Often we are told, mostly by liberals (and I will state right away that I am an unabashed liberal, but this does not mean liberals are above criticism), that “Islam is a religion of peace” and that “terrorists are not true Muslims.”
But it seems to me that this is a resort to the “No True Scotsman” fallacy. So what is this all about?
This fallacy involves changing a definition to avoid criticsm. Regarding the origins of the term, RationalWiki has this to say:
“The term was coined by [the late philosopher] Antony Flew, who gave an example of a Scotsman who sees a newspaper article about a series of sex crimes taking place in Brighton, and responds that ‘no Scotsman would do such a thing.’
When later confronted with evidence of another Scotsman doing even worse acts, his response is that ‘no true Scotsman would do such a thing,’ thus disavowing membership in the group “Scotsman” to the criminal on the basis that the commission of the crime is evidence for not being a Scotsman.
However, this reasoning is fallacious, as there exists no premise in the definition of ‘Scotsman’ which makes such acts impossible (or even unlikely, in the case of Scots). The term “No True Scotsman” has since expanded to refer to anyone who attempts to disown or distance themselves from wayward members of a group by excluding them from it.”
As with Scotsmen, so with Muslims. Perhaps there is a core set of beliefs that one has to have in order to be a “true” Muslim, or Christian or Buddhist or whatever. But from my perspective at least, what is going on here is an attempt, perhaps understandable due to a desire to get moderate Muslims to cooperate with the West and to prevent outbreaks of anti-Muslim violence in western nations, to define a term in such a way that one’s ends can be achieved without having to take into account thorny criticisms. There are probably as many ways to inerpret the Q’ran as the Bible, and some of those interpretations lend sanction to violence.
I came upon this video somewhat by accident and was interested in hearing from another Muslim I had not seen or heard of before. Her name is Raheel Raza and she is associated with something called the Clarion Project – Challenging Extremism | Promoting Dialog. I must confess that I had never heard of that organization before either. In any case, she presents a brief talk on a topic that Jerry Coyne and others have mentioned. That is the significant number of Muslims who endorse many of the more disturbing attitudes and beliefs associated with Islam. While it is true that a small minority of Muslims engage in the most violent and extreme behaviors we are all becoming familiar with, there is a disturbing acceptance and tolerance for that kind of extremism that pervades large segments of the Muslim community. Calling Islam a peaceful religion seems a bit more wishful thinking than realistic. Watch the video and see what you think.
I know that our group includes lots of different opinions about how to deal with radical Islam and many fear the development of a broad hostility to anyone inside the Muslim community. Our country is certainly full of crazies who are always on the watch for the next big enemy – I’m looking at the Republican candidates – and we need to challenge their prejudices. But we also do need to come up with some ideas about how to counter the possibility that Islam harbors a large contingent of people who are in conflict with enlightenment ideas, humanistic values and tolerance for diversity. They appear to be keeping those thoughts mostly to themselves except on surveys.
This meeting was devoted to hearing from a native of Iraq who now lives in the U.S. because it is too dangerous for him in the middle east. He was raised in a mostly secular fashion in an area of the world where this is rather unusual. He now is working to develop resources to help those in the middle east advance a secular agenda, secular ideas and values. He gives a brief talk about the problems in the middle east and then provides a lengthy Q & A for the audience. This is not the same video we watched at our meeting, but one that he made somewhat later with a bit of improvement in the presentation. While the Q & A is different, the content of his presentation and his responses to the questions cover most of the same ground.
Al-Mutar does not really agree with those who argue for a reformation in Islam. He argues instead that it needs to be modernized and offset by a large secular trend. Not clear how that might go.
Sarah Haider is one of the co-founders of the Ex-Muslims of North America organization. She spoke at the American Humanist Association convention in May of this year. The subject of her talk was “Islam and the Necessity of Liberal Critique”.
In this talk, Sarah voices a complaint against the presumed progressive/liberal portion of the population who appear to object to anyone voicing criticism of Islam. She is surprised that they will fault her as an Islamaphobe because she dares to voice these criticisms. Like Ayann Hirsi Ali, she is puzzled by the willingness of atheist progressives to attack the other Abrahamic religions and show restraint when the topic is Islam. The idea that Islamic extremism is a reflection of the underlying nature of the Islamic faith seems to be completely unacceptable. The extremism is often attributed to problems with prior colonialism, poverty, other problems associated with countries not yet experiencing success entering the modern world, etc. etc., but never to the stated rationale of the extremists themselves which is their religious beliefs. Faulting the religion is often out of bounds even though many secularists would have no difficulty faulting Christianity under similar circumstances. So this video may be controversial, but confirmation bias shouldn’t contribute to turning away from an uncomfortable message…amiright?
So tonight, Rachel Maddow showed video of ISIS idiots who had broken into a museum in Mosul using sledge hammers and power saws to destroy ancient Assyrian artifacts. They also reportedly invaded the library and burned all texts not directly related to Islam. These are barbarians of the first order, worthy of every possible condemnation. The footage made me sick — these portals into the human past, these markers of one chapter of the human experience, these clues to understanding our collective existence — wantonly destroyed by a bunch of unmitigated morons. Of course, what these ignorant fools do to living human beings (beating, waterboarding, crucifixion, beheading, etc.) is even more nauseating. That such Medieval nonsense can gain purchase in the 21st century makes ones jaw drop.
In light of the recent terrorist attacks in France and the ongoing tension between European Muslims and their secular counterparts, the Muslim mayor of Rotterdam, Ahmed Aboutaleb, has an interesting take. He has said that if Muslims don’t like Western values, they should pack their bags — or words to that effect. Read more here:
Here is a video I saw posted originally on Jerry Coyne’s blog. Since Jerry may not be widely read by GRAF members and others who may occasionally read this blog, I thought it would be worth passing along. I don’t have a lot to say about it since I think it speaks for itself. Below I will share a comment that kept rattling around in my head (besides the usual rattling sounds) while watching it.
I kept thinking that it wouldn’t be that difficult to replace any mention of Islam or Muslim with Christian; at least in this country. Some of the ideas are truly extreme and even barbaric, but if you pay attention to the religious rightwing in this country, you’ve seen and heard Christians expressing some seriously nutty stuff. It wouldn’t be hard to find pastors advocating the jailing or execution of gay people. Christians claiming that they are being persecuted and silenced. Nut cases praising those who have attacked and killed doctors associated with legally operating abortion clinics. The similarities between Christian and Muslim extremists who provide shelter for violent extremists are striking and scary.
A hope for the outcome of our conversations with the CPC and others would be the marginalization of extremism within this town’s Christians. Perhaps a vain hope, but a hope nonetheless.
In Saudi Arabia today, a blogger by the name of Raif Badawi was tied to a post outside of a Mosque and publicly flogged for the “crime” of insulting religion in a Facebook post. Badawi’s suffering will not be over soon — he has been sentenced to one thousand lashes, and is scheduled to be whipped every Friday for twenty weeks in a row. This is incredibly barbaric, and reminiscent of something from the Dark Ages. That this can still happen anywhere in the world is profoundly tragic.
A broken record — Islam is insulted, and atrocities are committed. Is this ever going to end? F*** Islam.
Ok, so this is a politically incorrect post. I am writing it in response to the killings in France, which appear to have been the work of Muslim extremists. If that turns out not to be the case — well, I still will not retract it, because it is time to get beyond the idea that the West should be silent with respect to Islam. I believe that Mohammed is now nothing but dust, and I do not believe hell exists, but if it did, I would say it is a good place for terrorists who commit atrocities in the name of “the prophet.”
Islam might have seemed to make sense in the seventh century when it was new, but in the twenty first century, it is time to say that it is a bunch of nonsense. The state of human knowledge has moved on, and it is time to relegate Islam to the trash heap of history.
Of course, I can write this in comfort, because it is not very likely that al-Qaeda or ISIS or other idiot members of Muslim terrorist groups are reading this blog, and even if they were, I am writing under a pseudonym. But hats off to writers and journalists who work for major publications like Charlie Hebdo who risk life and limb as they try to shine a light on the dark corners of our world.