Posts Tagged ‘Discussion’

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Tinfoil Turbans in the Closet

In Uncategorized on May 3, 2013 by tinfoilturban Tagged: , , , , , , , , ,

Bismillah iRahmen iRaheem

Asalaamu Alaykum Wa Rahmetullahi Wa Baraketahu

Like a Turkish Imam, Turban tucked away behind the minbar and brought out for salat, some Tinfoil Turbanators keep their headgear well hidden.

They will go to great lengths to hide the extent that they believe, and so will veil their assertions as questions or shield them with analogy. This Tinfoil Turbanist will always avoid coming out and saying what they actually believe.

Maybe this is some attempt at staying hidden from the space lizards, maybe it is a fear of being questioned, who knows? What we do know is that it can be very frustrating to deal with such people, so I will offer what I have learnt doing so.

Clarification is your friend. Ask questions, often. It could be you who is mistaken, maybe they aren’t what they appear at first sight, the only way to know is to ask questions, lots of them. If they avoid answering, get frustrated with you or straight out go on the offensive, it is a good sign that peeking out from that baseball cap is a bit of tinfoil.

Don’t lose your cool. If they maintain the tactic of ‘just asking questions’, when it is clear that there are assertions being made, ask questions to, and do it calmly. Take the lead, show them where their ‘questions’ go. Usually the ‘just asking’ is a ruse to avoid being pinned down on a specific point. Don’t indulge them, it is like trying to grab an oiled pig! Instead let them do the talking, then, once an actual claim has been made, swoop onto it.

Let it go. Sometimes they will avoid the above, and continue to keep it vague, maybe throwing in some ad hominem. If that happens, let it go! There will be another day, and if nothing else it will have made it clear how wishy washy the whole thing is. This is especially sound advice if they bust out the box of personal attacks, questioning your motives, your intelligence etcetera. If this happens, you will either lose your adab, or they will make a fool of themselves. Neither is a good outcome. Walk away.

Eyes on the Prize. Your goal is getting at some kind of truth, remember that. The reason that such people can be such a cause of annoyance is because they keep what they view as the truth close to their chest. This shouldn’t phase you. Know that all the obfuscation, the ad hominem, only brings them further away from making a sound argument. Grin, bear it, and keep your eyes on the prize.

And, as always, Allah knows best.

Another quick one this evening, trying to keep them short, conceptual and sweet. I hope you are all well and I’ll be back soon insha’Allah

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‘And debate with them in the best of ways’; two logical fallacies.

In General Discussion on March 4, 2012 by tinfoilturban Tagged: , , , , , , ,

Bismillah iRahmen iRaheem

Asalaamu Alaykum Wa Rahmetullahi Wa Baraketahu

😀

So, as you may have guessed, a lot of my posts have a strong relation to arguments I get to on the Wild West of discussion that is the internet. I thought I would discuss a couple of logical fallacies in relation to good discussion, and relate them to my previous post as well as the concept of adhab in Islam.

So to start with, we have what is called the ad hominem fallacy. This fallacy is often colloquially used to refer to insults, but it is more than that. The ad hominem fallacy is an argument that, rather than focussing on the points made, focuses on the character of the person making the points. Now it should stand to reason that the two are unrelated, yet we as humans often fall into the trap presented by this fallacy.

One of the main ways this occurs is accusations of hypocrisy. An individual will point out a contradiction between what a person advocates in their argument, and what they actually do. In reality an individual’s hypocrisy will rarely have any relationship with an argument (unless, for example, it is an argument about character). If I drank, yet told others not to drink, would my hypocrisy have any bearing upon the validity of my argument about the negative nature of drinking?

Another way this creeps in is through arguments about an individual’s motivation. It is a common tactic in discussions to point out that a person’s background is the reason behind the argument they are making. That may be true, but what does it have to do with the validity of the argument they are making? Nothing. A Palestinian or Israeli’s investment in the conflict does not make either of their claims more or less true. The truth of their arguments is what defines the truth of their arguments!

Finally, the most classic form of ad hominem is the aforementioned insults. If I’m thick as a block of wood, it won’t make me saying ‘one plus one equals two’ any less true. The character of an individual, any flaws, physical characteristics or anything else, are irrelevant to any points they make.

It is important to be able to both identify ad hominem in other’s points as well as your own. The first is in order to point out what is a cheap or ignorant tactic in a debate. The second is purely a matter of good conduct! You must remember that you never have to resort to ad hominem. Indeed if you do, you are showing that you do not trust your own arguments. As Allah says: ‘and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious’[1], not only does ridding your argument of such fallacies make them more sound, it will be an act of good adhab (manners) and an emulation of Prophetic character.

The second is related to the first, in that it is about irrelevant points of discussion. It is called the non sequitur fallacy. The literal meaning of non sequitur is ‘it does not follow’ and is similar to ad hominem (Latin for ‘to the man’) in that it is both easy to make and quite common, despite being easy to spot. A non sequitur fallacy is when there is a disconnection between two parts of someone’s argument. It can also refer to a point made against another argument that has nothing to do with it.

An example of the latter type of mistake would be me pointing out that ‘I think that Mushroom is disgusting, because it is a fungus and has a horrible slimy texture when cooked’. To which the person committing the fallacy would reply with ‘but mushrooms are a good source of protein’. While the point the person is making may be true, it does not relate to my assertion. It is thus a non sequitur.

An example of the former would be someone saying ‘you are critical of people un-critically accepting narratives, post-structuralists reject absolute truth narratives, and therefore you are a post-structuralist’. The first statement is true, the second statement is true, but the third is not necessarily true, it does not automatically follow.

This type of fallacy is surprisingly common, especially in political debates. They are however easy to avoid, simply by making sure that there is a link between each premise and its conclusion. Avoiding such fallacies is again a matter of good adhab, as non sequiturs are a type of falsehood. When one thing has nothing to do with another thing, but is presented as though it is, one is lying. The non  sequitur is thus often used by people deliberately to distract from the unsupportable nature of their own arguments. ‘Look at how bad it is for the Palestinians, things are worse there than here, so why ask for reform?’ sound familiar?

I pray you are all in the best of health and iman.

Til next time!

Walaykum Salaam Wa Rahmetullahi Wa Baraketahu.


[1] Surah An-Nahl , Yusuf Ali translation.

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Ragged Human Edges

In General Discussion,Specific Discussion on March 1, 2012 by tinfoilturban Tagged: , , , , , , , , ,

Bismillah iRahmen iRaheem

Asalaamu Alaykum Wa Rahmetullahi Wa Baraketahu,

😀

I hope this finds you all in the best of health and iman. I would start with an apology for my lack of posts, but since that ends up being what I do every time, I will try and stop it from becoming customary.

Jason Stearns, in his book ‘Dancing in the Glory of Monsters’ about the war in the Congo said the following:

The Congo war had no one cause, no clear conceptual essence that can be easily distilled in a couple of paragraphs. Like an ancient Greek epic, it is a mess of different narrative strands – some historic, some venal, all combined in a narrative that is not straightforward but layered, shifting and incomplete. It is not a war of great mechanical precision but ragged human edges.

That idea, of ragged human edges, is what I wanted to focus on today in talking about the relationship (yet again) of scepticism and politics.

While scepticism defines no particular political ideology, it is an essential tool for anyone who involves themselves in politics, and exists as often a counterpoint to ideology. Ideology is, at the end of the day, about narratives. An informed scepticism is a check to those narratives, a balance for the tendency of ideology to encourage self-deception.

I began to think about this in relation to the book that the quote is from. Stearns discussed how the balance of media coverage, of Africa anyway, was strangely skewed towards conflicts with easily grasped narratives. The Congo, a conflict that has accounted for at least 3 million lives, thousands of rapes and war crimes that makes one numb with horror, received a tiny percentage of the coverage of things like the civil war in Libya or the conflict in Darfur.

This, he argues, is because for those conflicts one can draw out easily recognisable ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’. There are the heroic rebels, the genocidal Islamists, the comical dictators and the simple story of a rebellion, or genocide or whatever.

What his point shows is the level to which human beings generally balk from nuance. The conflict in the Congo is not covered because of a conspiratorial menace, but rather because people shy away from things that require a complex understanding; conflicts where the line between perpetrator and victim are constantly shifting, or don’t exist at all.

The reality is that that nuance is the norm, not the exception. Life and politics in general, rather than being about goodies and baddies, is precisely about the ragged human edges. No conflict conforms perfectly to an ideological narrative because such narratives usually stem from self-interest, and such interests usually lead to self delusion.

I have been engaging in discussion relating to Syria of late, and found that the above trend is very much present. One finds two extreme positions, one that wholeheartedly endorses the rebellion, endorses Western intervention and anything else to get rid of Assad. The other swallows the Baathist party line, where the people in Homs are massacring themselves to get sympathy and Assad is the great defender of the Palestinians and without the Baathists the entire Middle East will be conquered by Israel.

I am not on the ground in Homs or Damascus, so what I know of the conflict is always going to be viewed through the lens of a range of biased sources. However what we should instinctively do is question such clear, black and white narratives of the conflict. We must ask ourselves to what extent all the assumptions of either side are required.

Does one have to support intervention to support the Syrian people? Does one have to support Assad to oppose it? Does a fear for what will happen after Assad automatically have to equate to a support of his regime?

Of course interests abound that muddy the waters. Ideology plays a huge role here. Western Leftists naturally like the idea of a socialist hero, standing without support against American imperialism. The idea of a kafir Alawi government oppressing a Sunni majority with the backing of Iran appeals to Sunni /Arab narratives of the Iranian menace. Enthusiastic Westerners love the idea of a popular uprising against a dictator and the Shia can readily view an attack on pseudo-Shia Assad as reinforcing a persecution complex.

When a narrative appeals to you, that is the point at which you must be wary, for we rarely accept unappealing falsehoods, it is those that appeal that slip through the cracks in our incredulity.

This is not a world of easy, pleasant narratives, it is a world of ragged human edges.

I pray that we are all given the sagacity to see truth clear from falsehood, to seek nuance and intellectual conviction.

Keep well til next time!

Walaykum Salaam Wa Rahmetullahi Wa Baraketahu.

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Greetings!

In Introduction on April 1, 2011 by tinfoilturban Tagged: , , , , , , , ,

Bismillah iRahmen iRaheem

Asalaamu Alaykum Wa Rahmetullahi Wa Bareketahu 😀

Greetings!

The spawning of this blog represents the accumulation of my years within the Muslim community, and will initially undoubtedly mainly contain my frustrations and no short amount of ranting. So I apologize in advance.

I love our Ummah, but sometimes we seem to shoot ourselves in the foot. We are presented with a myriad of problems as a world community, Muslim countries are riddled with problems of poverty, corruption and social injustice. Our nations are occupied, our people exploited and the access of the generality to justice in politics and the law severely limited.

Yet, amongst all these issues, we seem to focus upon a few things, none of them important. If it is not Nike making shoes with the name of Allah on the soles, it is the Jews spreading Mosque confusion propaganda. So the purpose of this blog is to call to sagacity, for, as I was told upon my conversion ‘sagacity leads to Allah’.

The intended audience of this blog is you brother, you sister, you frustrated sceptical Muslim or convinced Tinfoil Turbanist. I want to look into these apparent conspiracies and confusions that riddle our community’s understanding of the world and ask if they are truly what we should be worried about.

In this I should probably give my background. I am a 24 year old Muslim from Sydney, Australia. My given name is Will, and a few people choose to call me Zahir. I have studied History and Politics, and continue to do so.

When it comes to justifying the tagline of my blog, ‘the Ravings of a Sceptical Muslim’ I will say this; the tagline is not oxymoronic. In this dunya (the contingent reality we experience) a Muslim can take a sceptical approach. In fact in many ways my stance is driven by my understanding of Muslim ideas of knowledge.

The Messenger of God (sullAllahu alayhi wasalaam) frequently tells the believers to seek knowledge, to seek wisdom.

‘Seek knowledge, even if it takes you to China’

‘Seeking knowledge is an obligation upon every Muslim’[1]

It is my understanding that in this sense as Muslims we should avoid holding beliefs about the world which are not only demonstratively extremely unlikely, but that actually harm us as a community. It is with the intent to uphold this that this blog begins. I pray that I am given success in this, I testify that there is nothing worthy of worship save Allah, and I send peace and blessings upon our Master Muhammed, His final slave and Messenger. And Allah knows Best


[1] These hadith have different gradings according to different scholars, my point in quoting them is as a general impetus I have understood, rather than some foolish attempt to make a statement upon the law, which is beyond me. I am no scholar and please never take me as otherwise. I will attempt to refrain from making any stances on sectarian issues in this blog, as that is not its purpose, but for the purpose of disclosure, I am a Sunni Traditionalist, I follow the Shafi’i Madhab and Ashari Aqidah.