The ‘No True Muslim’ Fallacy

Daylight prepares to return over France as I write this, and the horrifying brutality of the recent murders and bombings in Paris, France – resulting in the death of at least 127 people, with approximately 200 more wounded – hasn’t desensitized us too strongly yet. Paris is trending on Twitter with over 14 million tweets referring to those keywords, and there are various other hashtags associated with it.

Paris is currently under curfew. 80 hostages were killed. France was declared to be in a state of emergency. Islamic State have taken responsibility for the attacks, and claimed they were a retaliation for French military intervention in the Middle East. However, in their statement they also named Paris as the “capital of prostitution and obscenity.”

As is often the case, people seemed to be almost playing “hot potato” with who is most to blame in this situation. Some people were bemoaning interventionism in the Middle East. Others were adamant it was religiously motivated (it was rumoured that one of the perpetrators was heard shouting “Allahu Akbar”). It’s probably a combination of factors. After all, ISIS is known for killing people for reasons other than pure American or European interventionism.

Yet another problem resurfaced: the ‘No True Scotsman’ fallacy (but in this case it’s fair to refer to it as the ‘No True Muslim’ fallacy). It is the fallacy where one employs selective elitism as to what types of people are the true individuals of a certain group, and not phonies. This is often used in cases where someone is to blame or has done something considered reprehensible, and parties look to deflect or deny any legitimate association. In the case of religion, the fallacy is employed almost consistently, and that’s a big problem.

Here’s an example of this fallacy in play:

This is a blatant example of the widespread fallacy. I haven’t particularly researched the affiliations and religious justifications of the KKK, but Westboro Baptist Church and ISIS are subsets of Christianity and Islam, respectively. Both heavily justify their use of action with scriptural sourcing and interpretation. ISIS and Islam aren’t different from each other much more than than a Mustang is different from a Ford. Same goes for The Westboro Baptist Church and Christianity. Unfortunately, people posit ridiculous ideas such as:

  1. Westboro members are not real Christians
  2. ISIS are not real Muslims
  3. Shias are not real Muslims

The first two of those three ideas float around a lot in liberal religious apologeticism, but the third of which is an idea enacted (though not created by) ISIS themselves. Certain religious apologists use the violence ISIS commits against other Muslims as evidence that ISIS have no legitimate association with the religion. Ironically, ISIS justifies killing Shias in the same way.

This comment by Piers Morgan is perhaps the epitomization of delusional ignorance on the subject. The almost 25,000 retweets of a blatant logical fallacy suggests to me that this uninformed bias permeates society. For further reference: the tens of thousands of tweets in the hashtag #TerrorismHasNoReligion on Twitter.

ISIS attacked an area in Beirut recently, heavily populated with Shia Muslims. As written in the New York Times.

“The group portrayed its motives as baldly sectarian, saying it had targeted Shiite Muslims, whom it views as apostates. It mentioned almost as an afterthought that it had targeted Hezbollah, the Shiite militant organization that backs the Syrian government in the civil war raging next door.”

Over 40 people were killed, 200+ wounded in the incident. This same dismissive attitude people have towards the legitimacy of ISIS is oppositely polarized to that ISIS has against other Muslims. So then it becomes a war of *will the real Muslim please stand up?* Almost as baffling is that people who dismiss ISIS as ‘not real Muslims’ often tout the diversity of interpretation, and that fundamentalism is the problem. This is silly because when faced with arguing over who is the more legitimate type of Muslim, the only legitimate way of doing so is to cite and compare actions against the religious texts that are the basis for the religion. In the case of Islam, that would be the Qur’an, with the Hadith as a secondary source (despite that the Hadith is generally viewed inconsistently in how valid it is). In this case, it becomes, as I like to call it, the “fundamentalist’s advantage.” The more strictly and literally a text is viewed, the harder the legitimacy of the association of the individuals seems to dispute. For example, if someone claimed that the Qur’an is a metaphor for human beings’ love for toilets, and if that someone believed in the Qur’an in that way, it’d be much harder to make the case that he/she is a Muslim, while he/she rejected any supernatural claims therein. On the grounds of who’s a more studious observer of the faith, fundamentalism wins over wildly improbable theories.

By denying the legitimacy of ISIS, people unintentionally make the situation more damaging or distressing for the future of Islam. People, even hardcore conservatives, can see through this fallacious and irrational assertion that ISIS aren’t real Muslims, and these hardcore conservatives and/or true bigots can use this to fuel distrust of Muslims and the people who defend them. If you want to help build a more coexistent, inclusive society for Muslims, denial isn’t the way to do so.

By Steven Gonder @sgdblu4ever

One response to “The ‘No True Muslim’ Fallacy

  1. Pingback: The “Fundamentalist’s Advantage” Gone Wrong | NOTA·

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