Sorry Kareem, You’re Wrong

I‘m a big fan of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. One of the greatest basketball players ever, he’s also a really thoughtful and intelligent guy who belies the stereotype of the dumb jock. But he’s flat wrong when he claims that ISIS is not Islamic like the KKK are not Christian.

Former NBA star, columnist and author Kareem Abdul-Jabbar echoed President Barack Obama’s recent remarks about the Islamic State on Monday, telling the hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that the terror group is analogous to the Crusaders and the KKK.

“You can make parallels to things that have happened here in America,” Abdul-Jabbar said of ISIL to co-host Joe Scarborough. “Like the Ku Klux Klan saying they are the Christian knights of the Ku Klux Klan.”

“They do not practice Christianity,” he added.

Of course they do. The practice one of the many different forms of Christianity, just like ISIS practices one of the many different forms of Islam. Both sides do the exact same thing, trying to define those that differ from them out of their religion. The uber-fundamentalist reactionaries want to claim that the more moderate and liberal Muslims (or Christians) aren’t True Muslims because they don’t agree with their interpretations, and the moderate and liberal Muslims (or Christians) want to claim that the uber-fundies aren’t True Muslims because they do terrible things. In reality, both are True Muslims, just different types of Muslims.

A lot of atheists make the same mistake, incidentally. Because it’s convenient to paint religious people in the worst light possible, many atheists claim that only the uber-fundies are Real Muslims (or Real Christians), while the more liberal and moderate members of that religion aren’t truly representative because they don’t “take their religion seriously.” As if taking one’s religion seriously requires that one interpret texts only in the most hyper-literalist manner.

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  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    Why the fuck are you (and Mano before you) so eager to bash Kareem for trying to speak out against an injustice? I thought we WANTED moderate Muslims to condemn the actions of Muslim extremists. We’ve all repeatedly said that moderate Muslims have (contrary to the bigots’ allegations) been loudly condemning atrocities committed in the name of their religion, and we’ve rightly praised them for it. So why is it suddenly wrong for Kareem to do it? And why is it suddenly wrong to say the KKK aren’t Christian, but are using Christ’s name to justify unjustifiable acts of hate?

    Seriously, Ed, you’re making WAAAY to much out of his specific wording, and ignoring what he’s trying to say.

  • http://www.thelosersleague.com theschwa

    Hey cut him some slack! He’s an airline pilot. Look at this name tag: Roger Murdock.

  • cjcolucci

    There’s no truth of the matter about what a religion “really” is. In the end, it is what enough of its adherents say it is. And when one group of adherents say that certain variants of a religion aren’t “really” Christianity or Islam, or whatever, they aren’t simply indulging in the “no true Scotsman” fallacy — which, in a literal sense, they are — but making a political claim about what their religion ought to be rather than a sociological claim about the variety of views that claim its sanction.

    Next thing you know, we’ll be excoriating an astronomer for referring to “sunset.”

  • Sastra

    Raging Bee #1 wrote:

    I thought we WANTED moderate Muslims to condemn the actions of Muslim extremists.

    Of course. But religious violence is especially dangerous because of its underlying method of privileging faith over reason. Making or accepting an argument that assumes that interpretation pays little part in religion only feeds into that problem. Kareem could have made the same point by saying that the KKK was practicing and interpreting Christianity badly.

  • http://drx.typepad.com Dr X

    We’ve all repeatedly said that moderate Muslims have (contrary to the bigots’ allegations) been loudly condemning atrocities committed in the name of their religion, and we’ve rightly praised them for it. So why is it suddenly wrong for Kareem to do it?

    It isn’t wrong that he’s condemning the atrocities, but he’s using a fallacious argument to do it. Instead of going with No True Scotsman, he could say that there is a dangerous, fundamentalist strain of Islam that should be unacceptable to civilized people. Why is that a better way to argue it? Because whether or not ISIS and its variants represent true Islam has nothing to do with why these groups and their actions should be condemned. The fate of extremist Muslim violence shouldn’t hinge on persuading people that it isn’t true Islam, because, like True Chrisianity, True Islam is never going to be determined because there is no such thing. In fact, arguing that it isn’t true Islam buys into the premise that this is all comes down to the settlement of a religious question, rather than a question of how decent socieites should conduct their affairs, irrespective of individual religious beliefs. Muslim violence should be condemed because it’s barbaric, and because it has no place in civilized societies. Period.

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    It isn’t wrong that he’s condemning the atrocities, but he’s using a fallacious argument to do it.

    How do you know it’s fallacious if you don’t know the doctrine? If there’s something in the Koran, or in widely-accepted beliefs of Muslims, that argues against such atrocities, then his argument may not be at all fallacious. He was, at the very least, trying to say there’s no place in his religion for intolerant extremist violence — and that’s a good thing to say, especially if it helps other people make less of a place for such crap in their own mosques.

    Instead of going with No True Scotsman, he could say that there is a dangerous, fundamentalist strain of Islam that should be unacceptable to civilized people.

    Is that really radically different from what he actually said, or what he clearly meant? I wouldn’t have used the same words as he did either, but that’s more a speechwriter’s quibble than a substantive critique of his message.

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    Kareem could have made the same point by saying that the KKK was practicing and interpreting Christianity badly.

    No, that would not have been the same point; it would have been a lamer and much more watered-down version of the point he was making.

  • Loqi

    I thought we WANTED moderate Muslims to condemn the actions of Muslim extremists.

    Eh? I certainly don’t care whether they do or not. I think it’s kind of silly, really. I work with several Muslims, and their views on violence are pretty close to my own. Why should I expect them to distance themselves from the beliefs of others when, as a practical matter, they don’t share similar beliefs? Yes, broadly speaking, they’re both Muslim. But that’s as far as the similarities go. The fact that they obviously don’t share beliefs is enough for me. Where others seem to see silent endorsement, I see implied condemnation.

    It’s the same reason I don’t feel particularly compelled to defend myself every time an atheist says something hateful, and I don’t expect heddle to make a staged condemnation every time Bryan Fischer opens his mouth.

  • http://www.gregory-gadow.net Gregory in Seattle

    “No True Muslim” is a logical fallacy.

  • xuuths

    Ed, you say “But he’s flat wrong when he claims that ISIS is not Islamic like the KKK are not Christian.” But if you think the KKK are christians and that ISIS is islamic, then you’re actually agreeing with him. If X=Y then X*(-1)=Y*(-1).

  • http://www.pandasthumb.org Area Man

    How do you know it’s fallacious if you don’t know the doctrine? If there’s something in the Koran, or in widely-accepted beliefs of Muslims, that argues against such atrocities, then his argument may not be at all fallacious.

    I’m going to side with the descriptivists on this one. Religion is something that human beings do, and as such it can only be understood through the practices and beliefs of its adherents. There is literally no other standard. The words of the Koran or Bible are given meaning purely through the interpretations of believers, and as we’ve all seen, those interpretations can be amazingly divergent even among the most devout. So if you want to know what a given religion is all about, you have look at the people who practice it. Doctrines have no meaning outside of that.

    That said, this doesn’t seem to be something worth going to the mat over. Ontologically, it matters quite a bit to say that ISIS is in fact Islamic, and it’s crazy to say that it’s not. But in practical terms, it doesn’t matter much whether we say that ISIS are Muslims who do shitty things or that they’re shitty at being Muslim.

  • Sastra

    Raging Bee #7 wrote:

    No, that would not have been the same point; it would have been a lamer and much more watered-down version of the point he was making.

    It would have been more accurate and honest, which means it’s not watered-down in that aspect. Accepting that religious people who don’t fit one’s own version of religion are still religious waters down the idea that Faith-based Truth is reliable, simple, and easy to discern. Kareem wanted something stronger, yes.

  • abb3w

    @0, Ed Brayton

    A lot of atheists make the same mistake, incidentally.

    I’d argue that a lot of atheists seem to make a more directly parallel mistake. Christians seem to frequently bring up equating all atheists to communists — which is a bit of a strawman. Contrariwise, while there’s almost as much a distinction (and analogous historical breakpoints) between Communists and Humanists as there is between Catholics and Protestants, it’s still the case that both the former are varieties of Atheist as both the latter are varieties of Christian. Nohow, it seems the more frequent response is to note the para-religious and cult-of-personality elements to communism — in effect, again trying to define those that differ from them out of the in-group they self-identify with.

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    It would have been more accurate and honest…

    You can’t make that assertion unless you can base it on actual texts or other sources of doctrine.

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    Contrariwise, while there’s almost as much a distinction (and analogous historical breakpoints) between Communists and Humanists as there is between Catholics and Protestants, it’s still the case that both the former are varieties of Atheist as both the latter are varieties of Christian.

    Wrong — communists and humanists are NOT different varieties of atheist, because a) not all communists or all humanists are atheists; and b) communism is a political-economic philosophy and humanism is a general set of moral priorities, and neither is directly tied to non-belief in gods.

  • Sastra

    Raging Bee #14 wrote:

    You can’t make that assertion unless you can base it on actual texts or other sources of doctrine.

    No, I think I can make that assertion as long as the Christian or Islamic believers in question base their views — or think they base their views — on sacred texts, doctrines, or revelations from God. It’s one thing to deny that passionately devout people are right. It’s another thing to deny that passionately devout people are sincere.

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    You didn’t question the sincerity of Kareem’s statement, you questioned its honesty and accuracy.

  • Sastra

    Raging Bee #17 wrote:

    You didn’t question the sincerity of Kareem’s statement, you questioned its honesty and accuracy.

    Yes. Kareem said that the Islamic State is not Islamic for the same reason the KKK is not Christian — and apparently felt no need to explain further than that. I drew the same implication that Ed did. Kareem was allowing his own faith-based views to set the standards for what is or isn’t genuine Islam or Christianity.

    I do not think this is either intellectually honest or accurate, though. He himself would agree that God sets the standards. So do ISIS and the KKK. Interfaith squabbles within a religion take place within the religion.

  • http://cheapsignals.blogspot.com Gretchen

    He was, at the very least, trying to say there’s no place in his religion for intolerant extremist violence — and that’s a good thing to say, especially if it helps other people make less of a place for such crap in their own mosques.

    Trouble is, it’s not his religion. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar does not own Islam. Nor does he own Christianity. He can decide whether he is a Muslim or Christian, but not anybody else.

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    Um, he CAN decide how he interprets his religion, whether someone else’s actions are in accord with his beliefs, and what to say about them.

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    Yes. Kareem said that the Islamic State is not Islamic for the same reason the KKK is not Christian — and apparently felt no need to explain further than that.

    He may not have needed to explain, depending on who he was talking to. Offhand, I’m guessing he knows a lot of other non-bloodthirsty Muslims, and such a crowd would not need further explanation. Neither would many non-bloodthirsty Christians.

    I do not think this is either intellectually honest or accurate, though.

    The only way you could support such a claim is if you could prove he was misrepresenting his own beliefs. His beliefs may be wrong, but if he’s stating them honestly, then you can’t call his words dishonest or inaccurate.

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    It’s kinda funny that with all these people and groups rushing to condemn certain extremist atrocities, it’s the black celebrity with the foreign-sounding name who’s getting bitched at for doing the same thing but not using exactly the right words.

  • Loqi

    @Raging Bee #22

    Once again, I’m confused. Are not many of those condemning these attacks and saying ISIS isn’t really Islamic non-white with foreign-sounding names? CAIR isn’t exactly a Hank Williams Jr. concert. Shouldn’t we be piling on CAIR members as well, since apparently we hate us some brown people? It definitely couldn’t be that one was on a major news network or anything.

    In terms of feeble charges of racism, this seems up there with “People who talk about racism are the real racists.”

  • Sastra

    Raging Bee #21 wrote:

    He may not have needed to explain, depending on who he was talking to.

    Kareem didn’t say Islamic State were bloodthirsty Muslims or wicked Muslims or Muslims who misunderstand or warp Islam: he said they weren’t Muslims at all. I believe he honestly believes this — because it is easier. It’s not accurate.

    It’s intellectually dishonest for believers “to define those who differ from them out of the religion,” as Ed put it. ISIS members would insist that Kareem is “not a Muslim.” They are sincere. They are also wrong — and intellectually dishonest.

    If the KKK who profess to be Christians are not Christians — then what are they? What is ISIS? Apostates? Secularists? Nihilists? Are they following the devil?

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    The reason I mention racism is that this ridiculous tone-policing of Kareem’s remarks coincides with similar nitpickiness over white vs. black performances in the Grammy awards, as partially described here:

    http://www.salon.com/2015/02/17/kanye_west_vs_white_mediocrity_the_real_story_behind_beck_beyonce_and_snl_40/

    And sure, [Kurt Cobain] was making a self-deprecating, ironic comment. Ever noticed that’s a thing white people can do? Why should Beck get publicly mad over Kanye dissing his skills? His brand was built by a track centered on intentionally “bad” lo-fi monotone white-guy “rapping” with a chorus where he calls himself a “loser.” The “Who Is Beck?” outsider vibe is fundamental to who Beck is–his fans would abandon him if he tried to resist it.

    It’s a recurring trope. Beyoncé stuns everyone with a flawless video of her and her backup dancers doing an incredibly demanding routine in a single take (or close to it). Meanwhile Taylor Swift melts everyone’s heart with a fairly standard and predictable story video that soars on the strength of its “emotional core,” of Taylor Swift being naturally lovable.

    I remember scoffing at this famous case of a Kanye stage-storming in 2007 at the MTV Europe Music Awards–a story seemingly made to go viral, with his aside about having had a “sippy-sippy” before his rant and his astonishingly shallow claim that his video should’ve won for costing $1 million and having him “jumping over canyons and shit.”

    But poke a little deeper–notice that he graciously accepted in the same rant that Justin Timberlake “of course” should’ve beaten him for Best Male. Notice that it “isn’t about the money, but the response it got.”

    Kanye’s in the same place a lot of us have been. He’s poured all the effort and expense he can spare into this project. He’s confident that based on the only semblance of an objective measure there is–audience response–he’s won. But six artsy white European guys win instead anyway, based on artistic “intangibles.”

    So, short answer — so fucking what? Why are we quibbling over Kareem’s specific wording, and not the specific wording of other people doing the same well-intentioned thing Kareem just did? Did everyone else say exactly the right words by our standards? I find that kind of hard to believe.

  • DrVanNostrand

    @25

    The problem is your whole argument is bullshit. The bloggers and commenters on FTB *constantly* complain about people of all races and religions using the No True Scotsman fallacy. The fallacy is no less idiotic when Kareem uses it. Saying that the KKK isn’t Christian and ISIS isn’t Muslim is utterly nonsensical, and Ed is right to point that out.

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    Kareem didn’t say Islamic State were bloodthirsty Muslims or wicked Muslims or Muslims who misunderstand or warp Islam: he said they weren’t Muslims at all. I believe he honestly believes this — because it is easier. It’s not accurate.

    Oh please…it’s RHETORIC. It’s HYPERBOLE. It’s something we’re all prone to, especially in response to really emotionally shocking events like, oh, I dunno, a televised execution or three? I agree that we should all try our best to speak as clearly and accurately as we can…but this lapse is too minor and inconsequential to be quibbling over like this.

    And I have to ask again: what the fuck is wrong with at least trying to ostracize evil people and call them out when they try to pretend they’re doing it in the name of a god? First we blame believers for NOT condemning and ostracizing extremists; then we call them dishonest when they do? That’s just petty fucking bullshit.

  • EnlightenmentLiberal

    @Ed

    A lot of atheists make the same mistake, incidentally. Because it’s convenient to paint religious people in the worst light possible, many atheists claim that only the uber-fundies are Real Muslims (or Real Christians), while the more liberal and moderate members of that religion aren’t truly representative because they don’t “take their religion seriously.” As if taking one’s religion seriously requires that one interpret texts only in the most hyper-literalist manner.

    Yes

    but

    If the person also purports to take a hyper-literalist reading, but doesn’t do all of the horrible bits, then they’re a hypocrite, and they’re not taking their religion that seriously.

    @Raging Bee

    Kareem could have made the same point by saying that the KKK was practicing and interpreting Christianity badly.

    No, that would not have been the same point; it would have been a lamer and much more watered-down version of the point he was making.

    What point is he making exactly? His preferred version of Islam is the one true version, as mandated by god, and everyone else is wrong? It seems that he isn’t even Muslim. Why should we give a damn about his personal preference of which version is the true Islam? We need some other standard.

    It would have been more accurate and honest…

    You can’t make that assertion unless you can base it on actual texts or other sources of doctrine.

    Why? Who says their doctrine is the right doctrine and my doctrine is the wrong doctrine? Why does this person have the authority in defining a word? Why does the majority have the authority in defining a word? Hell – you’re close to taking the exact opposite position here w.r.t. some of the other arguments we’ve had. Now you want to appeal to majority consensus for defining a religion, but you object when I do the exact same thing to condemn members of a religion for the crimes that their religion by majority consensus commands and condones. You’re trying to have it both ways, and being a hypocrite in the process.

    Um, he CAN decide how he interprets his religion, whether someone else’s actions are in accord with his beliefs, and what to say about them.

    And when we are faced with two people, equally sincere, who making incompatible claims about what the true version of a religion is, how do we decide who is right? Obviously, the religious claims themselves are materially, factually wrong. By what standard do we decide which factually wrong claims constitute the “true version of the religion” ?

  • John Pieret

    In related news, the Pope has announced just how many angels can dance on the head of a pin …

    Raging Bee is, IMHO, correct to say the important thing about Abdul-Jabbar’s statement is that, however badly it was put, he is an example of a well-known and well-liked American Muslim who condemns ISIS’s barbarism. That is important because of the anti-Islam prejudice in America and the wingnut noise machine that would equate all Muslims with ISIS.

    Ed’s and most other people’s comments about the intellectual fatuity of trying to parse what is or is not Islam or Christianity is also correct.

    The issue, then, is what is most effective in combating what we consider the most important threat at the moment … ISIS or intellectual purity.

    Your mileage may vary.

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    Yes…but…If the person also purports to take a hyper-literalist reading, but doesn’t do all of the horrible bits, then they’re a hypocrite, and they’re not taking their religion that seriously.

    Okay, you’ve just narrowed the scope of your critique of religious people down, from religious people in general to the much narrower sub-group who claim to believe “hyper-literalist” interpretations. You just pretty much walked back the entire basis of your original critique.

    Why? Who says their doctrine is the right doctrine and my doctrine is the wrong doctrine? Why does this person have the authority in defining a word?

    Why do YOU have any authority to belittle or overrule his definition of a word? You’re not even a believer, so like it or not, his authority to define his religion is greater than your authority to question or reject his definition. (Not that that’s saying much.)

    What point is he making exactly? His preferred version of Islam is the one true version, as mandated by god, and everyone else is wrong?

    For OUR purposes, his version of Islam is “right” because he’s trying to do the right thing, and we should support people who try to do the right thing. Does anyone really have a problem with that?

    Now you want to appeal to majority consensus for defining a religion…

    Once again, you refuse to understand what I plainly said. In this case, I’m supporting Kareem’s attempts to join, or form, a majority consensus that ostracizes violent extremists and, hopefully, helps to isolate them from popular acceptance or support by most Muslims. That’s what we — including you, EL — fault “moderate” believers for not doing, so we should respect the ones who are doing it. Those of us who refuse to do so are even greater hypocrites than the believers.

    And when we are faced with two people, equally sincere, who making incompatible claims about what the true version of a religion is, how do we decide who is right?

    We don’t have to “decide who is right;” we just have to decide whose ACTIONS are right (or at least closest to right), and support them when we can.

    Ed’s and most other people’s comments about the intellectual fatuity of trying to parse what is or is not Islam or Christianity is also correct.

    What’s so “fatuous” about trying to define what is or is not part of one’s religion? Such arguments may not matter to non-believers, but they DO matter to a lot of believers, and it makes sense to appeal to them, and not just to other non-believers. In this instance, a well-known celebrity is condemning the atrocities of certain religious extremists, and debunking said extremists’ claims WRT the doctrinal basis for their atrocities. That’s a good thing, and we only make ourselves sound silly when we nitpick over his choice of words.

  • Sastra

    Raging Bee #30 wrote:

    In this case, I’m supporting Kareem’s attempts to join, or form, a majority consensus that ostracizes violent extremists and, hopefully, helps to isolate them from popular acceptance or support by most Muslims.

    In the Atlantic article Ed linked to the writer has this to say:

    And yet simply denouncing the Islamic State as un-Islamic can be counterproductive, especially if those who hear the message have read the holy texts and seen the endorsement of many of the caliphate’s practices written plainly within them. … To call them un-Islamic appears, to me, to invite them into an argument that they would win.

    It seems to me that the question of tactics here is similar to the one involving Creationism. Can we try to solve the problem by leading fundamentalists gently towards the idea that evolution is consistent with Christianity? What if we go further and — for political reasons — encourage and promote the view that the Bible endorses both science in general and evolution in particular and therefore no true Christian could be a Creationist? The strategy then is to abandon the secular field of science and try to fight the battle on the field of competing theology instead. Christians denouncing creationists as not even Christian become the role models.

    There may be some short term value in that approach, I don’t know. But I do see potential problems here which might be similar to the ones re ISIS not being Islamic.

  • heddle

    Sastra,

    If the KKK who profess to be Christians are not Christians — then what are they? What is ISIS? Apostates? Secularists? Nihilists? Are they following the devil?

    I don’t know what they are, there is undoubtedly a spectrum, but it seems to me you left off an important possibility that might describe some of them:

    They (KKK–some of them) are racists and opportunists who find it convenient to adopt the trappings of Christianity to give themselves a sense of legitimacy and to be more attractive to the useful idiots they hope to use.

  • Sastra

    @heddle:

    There may indeed be nonchristian hypocrites in the KKK, but I suspect at least some of these have fooled themselves. It’s easy to catch the faith of the people around you — and it’s now indistinguishable from sincerity. I’m still puzzled though as to what the rest might be. Atheist? Pagans? No opinions?

    At any rate, I don’t think the “adopt the trappings for other motives” defense would appear to apply to ISIS.

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    The strategy then is to abandon the secular field of science and try to fight the battle on the field of competing theology instead.

    Wrong: the strategy is to fight _A_ battle — not THE battle, just one of several necessary battles — with the narrow sub-objective of highlighting controversy within the faith community, and thus, hopefully, to undermine the ability of religious bigots to silence internal dissent and leverage their organizational power for their cause.

    We’ll probably never persuade the most devout believers; but we can appeal to those within their churches and remind everyone that the people in those churches are not necessarily united behind the most extreme elements, and that it’s okay for them to stand up and disagree with the extremists.

  • heddle

    Sastra,

    At any rate, I don’t think the “adopt the trappings for other motives” defense would appear to apply to ISIS.

    Quite possibly. There is no way, of course, of estimating the sincerity of the claimants. My gut instinct is that you are more likely (in both cases) to find insincerity increasing as you go up the food chain. At the top there are benefits that may be the actual motivation, including the usual suspects: money, power, sex. (ISIS, in particular, appears to be heavily involved in sexual slavery/rape.) At the bottom of the barrel I would guess you find people more devoted to the stated motivations. But that’s just a guess. As to what percentage of the KKK membership actually believes it is upholding Christian principles compared to what percentage of the ISIS membership actually believes it is upholding Islamic principles, my gut tells me the latter is higher–but that could be purely personal bias.

  • Sastra

    Raging Bee #34 wrote:

    We’ll probably never persuade the most devout believers; but we can appeal to those within their churches and remind everyone that the people in those churches are not necessarily united behind the most extreme elements, and that it’s okay for them to stand up and disagree with the extremists.

    Yes. I agree with this. But can the more reasonable Muslims (or Christians or Hindus or Religion X Members) disagree usefully with extremism and extremists within their religion if they completely deny that these views have anything whatsoever to do with their religion?

  • heddle

    Sastra,

    But can the more reasonable Muslims (or Christians or Hindus or Religion X Members) disagree usefully with extremism and extremists within their religion if they completely deny that these views have anything whatsoever to do with their religion?

    I’m not sure. Is it obvious that mainstream Muslims shouting “ISIS are not Muslims but terrorists who co-opt the name!” is any less effective than shouting “ISIS are terrorists who distort Islam!”? Perhaps it is a distinction without a real difference.

  • Sastra

    heddle #37 wrote:

    Perhaps it is a distinction without a real difference.

    Maybe. But it seems to me that those with the second position will be forced to grapple with the problematic verses in their sacred text and figure out a way to reinterpret or even reject them — much as Christians have. I’ve read that one of the reasons Islam is so hard to deal with is that there’s very little secular historical analysis or exegesis allowed. It’s all the actual Word of God, dictated and faithfully recorded, and the Quran is the most perfect book in the world with no mistake or flaw. You cannot reform perfection.

    Also, as the article in the Atlantic argued, you cannot fight well against what you don’t understand. Treating ISIS as if religion has nothing to do with their goals can lead to bad decisions.

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    But can the more reasonable Muslims (or Christians or Hindus or Religion X Members) disagree usefully with extremism and extremists within their religion if they completely deny that these views have anything whatsoever to do with their religion?

    That probably depends on who, specifically, one is talking to. The point, however, is not so much to win arguments with extremists in a church or mosque or whatever; but to show the world that arguments are in fact happening, and to prevent the extremists and authoritarians from pretending they have the full support of their “flocks.”

  • exi5tentialist

    Ed Brayton is not an objective arbiter of what a Muslim is.

    Everybody’s judgement is biased. There is no right and wrong.

    But at least I respect Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s judgement, his words and his religious beliefs. A true great.

  • EnlightenmentLiberal

    @Raging Bee

    Wrong: the strategy is to fight _A_ battle — not THE battle, just one of several necessary battles — with the narrow sub-objective of highlighting controversy within the faith community, and thus, hopefully, to undermine the ability of religious bigots to silence internal dissent and leverage their organizational power for their cause.

    I’d rather we pick another fight – namely, to battle against uncritical thinking, dogma, and faith in all of its forms, because such things are inherently dangerous and toxic.

  • EnlightenmentLiberal

    @Raging Bee

    Why do YOU have any authority to belittle or overrule his definition of a word?

    Because I’m a human on this planet, and we share this world together? And thus I have about as much authority in defining words as anyone else.

    You’re not even a believer, so like it or not, his authority to define his religion is greater than your authority to question or reject his definition. (Not that that’s saying much.)

    Acceptable.

    However, then we have this:

    And when we are faced with two people, equally sincere, who making incompatible claims about what the true version of a religion is, how do we decide who is right?

    We don’t have to “decide who is right;” we just have to decide whose ACTIONS are right (or at least closest to right), and support them when we can.

    I don’t understand your position. Are you saying that we should just give him a free pass when he asserts that ISIS is not Islam? What if ISIS asserts that his milder version of Islam is not Islam? Should we stay silent then too? I think your position is inconsistent, and that you’re not being intellectually honest (as normal).

    For OUR purposes, his version of Islam is “right” because he’s trying to do the right thing, and we should support people who try to do the right thing. Does anyone really have a problem with that?

    That’s advocating lying. One thing I will not do is lie, even if one purports it is for a good cause. I must fundamentally disagree with you. We should not lie in an attempt to advance our cause. That is the fundamental error of faith and dogma. We should not fall into the same trap that we I and many other atheists are trying to fix. If we attempt to lie, we lose the moral and intellectual high ground. If we attempt to lie, it will backfire on us.

  • abb3w

    Wrong — communists and humanists are NOT different varieties of atheist, because a) not all communists or all humanists are atheists

    Technically correct, but missing the underlying point — practically to exemplifying the thesis.

    From what I’ve read, in so far as “atheism” can be considered a social phenomenon, and one with sub-groups, here in the United States students of Marx were one of the (and perhaps merely THE) largest factions or schools in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. (There are theist Marxists, but for much of the 20th century were by far the minority.) As the Russian Revolution increasingly descended into totalitarian fiasco, there was a backlash within American atheism, which expanding on the earlier “Ethical Culture” movement gave rise to the Humanist tradition of Dewey and company. While neither school is inherently “tied to non-belief in gods”, they seem historically correlated.

    Nohow, there seems a massive dearth of interest in this era of the history of American atheism. This may be in part from embarrassment; another major faction seems to have been influenced by Spencer and his “social Darwinism”, and has unpleasant ties to the history of eugenics.