More About "Whose Side Am I On?"


A COUPLE WEEKS ago, I wrote about a comment we got from a Muslim wondering if Citizen Warrior is just a very clever Muslim (Whose Side Am I On?). On Jihad Watch a few days ago, Robert Spencer wrote about the same phenomenon. Someone wrote to him and said:

"I can't understand whether you're a kafir trying to make people hate Islam with your commentaries or whether you're a Muslim trying to make people read the Quraan."

Using his inimitable sarcasm, Spencer's comment was, "This latest Hate Mailer, who writes in from Syria, is not as certain as the last one about my cleverly hidden secret identity."

I've been meaning to do a follow-up on my own article on the subject, because I've thought more about it. I think one of the reasons the article, Basic Principles of Islam, confused the Muslim commenter (about where my loyalties lie) is because the article is "value neutral." Most non-Muslims who write about Islam (and who know a lot about it) are very clearly against it. Their disdain for Islam comes through loud and clear in every sentence.

But I didn't do that in the article that got the comment. In fact, I specifically designed that whole website (Inquiry Into Islam) as a value-neutral educational site because the same things that raise the hackles of a Muslim would also raise the hackles of multiculturalists.

In other words, the article has no edge to it. It's just the facts. I personally feel that any non-Muslim who reads it needs no convincing from me. The straight information speaks for itself to those of us who share the values of freedom and equality. But what happens when a Muslim from Iran or Syria finds Inquiry Into Islam? What do they make of it? They can see that the information is being presented without any negative judgment. It might very well confuse them. Whose side am I on?

In Muslim countries you can speak openly about, say, the subjugation of women, and you can do it with no feeling of remorse or embarrassment, as I've seen on television programs created and shown in the Middle East, with experts arguing about just how much you can beat your wife, for example. There is no hint of shame about the topic, no embarrassment that their religious doctrines are misogynistic. Those of us who grew up believing in the principles of freedom and equality instinctively assume Muslims should be ashamed of these principles. How could they not be embarrassed about their own backward (to our way of thinking) beliefs? But they clearly are not.

To get outside this topic to see it plainly, let's look at Buddhism. You could speak about the teachings of Buddhism and just lay it out: "These are the teachings of Buddhism." And the person reading it might assume you are a Buddhist.

Or you could write about Buddhism with some disdain permeating your writing. In which case, a Buddhist might take exception to what you wrote, even if what you wrote was accurate. That may be what we are dealing with in educating non-Muslims about Islam.

When most of us write about Islam it's with ridicule or a clear tone of rejection. And a Muslim will take exception to what we write, even though we're saying things that are true. You see this all the time. Non-Muslims are speaking about Islam, but clearly not liking it, not agreeing with it — against it — and Muslims read it and object to what was said, even though it was true. They'll say, "You're taking it out of context" or "That's not the way we mean it."

A Buddhist might do exactly the same thing if you were saying some of the principles of Buddhism with an edge. One Buddhist teaching, for example, is to try to refrain from harming other living things. And if you said it like that, no Buddhists would have any objection. But if you said it in a way that added a negative value judgment to it, they might take exception to it, even if what you said was technically accurate.

For example, if you say they don't believe in good nutrition (and I think a case could be made that many vegetarians don't eat enough protein to be healthy), a Buddhist might say, "That's not what we believe" or "You took that precept out of context."

But the point is, a Buddhist or a Muslim will believe in the precepts of their own religion, and will try to defend them. And they won't feel those precepts are bad. And when people like us imply that they're bad, they take great offense to us and argue passionately. And if we present the facts without judgment, they think we are secret, very clever Muslims.

Let's look at it another way. Before the Allies began the invasion of Normandy, they gave the Germans the impression they were going to land somewhere else. The Germans knew a big invasion was coming, but they didn't know where. The Allies deliberately misled the Germans into thinking the invasion would take place further north. The Nazis moved some of their military resources to that place, which made Normandy a safer place to land.

Assuming you are from one of the Allied countries, let me ask you: Do you feel embarrassed that people on your side employed deception? Does it bother you? Probably not. If somebody criticized the deception, you might well defend the action. In war, deception is a legitimate tactic. Not many people think of it as "cheating."

In the same way, I think if Muslims know Islamic doctrine and believe in it they don't have any problem with it. More than that, they think it's the truth. They think it's right. They think it is ordained by the Almighty. So of course an expression of it — of the facts and principles of the truth as they see it — would not be anything to be embarrassed about. They wouldn't feel it is cheating or wrong or bad.

And if it was presented without any negative judgment, a Muslim might very well assume someone who is explaining their doctrine so clearly and unapologetically must be a Muslim.

The reason I think this topic is important is that many of the non-Muslims we talk to lower their voices in case any Muslims are nearby and might be angry about what you're saying. They don't understand that Muslims are quite proud of their teachings. To explain their teachings is not insulting. It is not an indictment. It is just the facts. And a nearby Muslim overhearing your conversation might think you are a Muslim trying to convert a Kafir!

And I think you can explain some of this and make it clear that their assumption (that you are being insulting to Muslims or indicting them) would itself be insulting to a Muslim! Their assumption is the insulting, un-multiculturalist faux pas. Get that across and you will have laid the groundwork for a new openness to the facts in their minds.


Rahil 10:06 PM  

So who are you;)

I just know that you are following PR principles for toughest of topics and if these principles are applied in any domain of life, one can be neutral and yet with full of action!

Also, can you explain the last paragraph? I did not understand it:

And I think you can explain some of this and make it clear that their assumption (that you are being insulting to Muslims or indicting them) would itself be insulting to a Muslim! Their assumption is the insulting, un-multiculturalist faux pas. Get that across and you will have laid the groundwork for a new openness to the facts in their minds!

Citizen Warrior 12:17 AM  

Hi Rahil,

That last paragraph means you should tell non-Muslims that Muslims believe in their own doctrine. And when you are explaining their doctrine (without disdain), a Muslim would not be insulted.

And you can further explain that your listener's belief that a Muslim would be insulted would actually BE an insult to a Muslim (because it implies there is something "obviously" wrong with the Muslim doctrine).

Does that make it clearer?

Anonymous 3:17 AM  

Good thinking. It's another case of one of those things you kind of know already, but don't really know it well until someone explains it.

Of course there is the distinction that, as you said, Muslims in Muslim countries are open about these things. In the US these things are still supposed to be secret, so a stealth jihadist will be dismayed that you have discovered these things already, but a phase 1 baby Muslim, or Mecca Muslim that has not yet learned about the phase 4 Medina Muslim that he is supposed to mature into will, of course, be offended that you are insinuating that Islam is not a religion of peace and the most beautiful thing on earth.

Angela 6:28 AM  

That is a very important point.

Its almost as if, if the emotions can be put aside, we can talk in the same room with both a Muslim and a non-Muslim and they will both come out with different messages.

For instance, you can be with both (Mus. & non-Mus) and say something about beating a woman (for example). The Muslim will look at external signs of rejection, but upon seeing your stoic face, may be left in a dubious state. Whereas the Non-Muslim may be already to defend Islam or Muslims, but seeing that both you and the Muslims seem in agreement, may be left to defend the beated woman (if he's looking for a victim or an objection).

Citizen Warrior 1:16 PM  

A reader named Alexander emailed us this comment:

Your example of the muslims' acceptance of beating their wives is a clear example of the vast cultural differences in Western thought and Islamic thought. In the west , not only did we have respect for the woman/mother figure in our ancient cultures of Greece and Rome, but during the middle ages the whole culture of "courtesie" arose around the Royal "Courts" of Europe, where men became :"Gentlemen" and fought and competed for a lady's favor. Our Western respect for women is also no doubt related to the traditional respect for Mary, mother of Jesus.

In addition, our respect for women is further reinforced by our Age of Enlightenment, of the 18th. century, when our great philosphers debated all of these issues. None of these aspects of our rich cultural history have been shared or experienced by the Islamic peoples who have been stuck in tribal thoughts of the 7th. century since that time.

Unknown 11:54 PM  

When they come to enslave the non- Muslims, rape your wives, mothers, sisters and daughters, murder all the non- mudslime white men and enslave the rest, in the name of their child-raping, mother-hating, cowardly LIAR of a "prophet" .... what will you do ? Stand there and ask your stupid questions, be concerned about political correctness ? Go ahead, you'll be dead before you can decide. That's how they're beating us right now. Let's cut to the chase, go man-to-man, we will fertilize their deserts with their own blood.

Manish 11:38 PM  

even quoting from quran by infidels is illegal in some countries!

i feel we should start a new internet religion - a way to have mockery of islam.. this new religion too has rules that no body can criticise it and penalty is death.. internet God has said us! The god came in many internet screens and pops up again and again and warns us.. that mine is the new religion in this 21st century.

This new god creates step by step neutral statements about islam on face without judgement and then also has own points and states that whoever doubts this is outcast and should be punished! its religion of ultimate peace and bla bla..

Anonymous 7:39 AM  

In the name of political correctness & extreme tolerance for all things evil we sign our own death sentence. Most try to splice DNA of Islam between Radical Mulims vs moderate Muslims vs non practicing Muslims. It seems the very core of this is their deeply ingrained culture mindset (ideals),in their belief their way of Allah is Supreme, every other belief should be crushed into submission. We play a dangerous game of submission in the name of religious tolerance. IE: the fate of Egypt in the hands of The Muslim Brotherhood. I defy you to sleep with a devil & not eventually bear his offspring.

Babs 3:35 PM  

citizen, the first sentence of this article describes the mindset endemic in Muslim states/countries as set out in Daniel Pipes' excellent book on the conspiracy theory's hold on the peoples of the Middle East, "The Hidden Hand"

It's as if, to the Muslim, everyone is against him. His prophet was paranoid and thought that everyone was plotting against him; he passed on this paranoia to his followers, telling them that they must not befriend or trust kufar who would certainly betray them.

Add to this a certain (how can I put it?) fluidity which surrounds the concept of truth- telling for Muslims (again because their prophet said that they could lie if it was expedient)and the havoc that must play with their capability to reality test, and it's little wonder that they are entirely capable of believing the equivalent of sixteen impossible things before breakfast.

We see it in the frankly bizarre pronouncements of Muslim spokesmen (remember Comical Ali, who insisted that Iraq was winning the war while in the background were American tanks?) who evidently believe that if they say that something is or is not so then that is the truth, and the more they say it the more they expect us to believe them.

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