Guest post: Reductio ad Islamofobi (argument to Islamophobia fallacy)

Guest post by Tasneem Khalil, originally on Facebook.

My atheism is no secret – that I am an out-and-open murtad for many, many years. For various reasons, I prefer not to talk much about religion in public any more. I, however, remain deeply interested about theology (especially Islamic theology) and politics of religion (and its relationship with civil religions – my B thesis, for example, was on state-sponsored homophobia in the Islamic world).
Given my current area of work (Bangla jihadis), I also have to read up on elements of Islamic theology very often – for example, for a recent story, I had to skim through three books on Islamic history, just to get a better handle on the somewhat obscure philosophy of hanifiyyah in Islam. It was fun. Even more fun is talking to people – learning from others through debates about religion-theology-politics. And, in private settings, I do that very often (yes, I see your nodding heads).
What I am finding increasingly difficult though is having just a decent conversation about Islam, Islamic history-politics-theology with regular – note: regular – Muslims.
Without trouble, I can talk about Islam with Islamic theologians (say someone like Maulana Abdul Awwal Khan Chowdhury) for hours. Heck, I can even talk about Islam with relative ease with ISIS members and AQIS ideologues. A few weeks back, I had an interesting chat with an ISIS member about the Sufi concept of wahdat al-wujud (caveat: that was after he kindly reminded me that if I ever fall in ISIS hands, they will have to behead me). I even interviewed Anwar al-Awlaki’s Bengali publisher through very cordial communication.
With most of the regular Muslims (in my obviously subjective experience) it is a completely different story – one can not talk critically about Islam (especially about its prophet) without being called an Islamophobe (or, in some cases, some other post-modern mumbo-jumbo word invented at some Western university). As soon as these Mulims realise that they are on the verge of loosing an argument related to Islam, they transform themselves into little Edward Saids, lecturing about Islamophobia, Orientalism, Western epistemology etc. etc.
This tendency of equating criticism of Islam or critical discussion on Islam to Islamophobia is not only fallacious but also very, very dangerous. This creates a poisonous, unhealthy environment which is most detrimental to Islam and Muslims.
If regular Muslims do not allow for or engage in decent discussions about their religion without instinctively throwing accusations of Islamophobia, even towards the most banal critics of Islam, they do open up a space for more extreme (and repugnant) spokesmen of their religion. This is neither good for them Muslims nor us murtads and kafirs. This is further complicated by the presence of another group: non-Muslim, Western (mostly white) men and women who often act as the (self-appointed) guardians and coddlers of Islam and Muslims in the Western world.
It is high time we start talking to each other without engaging in argumentative fallacy.
With this background and in the spirit of civil debate and argumentation, I propose three rules regarding “Reductio ad Islamofobi” or “argument to Islamophobia” fallacy:
Rule # 1: If a Muslim or a sympathiser of Islam fears loosing a point in a critical discussion about Islam, s/he will immediately resort to “Reductio ad Islamofobi” and accuse the opponent of Islamophobia.
Rule # 2: If a Muslim or a sympathiser of Islam resorts to “Reductio ad Islamofobi” in order to win a point or to avoid defeat in a critical discussion about Islam, it should be taken that s/he has already lost the argument or debate.
Rule # 3: The first two rules regarding “Reductio ad Islamofobi” do not apply in situations where the opponent engages in anti-Muslim bigotry and racism.

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