Posts Tagged ‘Skepticism’

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‘Critical Eyes in a Critical Time’

In Links on February 29, 2012 by tinfoilturban Tagged: , , , , ,

Asalaamu Alaykum Wa Rahmetullahi Wa Baraketahu,
😀

I pray this finds you all well. I have a new blog post in mind about recent events in Syria, but I thought in the meantime I would post this article from Shaykh Hamza’s blog:

http://sandala.org/blog/2012/02/28/critical-eyes-in-a-critical-time/
I thought it was in line with the kind of stuff I am saying, good to know I am somewhere on the right track alhamduliLlah. Though of course the Sheikh says it better than I, as is to be expected!
See you all soon insha’Allah!

 

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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

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Media Fallibility and OBL

In Specific Discussion on May 18, 2011 by tinfoilturban Tagged: , , , , , , ,

Bismillah iRahmen iRaheem

Asalaamu Alaykum Wa Rahmetullahi Wa Bareketahu 😀
Waking for dhuhr on the Monday of the 2nd of May, I was witness to the unfolding news barrage that surrounded the killing of Osama bin Laden. I then began to brace myself for the coming onslaught.

One of the things that I have learnt is that the birthing place of many a conspiracy is the early coverage of an event. The speculations flew left and right, on Facebook, forums and the blogosphere. As we know, speculation and conspiracy stand hand in hand.

If one asks a Muslim what one of our most common sins are, they are likely to answer that backbiting and slander are pretty high up on the list. I have lost count of the number of talks I have attended upon which ‘guarding one’s tongue’ is the primary focus. One of the many wisdoms behind the prohibition of speculative speech about another person is that if you hear something from somebody else, about somebody else, it is probably wrong. The same is true of much of that which follows a breaking news story.

One can find that as the story progressed, the reports swung wildly, first Osama bin Laden was killed while hiding behind his wife, then he was hiding behind a woman, then another man was killed using a woman as a human shield and finally a woman was killed in the cross fire. Especially in the early moments of a story, information is scarce, and the news media are far from above speculation. Unfortunately, this gives rise to many reports which are later shown to be wildly inaccurate. The sceptical mind looks upon such things as a natural function of the media, who are after all, not God, and more than capable of error. It is in this error and wild inaccuracies lay the roots of many a conspiracy theory.

A prime example of this would be the oft cited 9/11 conspiracy theory that one of the hijackers was alive and well, days after the 9/11 attacks. This is based upon a news report focussing upon a single person, who shared a name with one of the people identified as a hijacker. Despite the article being later corrected, and the story being shown to be a mistake, the misconception remains.

The same is often true of other conspiracies, things like UFO reports and other strange phenomena are reported uncritically by some sources, and then later adopted by conspiracy theorists as proof. What this all highlights is that the sceptic must be wary of the dangers of uncritically accepting news reports, especially when they occur moments after an event. A proper evaluation of an incident only comes with time. The best approach is to remain patient and reserve judgement until more is known about an incident. It is an unwise person who jumps to conclusions before all the facts are known.

My apologies for the short post and the lateness in posting, I have been busy over the last few weeks and I thought I should type something up before motivation departs entirely. Keep well insha’Allah.

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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.