Dialogue with an Ahmadi Muslim who wants to work with Atheists

If_you_think_0_00002__of_Muslims__30_000_ISIS____-_Kashif_N_ChaudhryOn Facebook the claim above pops up from Kashif, a Muslim who is a member of the Ahmadiyya sect and so generally takes a non-violent stance.

The above posting has rather a lot of problems, specifically the rather obvious – nobody actually declares all 1.6 billion Muslims to be violent terrorist thugs. This form of argument is what is known as a straw man, this is where you present a simplistic argument that is supposedly promoted by those you oppose, and then demolish that. Even the rebuttal is weird because it also fails to recognise that Islam does in reality have a serious problem that goes way beyond his claimed 0.00002%.

Since he is talking percentages then let’s use a few fully verified statistics to illustrate the issue …

  • A 2008 survey conducted by the Gallup polling agency found that almost 4 out of 10 Muslims worldwide think that 9/11 was totally, partially or somewhat justified. Let me make this abundantly clear and translate the implications of such a finding for you – 36.6% support the mass murder of thousands of innocent people.
  • A 2013 Pew Research poll demonstrated that the overwhelming majority of Muslims want to see Sharia law imposed by force on everybody, but also demonstrated that there is no actual consensus on what that actually means. While it is true that almost all Muslims express a desire for Sharia law, none of the vast diversity of Islamic sects agree on the details; they never have and they never will.
  • A December 2010 Pew poll found that 76 percent of Pakistanis think that apostates (those that leave Islam) should be killed. This is not unique to Pakistan, it is a view that is also endorsed by quite a few modern Islamic scholars today. Luckily most do not act upon this idea, but it does create a climate of considerable fear and also generates a lot of intimidation against any who simply dare to doubt.
  • A survey conducted between 2001 and 2006 within “moderate” Indonesia demonstrated that 43.5 percent of the Muslim respondents were “ready to wage war for their faith” and 40 percent said that they would use violence against those blaspheming Islam.

Do not misunderstand me here, clearly the vast majority do not participate in acts of terrorism or street riots, and opt to simply get on with their lives, but what cannot be avoided is the fact-based demonstration that across the vast diversity of Islamic belief there are rather a lot of bad ideas that have gone mainstream and are being embraced as “truth”, and that is indeed a huge problem. When such ideas flourish and thrive it creates an environment in which the more literal fundamentalist mode of thinking can take root and that is why we see violence and intolerance popping up all over the place.

Kasha himself should of course be aware of this reality because his specific sect, the Ahmadiyya, is deemed to be heresy by about 99% of the Islamic world and so his claim to be a Muslim would be rejected by them – intolerance is not an abstraction, it is something he will be personally familiar with.

So here is my first key point : Kashif is quite rightly rather eager to fight for social justice and take a stance against any and all oppression, and that is both good, nobel, and praiseworthy, but unless he can come to terms with the way things are, and where the problem actually resides, then he will not be able to make any real progress.

“Militant” Atheists

One of the distinctions that Kashif often makes is to differentiate between those whom he labels “Atheist” and those whom he labels “New Atheist”. Apparently, from his viewpoint, atheists are just fine, but as for “new” atheists, well, he starts with this …


… and then soon moves on to this …


(Sigh!) … no Kashif, it was not their fanatical lack of belief in a god that inspired them to murder, and so once again you are failing to come to terms with the real problem, the actual root cause. People are inspired to act, not be what they do not believe, but rather by what they do believe.

Incidentally, as an aside, he calls me a “New” Atheist and he also calls those Soviets, “New Atheists” and is in effect labelling me as a mass murderer intent on genocide (on the basis of no evidence at all), and then expresses surprise and dismay when I reject his request to join his merry band of bigots.

What exactly is he getting at when he uses the term “Militant Atheist”? Well, what he is talking about is a gang of fanatics in Soviet Russia during the 1930s who did indeed use that label and did indeed murder, and of course you can now instantly grasp that these were political fanatics who were motivated by the prevailing ideology, not their specific lack of a belief. I’ve pointed this out to him several times, but since that conflicts with his agenda, it gets discarded so that he can demonise all “new atheists” as fanatical bigots that are no different than the Mullas in Pakistan that violently oppress the Ahmadi.

So my second key point is this: If you want to fight for social justice and tolerance for all, then falsely demonising others who fight for social justice and tolerance is not really the best play to make.

What he is getting at is that he greatly dislikes many who have dared to openly criticise supernaturalism and Islamism and so he tags them with the label of “New” Atheist as a distinct group of bigots. If asked to name names then no doubt we would hear Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris and others mentioned. If you are not sure about them being bigots, then let’s try a few more statistics …

  • Number of humans slaughtered by fanatical Islamists – way too many to count, and it’s a tally that increases on a daily basis
  • Number of humans slaughtered by fanatical “New Atheists” – zero.

Can you spot the ever so subtle difference there.

Social Justice

As I engage, it soon becomes rather clear that there are things we do agree on (secularism and tolerance), and there are also things we do not agree upon (supernatural beliefs, who is and is not a bigot, gay rights, who is and is not Islamic or what the word Islam means, etc…) … that is all rather clear.

So on to my third and final key point: The majority of Muslims are decent honourable human beings who strive to do what is right and live in peace with those around them. However, that is not because of their Islamic beliefs, but rather despite them, and is in reality rooted in basic human empathy. The problem here is not bad people, but rather the embrace of bad ideas that inspires many to behave in a truly repugnant manner. It is the bad ideology that seeps across many of the different sects being embraced by a vast majority that motivates this constant flow of abhorrent behaviour. If criticism of such ideas is off the agenda, then the possibility of actually making any real difference is nullified.

Finally, Kashif has a Facebook group

He has a group that he is rather eager for everybody to join, and he does ask and does not simply make you a member (as is often the way on FB), so let me promote it for him …

Ahmadis and Atheists for Freedom of Conscience (AAFC)

So far it has (insert drum roll here) … 345 members … but hey, its a FB group, anybody can “join” anything for any reason, it need not imply you actually agree with anybody on anything.

As for me, nah, 345 is way too small, if I’m going to debate in FB, then making a different means engaging with the fundamentalists, and besides, as can be seen above, there are a few basic issues with the stance he takes.

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