Aaaand in the Red Corner...How not to argue with Islamophobes

By Mikail Adil

 

 

Image courtesy of cool design/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Ever watched or read an article bashing Islam and Muslims and felt annoyed, offended and frustrated that it went unchallenged? Bad right? But there's something much worse; when it is challenged, the challenge fails and the bigot is doubly vindicated.

 

Unfortunately, some of the arguments we see used to challenge Islamophobia are actually either quite weak, or poorly expressed. Often this is because the Muslims the mainstream media will concede airtime to, are for want of a better word, Tomato Cans when it comes to sustaining coherent arguments. Shows like ''The Big Questions'' are the worst for this; they'll bring the weirdest fruit cakes onto the show who couldn't argue their way out of a wet paper bag, but when a Muslim who uses salient facts and logical arguments slips through the net (watch the one about gambling for this!) and doesn't fulfil the 'raving Muslim' niche, Nicky Campbell invariably tries to cut him off.

 

Anyway the point is, despite, in my opinion, the indefensible nature of Islamophobia and anti Muslim bigotry, it is often badly challenged and I'm going to present a variety of arguments which we need to avoid using or to modify. Here goes:

 

1. STOP SIMPLY CALLING ISLAMOPHOBES RACIST!

 

 This is one of the worst yet most commonly used arguments and it's the easiest way for them to get one up on you. Even the thickest knuckle draggers in the EDL know that Islam is not a race. When called racist, Islamophobes will state that Islam isn't a race. One nil to them. White Professional Islamophobes would attack white converts to Islam even more virulently then say, Arabs born into the faith, and they'd shower praises upon Islam haters whether they were black white or green. Look at Ayaan Hirsi Ali. But as she thinks Islam should be crushed using any means  and they all love her! It's a dumb argument, so drop it. What you can do is point out the overlap between Islamophobia and racism, and that anti Muslim organisations like the English Defence League have a disproportionate amount of racist elements in them.

 

2. STOP CLAIMING THAT ISLAMOPHOBES ARE CALLING ALL MUSLIMS TERRORISTS!

 

 

Even the most vicious anti Muslim bigots deny this, though they'll follow up with a disingenuous suggestion that most terrorists are still Muslims and that its only the terrorists who are following 'the real' Islam (isn't it funny how people who don't believe in Islam still claim there is one 'real' Islam?) With subjects like violent and terrorism you need to have the correct facts and stats up your sleeve which prove that Muslims do not have monopoly on terrorism or violence at all. Some great resources for that can be found here:

 

 

 

3. DONT TELL PEOPLE THAT TERRORISTS ARE SIMPLY MISINTERPRETING ISLAM!

 

 

It makes me mad when people do this; if you argue from this perspective you're basically saying that there's an honest but ultimately mistaken interpretation of the faith which suggests that killing innocent people is okay! That doesn't make the religion look great! Seriously, this argument is suicidal. To disassociate Islam from terrorism you need to:

  • Show that terrorism isn't unique or disproportionate to Muslims (see argument 2)
  • Show that suicide terrorism isn't just done by Muslims. People often associate suicide terrorism with Islam but lots of non Muslim and non religious groups have used it extensively; the Tamil Tigers, the PKK in Turkey, Japanese suicide bombers in World War 2 and the Vietnamese to name a few. A link to a great academic paper by a words leading terrorist expert can be found here. Even the first few lines are insightful enough.
  • Understand the real motivation for suicide bombing; yes, bombers might come to terms with their deaths by anticipating hotties in heaven but their reasons are usually very clear and very political with specific objectives; virtually always to compel a democratic government to withdraw occupying forces from lands the terrorists consider their own. And when they do this are the terrorists emboldened and increase their activity? No, the number of suicide attacks plummets. If terrorists were just after a quick trip to heaven why isn't suicide bombing a scattered phenomenon? Why is it done with specific end goals in mind?
  • Show that Islam contains injunctions which may be compatible with a defensive war, but are incompatible with terrorism. It's not hard. Here are a couple. Let's start with the Qur'an:

"Goodness and evil are not equal. Repel evil with what is better. Then that person with whom there was hatred, may become your intimate friend! And no one will be granted such goodness except those who exercise patience and self-restraint, none but people of the greatest good fortune."

(Surah Fussilat 41:34-35)

 

"If anyone slays a person- unless it be for murder or for spreading corruption in the land -it would be as if he slew all people. And if anyone saves a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all people."

(Surah Al Ma'idah 5:32)

 

"Let there be no compulsion in religion"

(Surah Al Baqarah 2:256)

 

"Permission to fight is given to those against whom war is made, because they have been wronged… Those who have been driven out from their homes unjustly only because they said, ‘Our Lord is God’ — And if God did not repel some men by means of others, there would surely have been pulled down temples and churches and synagogues and mosques…"

(Surah Al Hajj 22:40)

 

"And why should ye not fight in the cause of Allah and of those who, being weak, are ill-treated (and oppressed)?- Men, women, and children, whose cry is: “Our Lord! Rescue us from this town, whose people are oppressors; and raise for us from thee one who will protect; and raise for us from thee one who will help!”

(Surah An Nisa 4:75)

 

And the sayings of the Prophet:

"Do not kill any child, any woman, or any elder or sick person.”

(Sunan Abu Dawud)

 

“Do not practice treachery or mutilation."

(Al-Muwatta)

 

"Do not uproot or burn palms or cut down fruitful trees"

(Al-Muwatta)

 

"Do not slaughter a sheep or a cow or a camel, except for food.”

(Al-Muwatta)

 

“If one fights his brother, [he must] avoid striking the face, for God created him in the image of Adam.”

(Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Muslim)

 

“Do not kill the monks in monasteries, and do not kill those sitting in places of worship."

(Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hanbal)

 

“Do not destroy the villages and towns, do not spoil the cultivated fields and gardens, and do not slaughter the cattle.” (Sahih Bukhari; Sunan Abu Dawud)

 

“Do not wish for an encounter with the enemy; pray to God to grant you security; but when you [are forced to] encounter them, exercise patience.”

(Sahih Muslim)

 

“Accustom yourselves to do good if people do good, and to not do wrong even if they commit evil.”

(Al-Tirmidhi)

 

 

4. JUST SAYING 'ISLAM MEANS PEACE' IS NOT AN ARGUMENT.

 

 

 Just about every anti Muslim bigot knows that Islam doesn't just mean peace; they'll claim it means 'surrender' or 'submission' which is true, but in the context of willingly submitting to God. But even if Islam did mean peace that in itself wouldn't necessarily entail that it was a force for peace. Islamophobes have developed a myriad of 'clever' jokes focussing on Islam being peaceful ''peace of the grave'' ''The religion of peace; believe it or else,'' and so forth. Some supposedly peaceful beliefs like pacifism can actually result in the opposite of peace and justice. To show that Islam is peaceful you can't only claim that the word means peace! Pointing out that to greet someone Islamically is to wish them peace and that we wish all the Prophets peace (we say peace be on them, instead of 'strength' or 'might' or 'power' as you might if it was a faith glorifying battle and war) isn't the worst start though.

 

5. PLACE THE BURDEN OF PROOF ON YOUR OPPONENT.

 

Where the burden of proof lies is an issue in any argument. Personally I think if someone wants to tell you that your religion; followed by a fifth of the world's population is fundamentally averse to peace then the burden of proof lies on them. And it's a big burden. This is how I'd spell it out- to claim Islam is a violent religion one has to:

 

  • Show that Muslims are engaged in proportionally more violent acts then non Muslims
  • Show that the Islamic scriptures are uniquely more violent then that other faiths
  • Show that the inspiration for violence comes directly from scripture and not politics or nationalism or anything else

*See links to sources above regarding these three burdens of proof

 

This is a massive burden of proof. And all three criteria have to be fulfilled. You only need to disprove any one of them to defeat their argument. If Muslims are not disproportionally violent then one can't say the religion is a violent one; unless you also want to concede that in addition to a violent aspect it has one which also prevents violence! If you can't show that the Islamic scriptures are uniquely violent then clearly from an academic point of view the religion isn't more violent, even if its practitioners happened to be. And finally, even if Muslims were supremely violent and their holy scriptures were too, but Muslims were clearly acting violently for other reasons, then the so called violence of the religion is only academic and not applicable to the modern world.

 

6. DONT LET THEM GIVE YOU NONSENSE ABOUT THE WORD ISLAMOPHOBIA;

 

Islamophobes always moan that Islamophobia isn't real anyway because they're not afraid or because a phobia is an irrational fear and its rational to be afraid of Islam or words to that effect. I personally don't think it's a great descriptive word but the same goes for lots more. What is anti Semitism? Technically hatred of Semitic people. Not all Semites are Jews. But its normal usage refers to hatred for Jews. Who are racists? People who have a problem with other races, but nothing within the word 'racist' actually refers to 'hate.' The commonly held definition of Islamophobia is: ''Prejudice against, hatred towards, irrational fear of, or racism towards Muslims.'' If someone fulfils this criteria, they are an Islamophobe regardless of their approval for the title.

http://www.islamophobia-watch.com/islamophobia-a-definition/

 

7. ''YOU'RE SPREADING HATE''

 

...alone is a lame argument. While it is very true that Islamophobes spread hate, just asserting it in a vague nonspecific way won't get you anywhere. You'll invariably hear responses which suggest that telling the 'truth' is now a crime and 'if its spreading hate to tell the truth then I'm proud to spread hate.' This is why you have to be more specific. Here's a sample of a more suitable general response to an Islamophobe off the top of my head:

 

'"You are attempting to spread fear and delusional paranoia about a group of people by suggesting one of two ridiculous things; either that they faithfully follow a violent religion and are all a potential threat to national interests OR if you admit that most of the followers are peaceful but virtually all of the 1.5 billion are all so obtuse and deluded that they believe their religion is peaceful and they are all following it bar the absolute miniscule fringe of violent extremists. Either way you're making illogical and baseless assertions which taken to their logical conclusion would invariably result in discrimination towards most or all members of this group.''

 

That's it for now. I can think of a few more which might go into a new article some time in future. Overall, I don't believe it necessary or in many cases productive to argue with every bigot under the sun that your religion is intrinsically peaceful; the real proof is the way you live your life in light of what your faith teaches. I'm not suggesting that there are Muslim haters lurking around every corner. There aren't. But there are some prominent ones about, and they can't be allowed to win. I hope perhaps I've indicated some of the ways that we can stop them being vindicated, but ultimately, if you never have to argue to defend your beliefs, then good; its reflective of the fact that whatever we might sometimes fear; haters and bigots are actually few and far between.