Posts Tagged ‘Religion’

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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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Muslim Science, Muslim Primitivism

In Uncategorized on May 1, 2013 by tinfoilturban Tagged: , , , , , , , ,

Bismillah iRahmen iRaheem

Asalaamu Alaykum Wa Rahmetullahi Wa Baraketahu

Many Muslims live every day with a contradiction that I have no doubt would baffle them were it to be reflected on. There are two conflicting but coexisting themes within the community around science. The first is that we invented it, and the second is that it is against us. Islamic Awareness Week stalls and Facebook reposts abound with descriptions of the contributions of Muslim scientists. If they were to be collated, it could be concluded that we invented pretty much everything, from maths to physics to the easy bake oven.

The focus of this, with a few Late Ottoman exceptions, is the idea of a Muslim ‘golden age’, where, in places like Cordoba and Harun Rashid’s ‘Bait al-Hikma’ (House of Wisdom), intellectual giants pushed the borders of human knowledge in the name of Prophetic commands. From a historical perspective, this concept certainly reflects something of a reality; however we were not alone in this pursuit. Muslim polymaths slotted into a long tradition of knowledge and intellectual enquiry. They, as Newton describes it, ‘stood on the shoulders of giants’.

This does not diminish their achievements, but it places a stumbling block for the other, contradictory strain that I mentioned. Namely that for many within the community, once the work of this intellectual endeavour began to diminish, what occurred after diminished in value with it. Thus the advances in understandings that were an effective continuation of Muslims are viewed with suspicion.

The second strain is the spread of pseudo-scientific posts, about everything from medicine to ‘natural fallacy’ food discussions. We cannot simultaneously exalt the scientific achievements of the Muslims of that time, and at the same time ignore the science that is their legacy.

To do their legacy the honour it deserves, we must continue it. If all true knowledge is our lost property, we are fools if we wallow in ‘Golden Age’ narratives that endorse the assumption of the stagnation of our societies.

There is no ‘Western Science’ and ‘Eastern Science’… there is just science. We endorse every single stereotype of us when we exalt simplistic anti-science narratives of the ‘mystical east’ with its own medicine and understandings of the world. We do not believe reality works like that.

And Allah knows Best.

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Anti-Intellectualism as a Pillar of the Tinfoil Turbanist

In General Discussion on March 10, 2013 by tinfoilturban Tagged: , , , , , , , , ,

Bismillah iRahmen iRaheem

Asalaamu Alaykum Wa Rahmetullahi Wa Bareketahu,

I hope this finds you all well 😀

I have been noticing lately than an antipathy towards intellectual endeavour forms a central foundation of the understandings that we have been talking about in this blog. In my interactions with my brothers and sisters in Islam I have found that in general there is a large degree of respect paid towards the Ulema; the scholars. The religious reasons behind this are a multitude and I won’t go into them here but the central point is that for the average believer, the instinctual response to a question about the religion is to seek out a scholar.

This is not simply a trait of the lay Muslim, but also the scholars themselves. In one class the Sheikh was asked a question that was pertinent to a particular topic to which he did not claim extensive knowledge, his reply was an unhesitating ‘I don’t know, but you should ask fulan fulan’.

Being the sons and daughters of Adam, we naturally live in a state of varied and vast ignorance. We may know one or two things, we may even know a large amount of things, but we will never Know, as He does. We must then, by absolute necessity, be willing to admit the gaps in our knowledge. This is not simply a sign that one is intellectually consistent, but to do otherwise seems to me as something of a rebellion against the reality of the religion itself.

The wearer of the Tinfoil Turban, even if never stooping to such outright rebellion, rides a unicycle around the edges. Be it medicine, science, politics, history or any other subject which has its scholars, the Tinfoil Turbanist will reject the possibility that those scholars know something they don’t. There is the keen assertion that the intellectual endeavour of not only an individual but often an entire discipline, is second to their own knowledge of the topic at hand, however cursory their education in it.

There are a number of different ways that this anti-Intellectualism manifests itself;

1. The home grown theorist. This individual’s Tinfoil headgear is wholly self constructed. A home grown theorist decides that the scholars in whatever discipline have gotten it wrong. Perhaps they believe that the whole system of scholarship is rotten, root to branch. Maybe they believe that if they educate themselves within the system, it will corrupt them. They may even believe that a conspiracy exists to silence anything but their incoherent YouTube manifestos…

Regardless, they feel that the best way to respond is to start from scratch. Whether they have to hand a perpetual motion machine or have discovered the real history of the world, they know for certain that those who possibly dedicated their life to study of a subject have missed what their layman’s enquiry has laid bare.

2. The fringe follower. The fringe follower is not themselves the one taking the fight to the scholars, it is another whom they follow. Be they a discredited doctor with fraudulent studies or a conspiracy theorist sans research, their ‘expert’ will be the only one they accept. This is, I guess, a step up from the home grown theorist, for this person at least attributes authority to someone other than themselves. The contempt for ‘experts’ is now given an exception in the form of a single expert, whose claims they likely will not have independently verified.

3. The ancient wisdom. Scholarship may have moved on long ago, but to the wearer of this Tinfoil headwrap, you wouldn’t know. It is possible they think Freud had it right, and ‘new’ Psychology is jibber jabber. Maybe they think the real medicine was with Aristotle, Francis Bacon’s last name is haraam! The contempt for intellectual endeavour now moves from an individual expert to a bunch of former, probably long dead, experts. This happens in a range of different disciplines, from farming to medicine, where the changes in the understandings of the scholars are frozen at a specific point and taken as gospel. This kind of Tinfoil Turbanist must completely ignore the critiques of the New School, in order to maintain the coherence of the Old.

4. Fight the Power/to the people. This type of Tinfoil Turbanist reverses the trend, it isn’t dead theorists now, nor is it a fringe expert, rather the scholarship they take faith in is that of those who are not scholars. This is a common tactic in Australian politics, the most blatant appeal to anti-intellectualism. Essentially the authority lays with the lay people, for the scholars are too educated, too removed from the real world (whatever that means). This could manifest itself as a privileging of ‘a mother’s wisdom’ over a medical professional, or an appeal to the ‘common sense of the people’ in contrast to academics in their Ivory Towers. It is an interesting appeal to populism and one that I have been coming across relatively frequently.

These four are the main characters, and, despite being relatively mutually exclusive, may well be found in the same individual.

Of course these classifications come with some caveats. To start with there is a distinction between following a minority opinion within scholarship and privileging a fringe position. Difference amongst scholars is the norm in any discipline, and thus schools with mutually exclusive claims arise. There is a gaping chasm between following the Shafii madhab and following some brother that had a dream he was the Mahdi and has come to abrogate the Sacred Law. The former retains a respect for scholarship, a respect for ones ignorance, the latter much less so.

The Mahdi analogy certainly follows though. One finds within these movements a kind of Messianic quality, that sense of an abrogation of established authority, of the norms of the world. One can certainly understand the appeal! Indeed we know well that once in a while there have been those whose revolutionary claims have rung true, and they have come and become the law themselves. However ‘once in a while’ remains the operative term.

Importantly, the authority of Prophethood was backed up with a range of things. It was not simply an appeal to authority and neither is this argument. At the core of a respect for scholarship is the acceptance that the collective work of learned individuals has fundamental value, and that challenging such a thing requires at least a comparable level of knowledge. This collective scholarship can and is wrong, but that in itself lends no credibility to a challenger who has even less weight behind them. Galileo was right because he was right, not because he challenged authority.

When challenged on fringe beliefs you will find yourself constantly confronted with a claim that the person presenting them has intellectual courage, that they are a free thinker, someone who looks outside the box. However when a person unlearned in any particular field is unable to accept their lack of knowledge, and, from that position of ignorance makes wild claims, it speaks to something else. An inability to accept one’s ignorance does not speak to intellectual courage, it rather points towards arrogance at worst and deep ignorance at best, usually it seems an unpleasant combination of the two.

Scholarship may be flawed, but forced to choose between that and the above, I’ll usually go with ‘those who know’ over those who think they know better!

And Allah Knows Best.

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The Distinction between Skepticism and Paranoia

In General Discussion on July 20, 2011 by tinfoilturban Tagged: , , , , , , ,

Bismillah iRahmen iRaheem

Asalaamu Alaykum Wa Rahmetullahi Wa Baraketahu 🙂

Insha’Allah this finds you all well! As the title hints at, today I wish to discuss the distinction between be a skeptic and being paranoid. This distinction I will illustrate through two examples, one is past and the other is occurring at the moment.

The first incident occurred in the Ukraine, and received widespread coverage. It was a story that a number of Muslim youths had stoned a 17 year old girl for appearing in a beauty contest. It was reported in various news outlets, both in the Ukraine and later throughout the world. Now I was immediately skeptical of the story, not only because the idea of someone being stoned for entering into a beauty contest, when no Sheikh I have come across has ever cited an example of a hadud punishment for lack of hijab, but also because I had never heard of any similar extrajudicial punishments occurring in the Ukraine.

Another thing that sparked my skeptical senses was the fact that the story quoted no police sources, only quoting local media. So, long story short, it turned out that my suspicions were confirmed. The uncritical repetition of the story in the local media had led to a beat up. The actual story turned out to be no less horrific. A boy at the girl’s school had an obsession with her and appears to have raped her and then bludgeoned her to death with a rock. He was known to have a history of mental illness. He also happened to be Muslim, but was not affiliated with any extremist groups and the police stated that religion apparently played no role in the crime.

Now what this highlights is that, in some media sources, there is a tendency to err on the side of sensationalism, rather than accuracy. This exists in general, but is significantly the case with ‘Muslim stories’. Another example of this bias would be a drive by on a Perth Mosque during ramadan, where a shot hit the sisters section, passing over the heads of the women and children who were in sujud (prostration). This story was not reported in the local papers. What was reported however was a story about a bank in the UK removing piggy banks for fear of offending Muslims. Now you and I would both be skeptical of such a story, and again, it would be warranted. The story was false.

Now there is an important line to draw here. Pointing out that some media outlets have this bias is distinct from having a conspiracy theory about all media outlets. It is also distinct from the assumption that the story itself is created by those media outlets, rather than there being selective or inaccurate reporting. Never assume malice, when you can assume incompetence.

So the second example is occurring right now, here in Sydney. To summarise the story, I will quote a brother of mine: ‘Bearded vigilantes breaking in to implement hudud, by themselves, in a non-Muslim state at 1am in the morning!’. Essentially, it seems a strong possibility that a group of individuals broke into the house of a new convert who had apparently gone out drinking, and whipped him. Now, to say that this is in contravention to the idea of the Sha’riah in pretty much every sect or jurisprudence system I have ever encountered, is to state the obvious.

So I am instinctively skeptical, however this skepticism, by definition, cannot rule out the possibility that it did occur as reported. To be blunt, I will reserve my judgement on the case, until all the details come out. Some people have been less cautious. The implication of many of the posts I have seen, on facebook and elsewhere, is to imply a conspiracy. The support or evidence offered for this conspiracy are incidents like my previous examples, which is where we draw the line.

Yes some of the media have a bias, no this doesn’t constitute proof that they are out there making incidents to report, or specifically breaking into converts houses and whipping them. Thinking something is a bit fishy, should be distinct from paranoia.

Again, I hope this finds you all in the best of health and iman, keep me in your dua insha’Allah 😀

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‘Allah hears everything and sees everything’, Shaykh Hasan Ali regarding conspiracy theories.

In Links on July 19, 2011 by tinfoilturban Tagged: , , , ,

 

I loved this video, alhamduliLlah 🙂 it always brings me to mind of Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad’s contention: ‘Do not trust a culture where the religious leaders do not have the best sense of humour.

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Beware Tinfoil Turban Sprawl!

In General Discussion,Specific Discussion on May 31, 2011 by tinfoilturban Tagged: , , , , , ,

Bismillah iRahmen iRaheem

Asalaamu Alaykum Wa Rahmetullahi Wa Baraketahu 😀

I have on occasion been known to engage in fruitless debates on the internet. The centre of all fruitless debates is YouTube. It was one such debate that got me thinking about this post and prompted the lame title.

I was attempting to point out the problems with the common assumption that the Afghani Taliban are both a US puppet group and inseparable from Al Qaeda. The grand conclusion of the one whom I was debating with was that there was a broad conspiracy involving pretty much all major and minor world powers, Pakistan, Iran, Russia and the United States, all acting with a single goal.

Now the way he came to this conclusion was Tinfoil Turban sprawl. This is where, when one is questioned on a point of a conspiracy, the conspiracy expands to encompass the new point. A perfect example would be the moon landings. A Tinfoil Turbanist will tell you that the moon landings were faked by the United States. In response, I usually ask ‘well if this was the case, surely the Soviet Union would have jumped at the chance to show the world that America lied’.

The conspiracy theorist responds in one of two ways, they either admit that it is a good point and reconsider their position (rare) or they expand the conspiracy to include the Soviet Union (more common). What this does is expand the conspiracy to a top heavy, evidence light position. One is forced to ever expand the conspiracy until it encompasses the entire globe. In the case of the moon landings, it even expands to make the very point of the conspiracy pointless (as the moon landings occurred as part of the ‘Space Race’ with the USSR, something rather pointless if the lizard men control the USSR).

This fact is arguably a blessing and a curse to the sceptical Muslim. It can mean that in discussion, one can use this technique to make a Tinfoil Turbanist expand upon their conspiracy until it becomes unwieldy and impossible to defend, making them recognise the illogicality at the heart of it. The flipside of this is that in my experience, the more an individual extends the conspiracy, the more likely they are to stick to it.

The primary hallmarks of Tinfoil Turban spoil are the use of statements like ‘they are lying to us’ or ‘this is bigger than you know’. Another is the simplification of complex political situations to a single actor with a single motive.

Good luck in your debates brothers and sisters, I am off to think up more sad puns that make use of the ‘urban’ in Turban.

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The Truth about ‘the Jews’.

In Specific Discussion on May 21, 2011 by tinfoilturban Tagged: , , , , , , , ,

Bismillah iRahmen iRaheem

Asalaamu Alaykum Wa Rahmetullahi Wa Baraketahu 😀

‘History does not repeat itself, but it rhymes[1]’ is a quote that ran through my head when I read over some old notes of mine today. I was reading a polemic by a German author about the evils of the Jews and I found myself replacing ‘the Jews’ with ‘the Muslims’ and then re-reading. This was not because I am particularly fond of discrimination, but rather because if one had have made that substitution, the altered article would not have looked out of place on any anti-Muslim website.

What they said about the Jews then, they say about us now. They are a fifth column. Their loyalty is to their religion, not the state. They are part of a conspiracy to Judaize/Islamisize Christian society. They killed Jesus[2].

Okay, maybe not the last one.

The history of the Jewish community in Europe is rife with conspiracy theories that swirled around them, forgeries like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and viscious accusations. They were plotting, always plotting, seeking to undermine the good Christian states of the day. They were deceitful and you could never know their true allegience.

The truth of the matter was nothing so sinister. Jewish communities in Europe varied from semi-autonomous units within society to being subsumed by the greater culture. This was especially the case in Germany, where many Jews converted to Christianity and adopted German culture absolutely. The Jewish communities in Europe were widely persecuted, banned from wearing certain types of clothes, and through discrimination as much as anything else, were often forced to live in ghettos.

The connection between different Jewish communities throughout Europe was such that these links were ripe for the conduct of trade. This led to many Jewish communities being quite wealthy. However the flip side of this was that such wealth never translated to political power. When the state needed money, and wanted to take it from a community no one cared about, they turned to the Jews.

Now I’m sure that no one out there would claim that we Muslims are in some great position of influence in Western societies. One would be rare to find a Muslim claiming any conspiratorial stranglehold on the reins of power. Yet it is disturbingly common that people attribute a similar thing to the Jews, who, like us, ‘the Muslims’, become some monolithic identity in the eyes of the ignorant.

If we do not incline towards believing the conspiracies about ourselves, why do we incline towards believing those about others?

Now I am aware that this new found love of Jewish conspiracies does not occur in a vacuum. The creation of the state of Israel for many indicates the greatest aspect of the nefarious Zionist conspiracy. However any decent look at the history of Zionism will show that the Western states were hardly unwilling puppets in a Zionist plot. The United States for example often was on the other side of disputes between the Arabs and the new Jewish state. Similarly the reason that the Zionist movement had to resort to terrorism against the Brits was based in the fact that the British were no more likely to honour the promises they made to the Zionists as they were to honour the promises they made to the Hashemite Arab leaders.

A second important distinction here is that political influence does not equal conspiracy. Saudi Arabia has political influence in the United States, at least on some level. So does the United Kingdom and even Australia. Does this equal a conspiracy? No. The same is true of Israel. That the United States often sides with Israel has far more to do with shared interests in the region than some shadowy Jewish new world order.

We should not be blinded by the political stance we find ourselves taking on the Falastin issue. One can support the Palestinians in their struggle and reject the ideology of Zionism, without falling headfirst into tinfoil turbanist conspiracies about Zionist plots and the evils of the Jews. Such things damage us more than they help us. The fact that Judaism and Zionism are put forth as inseparable is part of the problem, encouraging this gets us nowhere, nor does believing in unsupported conspiracy theories.

In looking at our fellow Ahlul Qitab, we must take the lessons we can. The Jews in Europe managed to on the whole maintain their religion and their culture despite almost constant pressure by states far less liberal than the ones we live in. What is that if not an example for us? We need to avoid falling for the same tactics that are used against us and be sceptical about the kind of conspiracies that if they were describing Muslims we would laugh and mock.

I hope you are all in the best of health and faith 😀


[1] Attributed to Mark Twain, though not verified.

[2] Alayhis Salaam