2 thoughts on “Defending Islam:
Corpus juris must be seen as a whole; the cancer of Islamofacism”
18 July 22016
I would like to add an extra note. Islamophobes are obsessed with a kind of logical fallacy that goes as follows: Elephants are animals, therefore, a small elephant is a small animal. But this is obviously false. In this statement, the definition of the first “small” is different from that of the second. The first “small” means small relative to an average elephant, while the second “small” means small relative to all animals on average; a small elephant is still pretty big compared to all other animals on average. In the arguments of Islamophobes, similarly, the definition of the term “Islam” shifts around to fulfill their agenda. So I’ll first give several possible definitions of the term “Islam” as used in everyday speech:
1. A family of religious orders that ideologically gives special significance to the Quran and Prophet Muhammad. I put the word “ideologically” because in fact, many people who call themselves “Muslims” and consider themselves part of those religious orders don’t read the Quran, though they will be offended if the Quran is under attack. This is the most common way the term “Islam” is used in everyday speech. I call this the “cultural definition”.
2. The way extremist Wahabis interpret Islam. Note that the vast majority of Muslims by definition 1 reject such interpretation.
3. The system of pure monotheism and submission to God as described in the Quran. This is how we Quranists define the term “Islam”, and I call this the “theological definition”. Under this definition, most of what counts as Islam by definitions 1 and 2 are not Islam, because of polytheism, such as idolizing religious leaders and saints and seeking intercession from Muhammad.
From now on, Islam(x) or Muslim(x) denote Islam or Muslim under definition x, where x is an integer from 1 to 3. There can be more possible definitions, but I’ll focus on these 3.
Here comes the fallacy of Islamophobes. Their arguments generally follow this form: Islam(2) is intrinsically violent and backward; therefore, saying that Islam(1) should be eliminated is not discrimination or hate speech. When arguing that Islam is intrinsically violent and backward, they refer to Islam(2). However, when arguing for discrimination against Muslims and for eliminating Islam from earth, they refer to Islam(1). In fact, Islam(1) and Islam(2) are pretty much incompatible to each other. According to Islam(2), all members of Islam(1) that is not also a member of Islam(2) is not Islam at all. So if Islam(2) is intrinsically violent and should thus be eliminated, this should by definition not include anything in Islam(1) that is not a member of Islam(2). In other words, if something is Islam if and only if it’s Islam(2), then Islam(1) shouldn’t be relevant here because it’s not Islam to begin with. Moreover, 99% of what counts as Islam(1) is not Islam(2). I agree that Islam(2) really deserves to be eliminated, but saying that this means Islam(1) should be eliminated is doing injustice to over a billion people. Here, the switch of definition reflects the bias and bigotry against Islam(1) as well as xenophobia by Islamophobes.
Islamophobes also like to assert that Islam(2) is the pure form of Islam, so Islam(1) is supposed to become Islam(2) to be pure. But most Muslim(1)s will reject this; they would say there’s no logical way in their corpus juris to justify Islam(2), which means 99% of Muslim(1) don’t have any potential to become Muslim(2). Furthermore, why is it the Islamophobe’s business to write the corpus juris for Muslim(1)s? Isn’t this ridiculous? To ask a similar question: Why is it the
atheist’s business to tell a theist what to believe?
Atheist: Science has always been in war with religion. Science has successfully explained what people used to attribute to God, so science has eliminated the need of God.
Theist: This is not true. Throughout history, faith in God has inspired great scientists like Galileo, Kepler, Boyle, Maxwell, Francis Collins, and etc. to do science. To them, science is a way of worship, since knowing more about how God created the universe is just like knowing the mind of God. The God of the gaps mindset is bad theology that most theologians reject, and is incongruent with Scripture, because everything is the work of God. The completeness and intelligibility of Nature further shows the glory of God, in His immanent involvement in the universe, to paraphrase the eminent theologian David Bentley Hart.
Atheist: No, God has been eliminated by science. God can’t be otherwise, and you describe God your way because you’re ignorant and scientists in the past are ignorant. If you correctly understand what God is, then you’ll know that God has been eliminated by science.
But the reality is, for us theists, the atheist here is ignorant (I’m not generalizing to all atheists here). Many Islamophobes are Christians, and in this example, Muslims and Christians can find a common ground to ease understanding. I know that stronger arguments for atheism exist, but I deliberately picked a terrible one to illustrate how weakness of argument generates the need to mold the opponent into a straw man. Our scripture is clear that everything in the universe submits to God and that God is the Sustainer, not God of the gaps. But the atheist here has to feed us God of the gaps for his argument to be successful; otherwise his argument will fall apart. The atheist might not know that his understanding of God is rejected by the vast majority of serious believers, and he might think that his understanding is correct, but here, we see how we can’t accept his understanding of God. In the same manner, vast majority of Muslim(1)s will not accept the Islam(2) that Islamophobes are force feeding. So this further shows that most of Muslim(1)s have no potential to become Muslim(2)s even if they seek doctrinal purity. And there’s a need to force feed because the Islamophobe’s argument will fall apart without Islam(2).
Another point to make about the Islamophobe’s claim above is that there’s no such thing as THE Islam(1). There’s many different kinds of Islam: Sufi, Sunni, Shia, Ahmadi, Quranist, etc., and they differ vastly from each other. For instance, while Shias venerate saints, we Quranists reject it as idolatry. While Sunnis venerate their religious scholars and claim that we need the scholars to understand Islam and be guided, we Quranists reject this as idolatry as well. Because the vast majority of the Sunni corpus juris is outside the Quran, rejecting all those and keeping the Quran alone makes us Quranists much more different from Sunnis than Protestants are different from Catholics. It’s not the business of any one school to define the doctrine of other schools (for similar reasons as the previous paragraph); each school defines its own doctrine. There’s no such thing as THE Islam(1).
When Muslims are talking about something like THE Islam, they’re actually referring to the definition of their school, like Quranists are referring to Islam(3), but not Islam(1), as THE Islam. In the West, where most Muslim(1)s are non-denominational, every single person defines what Islam is for himself, and they mostly respect differing opinions of other Muslims(1). To some Muslim(1)s, Islam(1) is just a cultural identity and they’re not into the Quran. While other Muslim(1)s are into the Quran, but anyone familiar with Quranist culture must know the palpable diversity in our interpretation of many verses and concepts. To some Muslim(1)s, other schools of Islam(1) is unacceptable and will not deserve salvation, while to some others (I believe it’s the majority of Muslim(1)s in the West), other schools are also valid, as long as they’re peaceful and sincere. We should keep these differences of mindset and corpus juris (just like the “biochemistry” of concepts) in mind just like we keep the vast differences between the biochemistry of archea and that of bacteria in mind though both archea and bacteria are prokaryotes. These differences mean that while some bacteria are infectious, archea are not, so it’s fallacious to generalize infectiousness of some bacteria to all prokaryotes.
Here I’m responding to more potential objections.
Objection: Islam is already cancerous. I think a similar form of this objection is that Islam is a convenient marker for terrorism.
Again, please define your term: What do you mean by “Islam”? I would agree that Islam(2) (from the previous comment) is cancerous, but this can’t be generalized to all members of Islam(1). Actually it’s not my business to defend all possible creeds of Islam(1), since many of them are polytheistic and thus not Islam(3), which I hold. I’m defending Islam(1) because Islamophobia is not doing justice to Islam(1) and I uphold justice.
What a Muslim(1) is like is not reducible to what unites Islam(1) and what a human cell is like is not reducible to the human genome (which unites human cells), because so many things controlling what Muslim(1) or a human cell is like are outside what unites Islam(1) or human cells. What makes Islam(2) Islam(2) is outside what unites Islam(1), and that’s why the vast majority of Islam(1) is not Islam(2) and will not become Islam(2). There’s no such thing as THE Islam(1) just as there’s no such thing as THE human cell, as the property that unites both the category Islam(1) and the category human cell is not predictive of other important properties (properties besides those that unite members of the group and what’s common not only to members of this group but also the larger group that includes this group) of members of the categories that all members must possess. I call this kind of property a mandatory property.
For instance, while cell type is not reducible to the human genome, every single human cell must have a cell type. Similarly, while what unites Islam(1) does not entail what Islam means for every single person, all Muslim must have such a definition. For some, Islam means a cultural identity, and for some, it’s a system that governs every aspect of life. So what is THE human cell? Is it a pluripotent stem cell? Is it a cancer cell? Is it a neuron? A fibroblast? An epithelial cell? A chondrocyte? A goblet cell? A cardiomyocyte? A lymphocyte? Or a combination of some of them? To be honest, there is even no such thing as THE white blood cell or THE neuron, for the same reason why there’s no THE human cell. What is THE Islam while there’re mandatory properties within Islam(1) that are mutually exclusive? Definition of the corpus juris is also a mandatory property for Muslim(1), but many such definitions are mutually exclusive, such as while Hadith is central to Sunnis, Quranists reject all Hadiths. A cell can’t be both a white blood cell and a neuron. It doesn’t matter who’s right; everybody is happy with his own definition and won’t be easily persuaded to change. I’m sure that from the perspective of Islam(3), seeing Islam as merely a cultural identity is wrong, but since there’s no way that Western Muslims who think that way to derive terrorism from their corpus juris, then whatever Islam(2) does has nothing to do with them. Another thing here is that Islam(1) does not even have a definition of who’s right or wrong; I said so and so is wrong based on Islam(3), since I can’t find a criterion from the definition of Islam(1).
Disagree with my definition of Islam(1)? Just pull out some article from the media or pay attention to everyday speech and try to infer the definition from context. You should get something in the same line. (For example, see how the terms “Islam” and “Muslim” are used inhttp://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/07/22/muslims-and-islam-key-findings-in-the-u-s-and-around-the-world/) Don’t ever think that there’s no such thing as Islam(1) and that Islam is nothing but Islam(2) and that the media usage of Islam(1) is political correctness. If you think that way, then just walk out of your community, visit a Sufi center (or just a random person in a university Muslim student association, etc.) and try to force feed the members Islam(2); you will soon reach an impasse due to the different definitions of the term “Islam”, and the Sufis might say, “Who are you to tell us what to believe while you’re not even a Muslim(1)? You don’t even have the authority and we have our own authority.
My religious leaders and my best reading of scriptures said that Islam(2) is not Islam at all.” if they’re not trying to defend Islam(1) in general (that defense also often entails why Islam(2) is not the benchmark of Islam(1)). This is what I tried to say in my previous comment in addition to force feeding as a signal of weakness – the failure to face something as it is and the need to coerce it into a straw man to make a case – and hopefully this will speak out many Muslim(1)s’ heart. I know that appeal to authority is wrong, but here I’m not talking about who’s right or wrong; what I’m talking about is that someone who has not and is not willing to conduct terrorist attacks does not deserve punishments for terrorism. The punishment should suit the particular crime, and even if the defendant is guilty of other crimes, he should not deserve punishment of a crime that he did not commit.
What about correlation between membership of Islam(1) and say terrorism, ignorance, and etc? Correlation doesn’t mean causation, but can Islam(1) be a marker for those attributes even if there’s no causation? But even if there’s some correlation, a marker that yields 90% false positive is still a terrible marker. Even 40% false positive should be more than enough to make a marker bad. For both judicial and medical purposes, we must strive to minimize false positives and true negatives, and when it comes to Islam(2), it doesn’t take much effort to somewhat cut down false positives – simple things like questionnaires should at least help. But we should try not to wrong a single person. If justice is of great value, then we must invest much more on it and shouldn’t use a marker that yields 90% false positive. Health is of great value, and we did and should invest on it. If it’s right to spend millions of dollars on biomedical research in order to improve medicine, then anthropological research of particular Muslim(1) communities that might be problematic (which I don’t think will cost nearly as much as research done to understand cancer or other kinds of common diseases) should be warranted for the sake of justice. But what anthropologists said is that it’s not the wish to spread Islam or restore Caliphate that makes people terrorists, but imperialism, poverty, discrimination, identity crisis, and etc. (see http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/anthropologist-seeks-the-roots-of-terrorism/, http://19.org/blog/terrorism/) If you don’t have the expertise to judge which anthropologist is right, then please stop judging what you can’t judge if you’re rational. A precise understanding of the problem is required before the problem can be solved. It seems that here, I’m just reiterating something many Muslim(1)s and liberals have already emphasized: Nuances!