Islamophobes know the Qu’ran better than anyone – but that doesn’t mean they know Islam

I was debating with someone who clearly has a low opinion of Islam (“a pile of stinking shit”, I think he called it) on Facebook in response to one of my blog posts. Like all good debates on social media it involved references to Wikipedia, because Wikipedia is the last word on everything. When I pointed out that he had deliberately omitted a qualifying clause to make his point he accused me of taqiya.

Most ordinary Muslims don’t care that much about the fine details of the faith

I didn’t have a clue what he meant. I don’t know Arabic or Islam well enough yet to have even guessed. None of my Muslim friends or my Muslim wife have ever mentioned the word to me.

I had to go back to Wikipedia to find out that, literally, it means “prudence or fear”. The best way to explain it is with some examples: if a Muslim were adrift at sea, with nothing to drink but beer, he would not commit a sin by drinking it; or if he was lost and starving in the jungle and the only food was a suckling pig, he would be permitted to kill it and eat it, rather than starve to death.

Muslims are allowed to lie about their faith sometimes

The example that most closely resembles the way in which my Facebook foe was using the word is that Muslims are permitted to lie, even about their faith, if telling the truth might harm them.

This mainly applied back in the middle-ages when tribes and warlords were fighting constant battles for territory and power across the huge swathes of Middle East. Many had a habit of capturing towns and cities and systematically killing all those of a certain faith. In that situation you would be an idiot to tell the truth about your religious views.

None of these situations applies to a debate on Facebook with a person who is, with the greatest respect, my intellectual inferior. There was no need for me to lie to win that particular argument.

All Muslims in the West are undercover sleeper agents

When I was Googling taqiya, I came across some dark corners of the internet, but the most amusing are the right-wing conspiracy theories which suggest that Muslims in the West are being encouraged to use taqiya in order to infiltrate society so that they are well placed to attack when the order is given.

So there I was, a Muslim, pointing out that he, an Islamophobe, had deliberately misrepresented evidence but it was him who accused me of religiously-sanctioned lying. How can a Muslim ever hope to change the minds of people like?

Knowing the Qu’ran and knowing Islam are two very different things.

It is accepted by all Muslims that a degree of interpretation is needed. Some things are quite clearly written but others are more specific to their time and place, or not written at all. There is no mention, for example, of whether women should be allowed to drive for (hopefully) obvious reasons. Therefore, the teachings of Islam must be adapted and interpreted with respect to current knowledge.

My message to any Islamophobes reading is this: don’t read the Qu’ran to learn about Islam. Speak to a Muslim, or go to a mosque, because there is so much more to it than what is written.

We need to argue better

I listened to How to Disagree: A Beginner’s Guide to Having Better Arguments on BBC Radio 4 today. Amongst other things the programme featured a debating club at Birmingham Prison. The inmates were calm and rational in their discussions and were able to control their instincts to shout or get angry. One thing about the debate club that they liked was that sometimes they would be asked to argue for something that they were, in reality, totally against. In doing so they often learned a lot about the other side and it allowed them to reconsider their original point of view.

Until I started this blog a few weeks ago I had stayed away from Facebook and Twitter for a few years. I forgot what they are like. Endless comments exchanged between faceless others which almost always descend into name calling and casual racism. Social media is not a debate club, it has no rules. Yes, people can say what they think, but they don’t listen.

One of the most memorable points that the programme made was that when we debate we should assume that our opponent is exactly the same as us. Perhaps each time we try to debate with someone online we should take a minute to try to argue from their point of view and maybe that would bring us a bit closer together?

Boris Johnson is not a British Trump – be careful not to make him into one

If there are two facts about Boris Johnson that are true, one is that he is a clever man and the other is that his only interest is his own self-promotion.

He made headlines yet again this week by refusing to apologise for alleged Islamophobic comments he made in his column in The Telegraph. He is clever because there is nothing in his carefully-written piece that amounts to Islamophobia, even the now-infamous letter boxes and bank robber lines. Continue reading “Boris Johnson is not a British Trump – be careful not to make him into one”