’m not the one to write it (how could you trust my propaganda?) But here’s Islam/ophobia 100-and-a-half: To try and analyse Islam, or Muslims, or the Muslim world, or whatever, you are trying to analyse a collection of societies, each as diverse in its social mores, political attitudes, values and subcultures as that of the USA. To come up with a monolithic explanation that understands us all is impossible. Artificial dichotomies like extremist/moderate don’t deepen understanding either. After all, if I were to ask, how many people are moderates and how many extremists in the USA, its not an easy question to answer.
The other question raised here is about criticism. Well, again, following on from the last part, to me, it seems to make sense to criticise disagreeable actions, and criticise disagreeable beliefs of some. For example, female cricumscision is a shocking and brutal practice, and should be criticised. Where Islam is used to try and defend and promote the practice, this should be criticised as well. But, to go from this to criticise all Muslims as a whole, becuase Islam has been used for this foul purpose makes no sense to me. Condemning Islam in its entirety makes little sense here.
In one sense, the one criticism of Islam in its entirety that I actually feel does make sense is the one that comes from some atheists. Islam is bad period because it is a religion. They don’t worry about or argue about any specific doctrine or that all Muslims believe one particular thing. All muslims believe in something that they think of as Islam – from a militant atheist point of view, it doesn’t matter what it is, if its religion, its harmful. So this criticism of Islam in its entirety makes sense to me, even if I don’t agree with it.
I suspect I’m guilty of derailing here, and I apologise for the length of the post. Peace.
Okay, I think there’s a little talking-past going on with Phil, let me see if I have the pulse of the situation.
Phil: Millions of Muslims, Christians, and religious people of
allmost stripes, are in fact violent, radical and scary.
You’re technically right that the phrases you’re defending are accurate.
What’s not parallel is the fat that *American society at large* treats the default Muslim as scary and radical, while treating the default Christian as normal. If you’re like me, and you think all/most/organized/Abrahamic religions basically suck, then maybe you’re arguing that we should acknowledge the suck, as mostly-Christian rhetoric around Islam appears to.
But the issue is more complicated in the context of Anti-Islamic prejudice; again, if you’re like me, you don’t want Islamic people to be oppressed, you just probably want to puncture that privileged-we-don’t-talk-about-it envelope around faith/religion in general. But this is an intersectionality issue. It’s important that we point out, be aware of, and not contribute to the ways in which Islamic people (or Jewish people, or whoever) are being singled out for mistreatment in a Christian-dominated society.
The problem isn’t the semantic difference between millions of/a small percentage of Christians/Muslims. The difference is that our Christian-dominated culture wants to use one language for one group, and another language for the other. They want to make Islam dangerously violent, and Christianity rainbows and puppies. If you, like me, feel that there’s essentially no difference between the absurdity of the two philosophies, then perhaps you’ll understand why it’s not okay to have them painted differently in the mainstream discourse, and also why one set of language has the potential to lead to violence.
I promise we atheists aren’t “militant.” We have crap organization, and essentially no weapons.
I loved your whole post, Ifty. I disagree with bits of it from my militant atheist perspective (e.g. I do think that the religious texts that are ambiguous enough to be read in support of both positive and negative acts must be considered responsible for both the negative as well as the positive), but basically all you’re asking for is a tiny bit of the nuance that’s afforded to Christianity. People in the U.S. know that the Christianity practiced in the southern U.S. is different from the Christianity practiced in Vatican City, and we know that if we want to know the theological background of transubstantiation, we should probably ask a Catholic, and we know Baptists who are uncomfortable with their congregation’s stance on gay marriage.
If by “equating,” you mean, “saying that they are exactly the same,” then, no. But if you mean I’m pointing out that both are groups of individual human beings deserving of respect even though they identify with a group that holds beliefs that you and I don’t hold, then yes.
You stated that a blunt and politically un-nuanced statement at a tea party rally could lead to a lynching. If someone on this board said exactly the same thing about a group of American Muslims, there would be immediate negative feedback, and rightly so. This is true in spite of the fact that individual Tea Party members have proven to be racist nutjobs.
It is ignorant to paint all Muslims as violent, and it is Islamophobic to insinuate that all groups of Muslims are prone to violence. Additionally (since truth and rhetoric are separate but sometimes related), it is inaccurate to insinuate that a gathering of American Muslims is prone to senseless violence.
You insinuated that a group of American Tea Partiers is prone to violence at the tiniest provocation. I’m pointing out that your statement is both ignorant and very likely inaccurate: how many lynchings have occurred at Tea Party Rallies, in spite of the many documented racist/bigoted statements that have been made?
I love the way this is phrased, and I agree that I believe that more criticism of religion (and religions) will be good for the world. That includes Islam, but also Christianity, Hinduism, and Scientology. I would also say, “Yes, I’m like you,” but I think you’re probably smarter and a better writer.
Ifty, that was a great comment. Your second paragraph especially says clearly the sort of thing I was trying to get at with my analogy to the way kids my age in the US were taught about the Soviet Union.
The kind of thinking that erases the individuality of The Other or the complexity of cultures and belief systems The Other is part of is pretty bad, but what’s worse is imagining that The Other exists only in relation to ourselves: that the whole point of other people’s lives and societies is to have an attitude towards ours.
Interesting phrase there. What have you got against Jews and Christians?
You may not agree with it, but there are people who consider Jewish or Christian law to be true and moral, but who disagree with Islam. Why aren’t they allowed to express their view. Why is the only legitimate opinion one that attacks all Abrahamic religions from the outside? Your position is, for want of a better word, Abrahamophobic. You’re committing the very sin you’re complaining about.
and I agree that I believe that more criticism of religion (and religions) will be good for the world
Speaking as a member of a minority religion in the US, we get plenty of criticism already, thanks. While obviously “it’s a religion!” doesn’t protect any argument or belief from question, it’s a little tiresome to hear ‘no, you need somebody else to throw a rotten tomato, but it’s a SECULAR rotten tomato this time, so be cool with it.’
What Phil says in comment # 33 makes perfect sense from an atheist’s POV. From that perspective it is obviously good for the world to criticize the nonsense that is religion. The proper response to Phil’s statement, I would think, would be to either criticize atheism or to defend religion. Criticism of religion from an atheist position has no concern with the feelings of those who hew to some religion or other. That isn’t what the criticism is about.
That said, I’d be surprised if you were cool with it. Pretty much nobody who is religious is cool with it. I think I’ve met 2 religious people who were in my life.
This is an argument I hear advanced with some regularity, actually.
No need to be. The point is that minority religions are criticized more than majority religions. One can make that fair by either criticizing minority religions less, or criticizing majority religions more. Or doing some combination, preferably including criticizing minority religions for better reasons.
Anyway, this is a derail and should probably go to an open thread. I only went where I did because I thought perhaps Phil was misunderstanding the objections posed here, which are not “religion doesn’t suck at all and let’s not consider the ways in which it might” but are “these particular criticisms are levied in a way that contributes to the specific, material oppression of a minority group.”
Also, Phil, thanks. :D
James: They can express their opinions. And others can call those opinions bigoted where they aren’t supported. Get a better argument.
You may not agree with it, but there are people who consider Jewish or Christian law to be true and moral, but who disagree with Islam.
James, are you a Christian/Jew? Do you consider the Bible/Torah inerrant? Do you think that every punishment prescribed therein is moral, non-barbaric and should be applied on believers and non-believers alike, if only your coreligionists had the power to do so?
Because if you do, I can assure you that I, personally, see no difference between a Muslim yearning for Sharia law and you.
At a Tea Party rally it may well get a riot or a lynching started.
A fair number of lynchings happened after 9/11 that were ignored by the police.
Dianne, could please tell me you definition of lynching? Because going by those with which I am familiar, your statements are hateful, inflammatory and false. You are persistently using rhetoric which would not go unchallenged if it was aimed at anyone but acceptable targets… which by the way are some of your (arguably misguided) compatriots, and the people who risk their lives to defend your (and my) safety.
James: First, what Mandolin said. Second, I hope that the sneering irony I hear when I read your comment is a result of how tired I am right now and not something you actually intend, that there is a point there other than a “gotcha!” which completely disregards the context established throughout this discussion. If there is something more than a “gotcha!”, I am interested to see you spell it out. If there is not, please cut it out.
Ifty: Thanks so much for that comment.
Jake Squid @37, it’d be nice if you read my actual comment, instead of hearing “blah blah religious blah blah atheists are mean”, thanks. Please review Mandolin’s comment about the difference between criticizing religion, period, as opposed to shitting on a minority group.
Based on what I read/hear, Americans tend to slap the label ‘moderate’ on Muslim individuals and governments that are amenable to Western political aims. I don’t think American pundits spend a great deal of time interrogating these folks’ level of *religious* moderation, ie. whether they’re absolute sticklers for Muslim dietary laws or whatnot. It’s always their politics.
Ergo, any Muslim individual who expresses the slightest reservations about America’s political activities (or those of our client states) automatically doesn’t qualify as moderate, and can be tarred with the extremism brush. It’s a nasty rhetorical trick, one that it’s hard for a well-informed Muslim not to find used against him/her.
This was your entire comment, right?
What part of my comment isn’t relevant? From an atheist’s POV, it doesn’t matter which religion you adhere to. Atheists that I know don’t really distinguish between minority and majority religions.
You also might note my last paragraph where, like Mandolin, I support you not being cool w/ the criticism.
Yes, I noted the snide remark in the previous post, too. Please see Mandolin’s comment at @38, which I think makes an actual point better.
Speaking as a Muslim mostly-lurker (oooh, naferious-sounding, no?) I’d say there are a couple of points here that could be building blocks toward an Islamophobia 101 post:
Combining these points lets us say something that hasn’t quite been said yet here: American critiques of Islam — the clumsy, monolithizing, unapologetically racist critiques from conservatives, but also the supposedly nuanced, “most Muslims aren’t extremists” quasi-sensitive critiques from liberals, can never happen in a vacuum. They *always* happen in the context of a global military/diplomatic order wherein the lives of millions of Muslims have been stolen or brutally impacted by the starvation sanctions and bombing campaigns of the US and Europe, even though this fact is usually made invisible. Such critiques of, say, Islam’s supposed antidemocratic tendencies or misogyny — unlike US liberal critiques of fundamentalist Christianity, or Muslim critiques of the West — are thus *always* adding insult to profound, widespread, real-life injury (injury which, heywhowouldathunkit, has been visited upon the Muslim world’s women/gay people/skeptics, too).
Wow, did someone seriously respond to this post with essentially “OK, but here’s why I get to do what you just asked me not to do anyway”? That’s really quite something.
I’m not sure whether this properly falls under racism or religious bigotry, but anytime someone frames a question as “well, what if x marginalised group really are as awful as the worst stereotypes about them would suggest? I’m just wondering” then I am not inclined to give a lot of weight to that person’s opinion or cut them a lot of slack. It’s easy to justify prejudice, you can always find an excuse if you’re determined enough to do so, but that doesn’t change the fact the your prejudice does not justify more acts of prejudice.
I mean, when you’re saying stuff like this? “I have no trouble with the thinking that it is wrong to characterize “moderate Muslims” as a sect of Islam. But I’m curious: is it wrong even if it’s true?” Until you know exactly what all the major Islamic sects actually are and how they relate to each other and where they come from, historically speaking, then you’re not really educated enough about this issue to be having a conversation about it. Extra ignorance bonus points if you can’t answer the question “how did the Wahhabi sect come to be as prominent as it has been recently, and what was the West’s role in that process?”.
Sorry, Richard. I’d offer to write the Islamophobia 101 post, but I fear I might get a bit ranty.
ETA – Here’s an interesting thought experiment, since we seem to be indulging in the classic tendency to take something that actually effects people’s lives and treat it as if it’s abstract and talking about it this way has no power to hurt people. What does “extremist views” mean in the context of Islam, and who gets to decide which views do and do not qualify.
@ifty – Thank you. I’m not in Saudi any more, and these conversations are mind bendingly wierd for me to read, so I can only imagine how much worse it is if you’re still there. I keep wanting to go, you know that place/group of people you’re talking about? I lived there/among those people, and it/they are pretty ordinary, really. The reality bears almost no resemblance to what’s being assumed – from reading these threads you’d think most Muslims lived in an ant colony on the moon, it’s about that far removed from the day to day reality of life in any Muslim country I’ve ever visited (ie, lots).
(am not reading most of the comments here because I suffer from bipolar depression which has been been greatly exacerbated by Islamophobic media and I’m fed up with liberal/feminist/atheist justifications of such. Yes, what you say affects real people’s wellbeing if not their safety)
Westerners seem to think Muslim women live in the world of the Gor novels, which begs the question of why leftists support the rights of people who practice kink and polyamory but refuse to respect the autonomy of people who voluntarily wish to live in non-abusive traditional (religious) families. I’m a rock singer and bellydancer and would not flourish in a traditional marriage, but the sexually liberated hipster lifestyle hasn’t worked out for me either. Obviously there are plenty of feminist leftists who live in long-term monogamy, but due to circumstances beyond my control it hasn’t happened to me. But apparently I’m the enemy of feminism and the Force because I use religion instead of art and sexuality to comfort me in the dark nights of my soul. An over-reliance on art and sexuality is what has gotten people thinking that it’s alright for Amanda Palmer to trivialize child pornography. An over-reliance on art and sexuality is what has gotten people, including feminists, to condone the misogyny of Frank Miller’s Sin City. An over-reliance on art and sexuality is what makes a stupid fanfic writer think it’s ok to write disaster sex fiction about Haiti. Apparently anything is justified in the name of art and sex and anything can be attacked as long as it belongs to (preferably a non-dominant) religion.
(If you think I’m a prude, you probably haven’t seen me dance.)
It seems pretty likely that you’re talking about what I wrote in post #1 here, although you don’t specify.
First, someone did not “respond to this post” with a “here’s why I get to do what you asked me not to do”–post #1 was transplanted here from a different thread. So the first comment, in this instance, actually precedes and perhaps inspired the original post. That doesn’t make offensive statements on my part okay, of course; I’m just giving a little context.
Second, my comment in Post #1 is a call for accuracy. I do not pre-suppose what is accurate, in spite of the way you seem to have interpreted the post. (In fairness, I do say, “It seems pretty likely…” And that gives you something to refute if you choose to refute it. Something that is “pretty likely” is not necessarily true.) Saying “What if X marginalized group is as awful as the worst stereotypes about them” is not a call for accuracy. As “awful as the worst stereotypes” isn’t particularly specific. But asking, “Do Scientologists actually have to pay large sums of money in order to advance in their religion” is a pretty reasonable question. The answer might be “no.” If the answer is “no,” you could just say so, instead of saying, “How dare you ask that! Scientologists’ beliefs deserve to be treated as sacrosanct, because some people treat scientologists badly.”
I understand that both the idea of seeking accurate information and the way that such discourse is phrased can feel offensive. What you seem to be saying is, “A marginalized group is off-limits! We must always assume that they are just like us, because any other beliefs are an ‘awful stereotype.'” I disagree with that stance.
Atheists hear that all the time. “Until you understand my religion as well as a practitioner does, you don’t know enough to criticize it.” As if I first need to understand the Catholic choirs of angels before I can point out that transubstantiation is hooey.
What makes Islam so difficult to discuss is that Muslims are a marginalized group within the United States, but a major political and social force in other parts of the world. On a world scale, this is not a “marginalized group.” The actions of Muslims in other parts of the world in no way justify discrimination against Muslims in America. But the attitude of posters like you and some others is: “We cannot discuss the Muslim faith, or the intersection of Islam and politics, in any realistic way, because doing so might make American Muslims feel more marginalized.”
It’s like if the Wal-Mart in your town were owned by really nice people, who provide decent benefits and pay a living wage. Does that mean we can’t talk about the problems that Wal-Mart contributes to in other parts of the world? (And please don’t think I’m “equating” Islam and Wal-mart. I’m just making an analogy to say, “What if something that is small and nice in one region is massive and powerful in another region? Can we acknowledge that complexity, or must we always speak of the larger entity as if we are speaking of its smaller cousin?”)
That’s preposterous. The US’s domain *is* the world at this point. The US is, in a very real sense, the world’s only superpower. The US has a billions times the capacity to affect, say, Yemeni lives than Yemen does American lives. Leaving aside a tiny population of US/European-backed gulf elites, the majority of the Muslim world lives in poverty. And how many traditionally Muslim countries are permanent members of the UN security council, BTW? Oh, right, none — they’re all traditionally Christian and/or constitutionally secular. How many of the US military’s bombing campaigns are going on in Christian or secularist countries? Oh, right, they’re overwhelmingly taking place in Muslim countries. Leaving aside the tiredness of speaking of Islam exclusively as a ‘political and social force’ instead speaking of it as first and foremost being, y’know, a RELIGION, your reasoning is flawed. Pan-Africanism was “a major political and social force in other parts of the world” in the mid-20th c. Does that mean that Black people weren’t ‘marginalized’? Or that they were only ‘marginalized’ in the US? What’s your definition of ‘marginalized’, anyway?
Other folks: FWIW, y’all may be interested in checking out Planet Grenada, a great blog that embraces the intriguing claim that “Islam is at the heart of an emerging global anti-hegemonic culture that combines diasporic and local cultural elements, and blends Arab, Islamic, black and Hispanic factors to generate a revolutionary black, Asian and Hispanic globalization, with its own dynamic counter-modernity constructed in order to fight global imperialism.”
Most of the statements you make are absolutely correct, but I’m not sure if we’re speaking within the same context. Let me compare and contrast some of your statements.
Islam is a religion. No argument here. As I indicated earlier, I think criticizing a religion is valid and important, and criticizing “a people” is problematic. Others have noted that this is a difficult line to draw because we’re talking about a marginalized people. That’s true.
But you also write:
That’s fair to say. But the US is not a religion. And, writing from an atheist perspective, as far as US policies are influenced by theistic beliefs, I think that’s problematic, too.
That is true. But you criticized talking about Islam as if it is not a religion, and here you discuss the poverty of the Muslim world. Is poverty linked to the religion, or are we talking about the sociopolitical status of people who happen to be Muslim?
The fact is that the majority of the world lives in poverty. But I think your larger point is that people in many other parts of the world face persecution by dint of being in other parts of the world, not necessarily because of their religion. The life of a person in Yemen may be drastically different than the life of a Muslim person in the United States, and they may well be marginalized–by any reasonable definition. But I’m not sure it follows that you can claim they are marginalized in Yemen because of their religion.
Again, you’re talking about “traditionally Muslim countries” as if it is a political system, and you go on to contrast it with “constitutionally secular” countries, as if there ought to be a balance between secular political systems and religious political systems. Your question acknowledges the existence of “traditionally Muslim countries” which I think speaks to the difference between the persecution faced by individual U.S. Muslims compared to individual Muslims in the rest of the world. That difference is “likely to be persecuted on a day-to-day basis because of your religious beliefs” versus “politically disenfranchised because of the country you live in.” Atheists, Buddhists, and Wiccans in traditionally Muslim countries have just as little U.N. representation as do members of the larger religions in those countries.
This is, frankly, hogwash. If you want to critique Islam as a religion, make specific claims about Islamic theology and religious practice–and, yes, I am aware that will inevitably mean discussing things that are not purely speaking religious, like women’s rights or, for example, the rules of finance–and if you want to critique Islam as a religion, demonstrate the validity of those claims by showing that what you say you know about Islamic theology and practice is accurate. This does not require that you become a scholar of Islamic studies, just that you take responsibility for the claims you make by doing some research–and, hopefully, you will have the humility to acknowledge that your characterization of Islamic theology and religious practice might be wrong, or inaccurate, or only partially accurate.
And if the only critique you want to make is of the intellectual and perhaps moral (and political, cultural, etc. if those are terms you would add) bankruptcy–which I acknowledge may be too strong a term for what you mean–of all religions which posits the existence of a god in which adherents must have faith, then say that and be done with it, and don’t pretend that there is some deeper critique that anyone is saying you are not allowed to make. (No one–I will say that again, no one–on this thread has said, as you put it, “We cannot discuss the Muslim faith, or the intersection of Islam and politics, in any realistic way, because doing so might make American Muslims feel more marginalized.”
And if what you want is to understand the intersection of Islam and politics, then have the humility, and the decency, to acknowledge that such a discussion does indeed require, as Cassandra wrote–though I am softening her point a bit–at least a basic understanding of “the major Islamic sects…and how they relate to each other and where they come from, historically speaking” (emphasis added). You need this knowledge for the same reason you need the analogous bit of knowledge to discuss the intersection of Christianity and politics in European history, because the political stances of the different sects matter, and the political stances of the different sects often grow out of their sectarianism, or sometimes it is the politics that motivates sectarianism; and we in the West are woefully–let me repeat that, woefully–ignorant of the politics of Islam as it has been played out in the rest of the world; we are ignorant of how the different sects relate to each other–witness our miscalculations in Iraq in this regard–and we are ignorant of how what those sects believe shape how they see both other Muslims and “the non-Muslim world,” both in terms of what is internally consistent with their belief system and in terms of how those beliefs shape their political dealings with “the non-Muslim world.” I am assuming, based on the fact that you have offered not a single bit of specific, concrete information about Islam in any of your comments, that you also are ignorant of much of this, and so, again, questions like Cassandra’s are to the point:
So, if you have concrete, specific, fact-based responses to such questions–rather than the abstract theoretical comments you have been making–or if you have specific questions you would like to ask about “the intersection of Islam and politics” that will further this discussion, then, please, let’s hear them. If not, then stop commenting on this thread. You have become repetitious, offensively so.
I’m curious as to who is suggesting this; the fact that some feminists are doing so is disturbing.
On another note, I admit I completely lost you when you made those criticisms of art and of sex; they seem a bit like non-sequiturs in this post.
“But the attitude of posters like you and some others is: “We cannot discuss the Muslim faith, or the intersection of Islam and politics, in any realistic way, because doing so might make American Muslims feel more marginalized.” ”
Who said I (or anyone else) was talking about American Muslims specifically? You did notice a couple of commenters referring to Saudi, and one referring to Yemen, right?
Also, on your comment about atheists critiquing Catholicism, I’d say the same thing as I’m saying about Islam – critique is most effective when you actually know what you’re talking about, in some detail. You want to discuss the doctrine of transubstantiation? Well, already you’re way ahead of anything you’ve said about Islam in that you actually know the name of a specific Catholic doctrine. It’s pretty clear that that’s not the case when you’re talking about Islam, and it’s not unreasonable for people to tell you to go educate yourself a bit and then come back and critique from a more informed perspective.
You don’t seem to want to admit that you made a (fairly offensive) sweeping generalisation, but you did. Either own it or don’t, but the attempted sideline into let’s talk math is irritating. We’re not talking about abstract statistics, we’re talking about people. Given that you’ve been asked some fairly specific questions and that you keep defaulting to generalisations I’m going to conclude that in fact you don’t have the knowledge necessary to discuss this issue in detail or put what’s going on now into a historical context.
Now, if you actually want to engage in a detailed, scholarly critique of Islamic doctrines? Sure, we can do that. But that would require you knowing what those doctrines are, how they vary between sects and in different regions, and a whole lot of other stuff that for some reason you don’t seem to think is relevant.
For someone who loves math you’re being awfully imprecise.
Your response does not seem to follow directly from the text you quoted; I think you meant to say (or perhaps “also say”) that another part of my post is hogwash. (Especially the “atheists hear that all the time” section.)
You are absolutely correct.
I entered this thread to point out that it’s reasonable to address the accuracy of claims made about religious beliefs instead of jumping to conclusions. That was meta-discourse, I’ll admit, albeit meta-discourse about specific fact-based claims. You pointed out that your point was to discuss rhetoric. Such discussion is necessarily abstract.
But I’m more interested in defending the space to critique a religion than in actually critiquing one, so if I’ve offended you with abstract theoretical comments then I will bow out at your request. Is it appropriate for me to respond if anyone comments directly about one of my comments, or would you rather I leave those alone?
To which generalization are you referring, CassandraSays? If you mean that I’ve made generalizations about you or your attitude, then you’re right, and I apologize; I wasn’t really presenting a detailed synopsis of what you actually wrote, just giving an impression. If you mean that I’ve made sweeping generalizations about Muslim people or Islam, then I think you’re wrong—and I mean wrong in the sense of being inaccurate. The offensive passages you’ve quoted from me were questions, and a question is not a generalization; the answer can always be “no.”
I think you missed 2 fairly important points:
1) Richard said “So, if you have concrete, specific, fact-based responses to such questions–rather than the abstract theoretical comments you have been making–or if you have specific questions you would like to ask about “the intersection of Islam and politics” that will further this discussion, then, please, let’s hear them. If not, then stop commenting on this thread. You have become repetitious, offensively so.”
2) Richard is a moderator.
You’ve made it clear you don’t have any of the former to contribute, so you’ve been asked not to continue posting in this thread.
What Charles said. (Thanks, Charles!) Don’t comment on this thread anymore, and I will ask as well that anyone who continues to want to comment here please refrain from responding to Phil’s comments directly so that he doesn’t feel he is being critiqued without an opportunity to respond. Thanks.