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A few straw man arguments less, please

Reader comment on item: Confirmed: Barack Obama Practiced Islam
in response to reader comment: Our dear Jon is desperate tablighee

Submitted by Jon Frost (Germany), Aug 3, 2008 at 14:21

Dear "dhimmi no more",

Please let me respond to a few of your statements:

1. Yes, I can provide evidence that "the overwhelming majority of Muslims oppose religiously based violence". There have been a number of polls on public opinion and the political views of Muslims. The recent Gallup poll of 50,000 Muslims worldwide was one example. In it, a very clear majority of respondents opposed the 9/11 attacks and religious violence. There are other studies. Actually, Daniel Pipes summarizes them neatly: http://www.danielpipes.org/blog/2005/05/how-many-islamists.html and even he would not contradict my statement (no studies indicate a majority of Muslims supporting religious violence).

I stand by my point that it is wrong to put all Muslims into a single category of being "violent". This is just as wrong as determining that Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, or, yes, Christians were inherently violent because of attacks by any members of these groups on other groups. If you believe that Islam is by its nature violent, that is a separate argument. I was responding to William Barthway's comment, which was based on news reports of violence by Muslims.

2. I never claimed that Muslims and Christians are in consensus on Jesus' role. I said that there are similarities between Christianity and Islam, which I think many American Christians are not aware of. Both religions (and Judaism) are monotheistic and Abrahamic. They share a related story of creation. There are many further parallels. Obviously, they are not the same religion, but claiming that I claimed that they are is a rather silly straw man argument.

3. Regarding "blaming the victims" and Christians in Iraq: it angers me that you accuse me of this. I find it tragic that Iraqi Christians are being targeted, and I attribute it (rightly, I think) to religious intolerance and sectarianism - which can be aimed at Christians or Muslims. (Religious intolerance and bigotry is also the source of attacks on Muslim immigrants in the US - which is also tragic and unnecessary). Whether these attacks would have happened had there not been a U.S. invasion is a difficult counterfactual exercise. Still, it is indicative that Chaldean Christians have lived in Iraq for centuries with long periods of peace. The current violence is a result of bigotry and the presence of radicalized armed groups which have sprung up in the wake of the invasion.

Please don't claim that I accused Iraqi Christians for being at fault for their fate, though - this would be a callous and terrible thing to say, and is antithetical to what I was claiming. This is another cheap straw man argument.

4. Regarding Muslims and Christians in Egypt: yes, there have been alarming violent attacks recently. There have also been periods in the past where Christians had more or less limited rights. However, this improved during the 20th century, and the rule is now (still) a more or less peaceful coexistence. I recently returned from Egypt, and (out of interest) I talked with a lot of Coptic Christians there. The perception of those I talked with is that there are few problems, and they have many Muslim neighbors and friends that they get along with well. The only major problem was marriage (neither Muslims nor Christians want their children to marry each other). Violence is a startling exception and not the rule. It is right to point out the increasing violence and condemn it. However, a blanket claim that "Islam" is behind the violence would fail to explain how Christians and Muslims have lived in general peace through the years (at the very least in a much more peaceful state than many other multi-religious societies around the world.)

5. Regarding your knowledge of Islam: I am sure that you have read primary sources in Arabic. Good for you. I was responding to William Barthway's comment, which stated explicitly that he feels no reason to learn about Islam because of what he sees on the news.

6. What use is their in using the word "Paki"? As a white American, I am mostly only confused to be called this. This kind of ethnic slur has no place in a discussion, though, and only weakens your point.

7. As an Atheist, there is no need for me to "abandon Islam". I would urge you, however, to be a bit more civilized in debate and to rethink how a more civilized dialogue between religious groups might contribute to understanding and tolerance. The sensationalistic stuff you write is unlikely to convince many, but has convinced me not to take your (obviously informed) analysis of Islam all that seriously. A real intellectual shouldn't have to resort to calling their debating partner a "desperate tablighee".


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