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- by S.T.
This article focuses on convincing others to leave Islam. By examining important issues and questions, it can serve as a starting point for further research and discussion. While focusing on Islam, much of this article applies to other faiths.
Need a clear understanding of why a person believes in false ideas
Many religious Muslims do not devote resources to undermine their faith. This may be due to laziness, a need to believe, believing that their theological views are infallible or fear of divine punishment. Before criticizing a person for their beliefs, one needs to listen and understand their worldview, to read materials from the person’s sect and to read material critical of the sect. Further, as soon as one starts criticizing a person, that person may be less likely to express their views.
Defense mechanisms can defend even the most irrational ideas
A) Avoidance/Insulation — not reading heretical materials, avoid interacting with non-believers
B) Assuming critical ideas must be wrong since they must be from Satan or non-believers.
C) Assuming that Islamic scholars can adequately address any irrational Islamic ideas.
D) Given that Islam is an unclear religion, assume that any criticism of Islam is from misinterpreting Islam.
E) Rarely read the traditional texts but assume that extremists or critics are misinterpreting Islam.
Romantic Visions that one has about the faith
A) There are numerical sequences coded in the Qur'an,
B) The Qur'an contains advanced scientific ideas,
C) The universe must have a Creator … so Allah must be the Creator.
D) Halo effect—if science/ethics/reason/history/bible agrees with Islam, then one accepts that as a proof, but if science/ethics/reason/history/bible disagrees with Islam, then one just accepts Islam. If Muhammad and a Kaffir committed identical actions, the Muslim would praise Muhammad’s action while denouncing the Kaffir.
E) Islam is the fastest growing religion, how can so many people be wrong?
F) Allah has miraculously preserved the Qur'an.
G) No one has ever written a book like the Qur'an.
By discrediting their romantic visions, a Muslim may be much more open to other Islamic criticisms.
Emotional Reasons to Believe
- Being loved by their Muslim family and friends.
- Islam helped the person get through a very difficult phase in their life.
- Islam demonizes non-Muslims, so a Muslim can fear becoming a non-Muslim.
- Self-esteem — a person is considered a very good person based on their dress, prayers and observance.
- Amassing the facts — Need access to quality critical material (e.g. Islam: A Critical Analysis) . Some web sites have many articles critical of Islam.
- Need infrastructure/support team to address the Muslim’s theological arguments. Islam is a diverse subject, (e.g., slavery, history, women’s rights, Arabic, violence, Quran, Hadith, different sects) that you may need a diverse team to have the proper skills for a debate. There is also the psychological aspect in keeping the Muslim engaged in the conversation.
- Determine which theological issues (e.g., Islamic violence, hell, women’s issues, philosophical issues,logical fallacies, Muhammad, Islamic science, corruption of the Quranic text) are most likely to persuade this Muslim.
- Message may need to address a person’s particular defense mechanisms, romantic visions and emotional reasons.
- Each Muslim and Islamic sect is unique, so tailor the message to this Muslim’s beliefs.
Reasons not to be a messenger:
- You may not be qualified to enlighten Muslims;
- The punishment for apostasy is death,
- Islam does not appreciate questioning and criticism,
- Some people find it offensive to criticize a person’s faith
Potential messengers: books, articles, emails and internet forums.
Types of Forums:
A) Traditional Muslim Forums that censor criticism
B) Traditional Muslim Forums that are tolerant of criticism
C) Neutral Forum (e.g., university web site)
D) Anti-Islam Forums that respect Muslims
E) Anti-Islam Forums that disrespect Muslims
All else being equal B, C and D would seem to be the best candidates. A Muslim would feel comfortable attending B, but may get too much support for her views. With D, a Muslim may feel overwhelmed and uncomfortable, but it is easy to enlist a team of critics to help with arguments.
The ideal situation is when the Muslim is seriously motivated to research Islamic Criticism. Unfortunately, very often the Muslim wants to avoid Islamic criticism.
Some potential approaches to inspire a Muslim:
- Intellectual Jihad — Inspire the Muslim to debate non-Muslims on web sites that are critical of Islam. Prevent non-Muslims from burning in hell, defend the honor of Muhammad, and the Muslim’s arguments can prevent Muslims from losing their faith.
- Conversion — Inspire a Muslim to convert non-Muslim(s) that question Islam. Similarly, inspire the Muslim to prevent Muslim(s) from abandoning Islam.
- Enlightening other sects — For example, prove to Qur'an-only Muslims that the Hadith are Divine, prove to Muslim extremists that moderate Islam is correct, or prove to misogynist Muslims that Islam is egalitarian.
Techniques to get a Muslim less uncomfortable with criticism
- Appeal to universal values/open-mindedness—Given that most (or all) religions are false, that most sects within a religion are false, and that most religious authorities follow an incorrect faith, reason is required to determine which religious teachings are false. Many Muslims use reason to criticize other faiths and sects. A person’s understanding of God’s worldview is not God’s worldview—and to speak falsely in God’s name is not admirable. Therefore, theological views should be subject to criticism. Ideas should be encouraged to compete in the public domain.
- Appeal to universal values/respect for all people—Assuming God exists, presumably God created all people. We should therefore respect the views of others. (Islam tends to apriori discredit non-Islamic ideas, which makes it difficult to discuss Islam) .
- In various disciplines like Math and Science, it is not sufficient to mention the conclusion; one must list the assumptions and steps leading to that conclusion and subject these steps to peer-review. Encourage Muslims to pursue such an ideal so that their conclusions can convince non-Muslims or even Muslims from different sects.
- Work on your own mission of intellectual jihad. This provides an excuse to discuss theological issues and to have heretical material available.
Different Critical Techniques
- Questions — It is less offensive to ask: “How can we prove that the Qur'an is perfectly preserved if the original copy does not exist?” than to claim “We cannot prove the Qur'an is perfectly preserved since the original does not exist”
- Questions to understand her theology — “How can we test a verse or book to determine whether it is Divine?” “What criteria are needed to determine whether a particular tradition is from Allah?” “How can one determine which interpretation of a text is correct?” “How can one determine whether a particular cleric is qualified and represents the views of Allah?” “How can one determine whether the views of a person are from Allah or Satan?” “Can Satan influence one’s understanding of the Qur'an?”
- Indirect criticism — Many theological problems, logical fallacies, unethical practices are not unique to Islam. The Muslim is less likely to be defensive and more likely to agree with secular ideas as long as they are not attacking Islam. Give the Muslim the resources to be able to discover the flaws in her/his belief system. For example, have her/him read books on logical fallacies.
- Quote traditional sources when criticizing Islam - It is easier for a Muslim to dismiss Ibn Warraq than to dismiss the Qur'an or Hadith.
- Direct Criticism — one can politely and clearly criticize Islam.
One may want to start with questioning and indirect approaches, and if the Muslim is open to criticism, you can proceed to more direct methods.
Can Intervention Backfire?
Many Muslims are living with cognitive dissonance. They claim to believe in Islam, and that the Qur'an is the greatest book ever, but they tend to ignore its teachings. By trying to undermine their faith, they may seek Allah to rescue them. They may ask their clerics for guidance, and the cleric may encourage insulation.
Therefore, one needs to prepare a quality intervention. On the one hand, one wants to be patient, and keep the Muslim relaxed, but too much patience and you may lose the opportunity to communicate with the Muslim.
One should respect the Muslim, but be critical of Islam. One should not exaggerate the problems of Islam. The setting should be relaxed.
There can be an email exchange, a discussion on an internet forum; the exchange can involve few or many people.
It can be a discussion (non-competitive) or a public debate.