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My views about Islam and why it is so difficult to attain constructive dialogue about them

Discussion in 'Journals' started by LuisDantas, Jan 11, 2015.

  1. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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    For a while now I have noticed a recurrence of often intense yet barely useful exchanges involving disbelievers in Islam and Muslims of various personal stances.

    In the interest of building an useful result from those exchanges, this thread intents to give some clear form to what I find out from those exchanges. Hopefully it will grow and become more informative as time goes by.
     
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  2. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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    Placeholder post, may or may not be edited in the future.
     
  3. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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  4. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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    First step - Establishing the basic concepts

    A foreword: it should be noted that Islamic culture seems to be somewhat fond of allegorical language and logical extrapolation. That offers a practical challenge in many exchanges with Muslims, and also reflects on the meanings of words, which often turns out to be difficult to rigorously define, due to dependence on context, ideological undercurrents, and perhaps other factors as well.



    ISLAM is a word that, as with so many others, has something of a changeable meaning according to context and use. In its perhaps most rigorous use, it seems to mean "Submission to God", or perhaps "Submission to God's Will". In some circunstances it seems to refer to the superlative virtue and bliss that come with the surrender of oneself to God's plan and God's wil. In some others, it may even mean Perfection and Virtue.

    MUSLIM is, in one sense, anyone who learns of Islam and decides to attempt to follow it. In another, it is often somewhat formally defined as a person who sincerely declares that he or she believes in / accepts the truth of the Quran. In practice, that also means strict monotheism and the acceptance of a line of prophets that includes Abraham (often called Ibrahim in Islamic circles), Jesus and Mohammed. It is generally understood that one can't accept the Quran without believing it to be immutable and eternal, and Mohammad to be the final prophet of God.
     
    #4 LuisDantas, Jan 11, 2015
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  5. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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    Second step - Overview of Islam as a religion and perhaps more than a religion

    Islam is, at its most basic, a strictly monotheistic religion that defines itself in relation to its own belief in a Creator God. Even more than its sister traditional Abrahamic Faiths (Judaism and Christianity), Islam places a great deal of emphasis and importance to the belief in God and that there is in fact only one God, Creator of existence itself and the ultimate authority in all things.

    As reflected in the very name of the Faith (Islam means "submission", implicitly submission to the grace, will and plan of the Creator God), Islam does not just happen to be a monotheistic religion in the sense that, say, Sikhism or the Bahai Faith are monotheistic as well. Instead, Islam refers repeatedly, directly, arguably even obsessively to its own belief in and faith in God and strives emphatically to always act in harmony to his will.

    A curious and little known consequence is that Islam somewhat assumes that all people are ultimately Muslims, or at least would be Muslims if correctly informed and oriented. It is very normal to see celebration not of converts to Islam, but of reverts, because traditional Islamic belief includes the claim that all people are in fact born as believers in Islam, even if it turns out that most people forget or fail to learn to express that without some guidance from a Muslim culture.
     
    #5 LuisDantas, Jan 11, 2015
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  6. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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    Third step - What does it mean to me, and by extension to other non-believers?

    By all accounts, there is not really a place for open disbelief on God's existence in a Islamic culture. Some accounts claim that disbelief is essentially treated as a personal tragedy that polite people should refrain from pointing out, perhaps hoping that it can be "overcome".

    It is a fact that Muslim thought, far more than just being monotheistic, is completely oriented towards the will of God as expressed in the Quran. Attempts to point out that there are more significant considerations than God and the Quran are likely to cause more than a bit of puzzlement or worse.

    For succesfull dialogue with Muslims, it seems to me that matters of Faith proper should be avoided at first. Personal acknowledgement is a priority. People must establish a relationship of mutual recognition and some degree of good will and trust if communication is to be at all useful. That is always true, but particularly important when atheists and Muslims want to reach an understanding. It is particularly useful to make it clear that atheists are ultimately people like anyone else and there is practical reason to question possible expectations of ill will and weak character.
     
    #6 LuisDantas, Jan 11, 2015
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2015
  7. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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    Fourth step - Common allegations and misconceptions and what should be understood about them

    Is Moderate Islam possible or desirable? What about True Islam?

    A major challenge when speaking with Muslims is dealing with the expectations of classifying believers in categories of moderates and extremists, when most Muslims don't really seem to think on those terms. The closest approximation seems to be their tendency to think about True Islam and "false" Muslims.

    Basically, most people with extensive acquaintance with Christianity expect some people to be "extreme" Christians that will put some interpretation of Christian beliefs above common sense and basic decency. Even most Christians acknowledge that this happens and often criticize them for what they perceive as a mistake.

    Such an attitude does not seem to be very common in Muslim communities, however. The apparent trend seems to be to understand that the Quran and Islam are literally perfect and conductive to perfection, and it does not make logical sense to be "too extreme to their own good" when it comes to adherence to either.

    Instead, it is usual to acknowledge that some Muslims (or at least people who seem to sincerely believe themselves Muslims) are, quite simply, not true Muslims despite their own claims.

    The reasons why self-claimed Muslims would not be true Muslims probably vary considerably, but a popular belief seems to be that political ambition takes hold of some to the point where they will neglect Islamic teachings, consciously or otherwise. There are also those who believe that certain groups neglect the Quran's teachings in order to favor Hadiths instead. As discussed elsewhere, such a claim is problematic because it is not possible for a Muslim in good faith to ever do such a thing, so this is in practice an attack on people's honor.
     
    #7 LuisDantas, Jan 11, 2015
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  8. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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    Fifth step - Hope for the future: positive trends
     
  9. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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    Sixth step - Main challenges and fears to watch for: negative trends

    Fear of misrepresentation: A common claim among Muslims is that Islam is misrepresented by media and therefore suffers from a much worse reputation than it truly deserves.

    Such a fear, while obviously not completely unfounded, is problematic. It is very difficult to evidence both for and against, and very little can be done to solve it, regardless of how much real justification there may exist or fail to exist to it in any given set of circunstances.

    It should be noted that this fear is not restricted to dealings with non-Muslims, either. Various Muslim sects and movements often accuse each other of misrepresenting Islam in several ways, often to their continuous mutual aggravation. It is arguably a major characteristic of Muslim culture, even.

    Political considerations:: There is a considerable degree of mixing of political considerations when Islam proper is being discussed.

    Even among Muslims themselves, the division between Shias and Sunnis is very ancient and consequential and has both political and religious aspects. Many Muslims deeply regret it, but there is no clear, practical path for solving it.

    Historically, much of the hardships in interacting with the Muslim world come from a lack of respect and wisdom from non-Muslims. Non-Muslim (often called somewhat innacurately "Western") governments and groups have time and again shown extreme disregard and prejudice towards Muslim groups and governments, earning considerable (and well justified) ill will and lack of trust. Particularly noteworthy are the disastrous interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria in recent years, as well as the shameful

    The aftermath of the Arab Revolt of 1916 is also noteworthy, and curiously ill remembered among non-Muslims and/or non-Arabs. While the exact influence of the British and other non-Muslim people on the end results is somewhat controversial, there is no doubt that their role is seen with mistrust.

    A related matter is the end of the Caliphate. Islam is a religion and not properly a political movement. Despite that or perhaps because of that, naturally enough many Muslims hope for political unity, somewhat personified in a Caliph. Whether it is even reasonable to ever expect such union is highly questionable, but the dream lives on anyway.

    It is important to note that the Muslim world is by no means politically homogeneous. Quite on the contrary, one would be hard pressed to find general political agreement among Muslims, except perhaps locally in specific communities or countries. There is a general climate of appreciation of tradition, sometimes manifesting itself as admiration of the Prophet Muhammad or of his earliest successors, perhaps more often as mistrust of "Western" trends and ideas, but in practice Muslims are simply not politically united and not likely to reach such union anytime soon, if ever.

    If Muslims are at all different from other people when it comes to politics, it may well be simply on two, albeit often consequential, traits: Muslims will not ever claim that God, the Quran and the Prophet are not meaningful, and they tend to take for granted that all virtue and all worthwhile pursuits are automatically in harmony with the ideas expressed by Muhammad and the word of God as expressed in the Quran.

    That by no means implies actual practical agreement in most matters. If anything, it might result in mistrust of those who disagree, perhaps out of suspicion of ill will or purposeful misrepresentation of those references.

    A more practical consequence is that Muslim society is often refractary to cultural change, for good or worse. Purposeful deviation from what is perceived as being typical or representative of the ways of Mohammad and his earliest followers will often be unconfortable at best, at least at first.
     
    #9 LuisDantas, Jan 11, 2015
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  10. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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  11. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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  12. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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    Conclusion and the Bottom Line
     
  13. Estro Felino

    Estro Felino Believer in free will
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    I understand perfectly what you mean, and this is a remark people usually make, after debating with Muslims.
    I think it depends on the people. There are Muslim people like Irshad Manji who willingly decide to debate with people of other religions (or Atheists) in a constructive way. By using the Socratic method (which deals with doubting even our own certainties).
    But I think that basically it's the values system of the religion itself that dissuades people from accepting debate.

    sorry for the daring question: do you talk in such an academic and refined way even in Portuguese ?;)
     
    #13 Estro Felino, Jan 11, 2015
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  14. Revoltingest

    Revoltingest Christine's Uncle Fergus
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    I observe that the difficulty of having a productive conversation can happen with any group. It depends upon the individuals involved & what's being discussed. Muslims are much easier for me to talk to than femdamentalists or capitaliphobes.
     
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  15. savagewind

    savagewind Veteran Member
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    According to your definitions of Islam and Muslim I am Islam believing God's will is people but I am not Muslim believing the Quran. And I like the thread. I will follow it and think hard on it.
     
  16. savagewind

    savagewind Veteran Member
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    The trouble with submission to God is a person has no way of knowing where a command is coming from. Some sources are his own mind, someone else's mind, propaganda, advertisement, et cetera.

    That problem results in false prophets who rise above and seem to sort it out for everyone so the person suffering a choice need not decide for himself.
     
  17. Pastek

    Pastek Sunni muslim

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    Interesting thread, waiting to read more.
     
  18. sandandfoam

    sandandfoam Veteran Member

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  19. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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    Interestingly, I have just edited the third and sixth steps before seeing your post, Stephen. :)
     
  20. Deidre

    Deidre Follow thy heart

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    I like this journal, and think there are a lot of misconceptions about Islam.

    I have Muslim friends, and they urged me a few years back to read the Qur’an, and while I still don’t believe in any of the Abrahamic faiths as being objectively based on truth, I respect those who peacefully follow their religion…any religion. I encourage anyone to read the Qur’an and The Hadith, to gain a better understanding. Don’t rely on others to teach you religion…any religion. Learn it for yourself.

    I don’t respect people who ‘use’ their religion to inflict pain and suffering on others, but that is the common misconception of Islam.
    Look forward to following this journal.
     
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