There are two specific Facebook groups I’m in that have rather similar names, but are dominated by very different views.
One, entitled ATHEISM DEBUNKED BY MUSLIMEEN (their caps not mine) is dominated by various strands of Islamic thought, and rather bizarrely has a rule against logic and reason. No really, it reads, “Members are requested not to involve in debates based on pure logic and reasoning because it could lead to disbelief“. That is of course true, apply a bit of thought and you might soon realise how crazy the ideas are. What I do also find quite disturbing are the number of fraudulent claims being made; pictures are presented and claimed to be things that they are not as pure religious PR. That is of course very surprising because a quick search of google images will rapidly reveal the truth – no that is not a couple of kids killed in a drone attack a few night ago, it is something that happened a long time ago in a very different county.
So have they lived up to their name and actually debunked non-belief? I suspect you can guess the answer to that, but to be clear, “No”. The content usually takes one of two forms …
- A poetical quote, or religious text appears, one or two might comment “praise Allah” and it rapidly passes and is quickly forgotten
- A weird claim is presented, and soon a few non-believers chip in with, “Er, that is not actually true, here is some evidence / how it really is / etc…”
In the end nobody convinces anybody of anything. The believers think to themselves, “We are sowing the seeds of Allah and one day it may blossom”. Meanwhile, the non-believers are thinking to themselves, “We are sowing the seeds of doubt and one day …” … well you get the idea. Oh and one other aspect is censorship, if anything appears that a Muslim admin does not like, a posting or comment, it gets rapidly purged, so the Islamic ban-hammer leads to a rather bland forum.
Meanwhile not too far away is another group, ATHEISM DEBUNKED BY UNITED MUSLIM UMMAH! (Sigh! … yes caps again, why do so many have trouble getting to grips with their caps-lock key). More of the same? Actually no, it might indeed have 57,000 members, but it is very much a group dominated by non-believers. Huh! … with that name? Well yes, the story is that it was originally setup by a devout Muslim who threw in the towel at one point and decided he no longer believed, so made a couple of non-believers the admins and walked away. later, after numerous death threats and a continuous stream of harassment, he changed his mind once again and decided to be Muslim (with the death threats, who can blame him).
It follows a similar pattern of daft claims being presented, but with no Muslim admins to censor, a lot of criticism not normally seen remains, and ranges from the factually based to the downright offensive. Do people get censored or tossed out? Actually yes, the pattern that gets you banned (usually for a 24 hour cooling off period) is
- posting over and over way too much stuff, basically religious spamming.
- hit and run posts, or variations of that, where somebody posts and then refuses to actually answer questions.
- posting long winded stuff that they claim as their own, but is simply some word-pasta they have cut and pasted from elsewhere (the link to it would have been just fine).
None of that gets you an immediate ban, just a “please don’t do that”, but if they persist, then out to go for a day or two to ponder over it.
In this group you will encounter stuff that makes you wince a bit … for example quips made by non-believers about Mohammed being a Paedophile. Initially you think to yourself, “Gosh that’s a bit heavy”, but then the light begins to dawn and you realise that, offensive as it is, it is actually true, at the age of 50 he married a 6 year old … yes six, and that information comes from traditional Islamic sources.
So what is the best way to Play?
So what is best, a friendly dialogue that goes nowhere, or a more confrontational fact-based one that results in a lot of people getting ticked off and walking off in a huff?
Is it in fact right to confront and be offensive? To be honest, the matrimonial behaviour of a chap from the 7th century should not really be something of interest. In that age there were things that went on that were a lot worse but were deemed at the time to be a jolly good idea, for example slavery, so why judge somebody from the 7th century by our standards, and what does such criticism do except antagonize and alienate.
Actually it does truly matter. Mohammed is deemed to be the representative ideal man, and so there are strands of Islamic thought that advocate emulating his life. Today in the UK, each year up to 1,000 under-age girls are forcefully married off the older men, they get no say in the matter. British Muslim clerics are quite happy to carry out sharia marriages involving child brides as young as 12, the deal is that the parents are not supposed to blab and tell anybody because they are breaking the law by doing this.
So what I am really saying is this. We have a rather stark choice, either we speak out, and by doing so cause offence, or we remain silent and so collude in some of the on-going religious driven moral outrages, so if you wish to actually made a different, you need to come to terms with the fact that you will upset some people. Given a choice between offending religious sensitivities or doing nothing at all about the thousands of instances of what is essentially child abuse, I find the decision rather easy to make.
Finally, I should also observe that this is simply about criticism of bad ideas. People should of course be free to believe whatever they wish, but when some of those insane ideas are embraced literally, the outcome can be truly tragic.