Are Terrorists True Muslims?

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.

One thought on “Are Terrorists True Muslims?

  1. So I’ve been reading and thinking more about the No True Scotsman fallacy, and thought it necessary to clarify one point. If there is a predetermined standard for what entails inclusion in a group, and that standard is adhered to, the NTS fallacy has not been committed. So for example, a devout Catholic, starting from the premise that partaking in the sacraments of the Catholic Church are what defines a true Christian, might be wrong, but she has not committed the NTS fallacy. But when no prior definition is given, but instead the term is constantly amended in an ad hoc fashion to avoid criticism, the NTS fallacy has come into play. So, returning to the above example, if our devout Catholic initially asserted that partaking in the sacraments defines a true Christian, and then we showed her an individual who has partaken of the sacraments but then has gone on to commit mass murder, she would not be able to cogently assert that no true Christian would do such a thing, because this was a criterion not contained in her original definition. If she were to make such an ad hoc adjustment, she would be guilty of the NTS fallacy.

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