Thursday, June 16, 2016

"Street-level" Muslims

i) James White did a DL yesterday. He referred to me, among others. It's hard to interact with what he said because his remarks were completely unresponsive to my actual arguments. Frankly, it was a scatterbrained presentation on his part, as he bounced from one thing to another like a racquet ball.

ii) He suggested that because Omar Mateen was reportedly homosexual, "the whole ISIS thing was a cover". Perhaps. But doesn't that mean White thinks a true Muslim can't be homosexual? Therefore, Mateen's real motivation couldn't be religious?

If so, that's problematic for White's position. He keeps telling us that Islam isn't "monolithic". So why can't a true Muslim be homosexual? Is White claiming that Islam doesn't regard hypocrites as Muslims? 

Keep in mind, too, that homosexual impulses are distinct from beliefs. You can have beliefs that run counter to your impulses. A junkie can sincerely believe that his addiction is self-destructive, yet he's hooked. 

BTW, there is a tradition of homosexuality in Islam. It ordinarily takes the form of pederasty. But since pedophilia is currently illegal in the US, that's not a safe option for a homosexual Muslim. 

ii) Why aren't more Muslims jihadis? Several reasons: 

Many Muslims are nominal Muslims. Cultural Muslims. Or modernist Muslims. They go through the motions to get along, but they just don't believe in traditional Islam. The conviction is lacking. 

Many Muslims are ignorant of Muslim history and theology. 

Finally, it takes a lot of commitment to be a terrorist. You have a lot to lose. How many Muslims are prepared to take the risk? Stake it all on virgins waiting for them in paradise? 

iii) White said I had "lost my mind" by calling him a Muslim partisan. Problem is, he never got around to engaging my actual argument. I didn't just say he was a Muslim partisan. I explained what I meant. I illustrated what I meant.

When, in the wake of yet another jihadist attack, your first impulse is to defend Muslims and attack critics, that's the knee-jerk reaction of a Muslim partisan. Your reflexive response is to start making excuses for Muslims, and redirect to attacking their critics, as if their critics, who aren't killing anyone, are the real source of the problem.

White said nothing to refute that or defend his modus operandi. Presumably, because he can't refute it or defend his modus operandi. Instead, he went off on a tangent, attacking things I never said–as if that's an adequate substitute. 

iv) He keeps accusing critics of emotionalism. To begin with, that's a tactic to preemptively deflect and discredit criticism. It's always the other person who's guilty of confirmation bias. 

Moreover, anyone watching his DL presentations, where he goes to bat for Muslims, can see how overwrought he is. Couldn't be that he's the one who needs to get a grip on his own emotions. 

v) He said my credibility is down to zilch. That's a revealing characterization. Even if that were true, it's a category mistake. Credibility has nothing to do with it. I present evidence and make arguments. My personal credibility is irrelevant to the quality of the evidence and the soundness of the argument. 

vi) He say anyone who denies there's such a thing as cultural Islam is a glowing hypocrite. Unfortunately for him, he didn't quote me denying the existence of cultural Islam. 

vii) He said cultural Islam is "ugly"–whatever that means. That stands in contrast to what, exactly? Zealous Islam? I'd say zealous Islam is far "uglier" than cultural Islam. 

viii) He accused his critics of not knowing any Muslims. I, for one, have known many Muslims. It's revealing how he stereotypes his critics. 

ix) He then said that even if his critics do know Muslims, these are "street level" Muslims who "rarely read their own history". 

That's classic. First accuse critics of having no firsthand knowledge of Muslims. But in the next breath, summarily dismiss firsthand knowledge of Muslims. 

How ironic. He's dismissing "street level" Muslims. Apparently, they aren't representative of "true" Islam. Does White think only Muslim scholars like Fazlur Rahman and Seyyed Hossein Nasr can be authentic spokesmen for Islam?

If so, isn't that a backdoor admission that there is a standard of comparison? That historically informed Islam represents true Islam? But isn't that precisely what the jihadis appeal to? White's appeal sabotages his own argument. 

On the one hand he insists that we should judge Muslims on a case-by-case basis, as individuals. Not "lump" them together. On the other hand, he disqualifies the vast majority of Muslims as merely "street level" Muslims who rarely read their own history. On the one hand he insists that if a Muslim tells us he deplores a jihadist attack, we should give him the benefit of the doubt. On the other hand he indicates that the average Muslim is too ignorant to speak for Islam. 

x) White says the founding source documents are inconsistent. But he doesn't cite any founding source documents that promote a tolerant, peace-loving version of Islam.

xi) White has a funny way of pulling rank. He says he knows "ten times more" about Islam than I do. Maybe he does, maybe he doesn't. I don't see the value of bragging about how much you supposedly know. If you're that knowledgable, you don't need to brag about it–your knowledge will speak for itself. Conversely, if you feel the need to brag about it, that's a sign of intellectual insecurity. 

This isn't the first time he's drawn an invidious contrast between his alleged expertise and the alleged ignorance of his critics. Since he keeps playing that card, I guess we have to be blunt: from what I can tell, White is basically self-taught when it comes to Islam. He doesn't have a degree in Islamic studies. He doesn't have an institutional position. He doesn't have the credentials of scholars like Albert Hourani, Kenneth Cragg, W. Montgomery Watt, Daniel Pipes, D. S. Margoliouth, Bernard Lewis, Michael Nazir-Ali, Marshall G. S. Hodgson, &c. So it would behoove him to refrain from flaunting his nonexistent credentials. It's not as if he's an acknowledged world authority on Islam. He has an MA from Fuller, and he got his "doctorate" from a diploma mill. So spare us the constant condescension. You're in no position to pull rank. 

This morning he posted a follow up:

But even if we were to limit our examination of "peace" to external conflict, it is painfully obvious that the meaning of terms like "jihad" does differ within the Islamic community. Attempting to deny this requires a tremendous effort at redefinition that mainly takes the form of, "Well, if a Muslim disagrees with MY definition of what THEY mean by jihad, they are not REALLY a Muslim."

Well, what about Ibn Khaldun's definition of jihad:

In the Muslim community, the holy war is a religious duty, because of the universalism of the Muslim mission and (the obligation to) convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force...It is (for them to choose between) conversion to Islam, payment of the poll tax, or death. (Muqaddimah, chapter 3.31). 

Isn't Ibn Khaldun a paradigm Muslim thinker? 

But one must be blind, or bigoted, or just willfully dishonest, to not see that the history of Islam as a whole is not just one massive bloodbath. There have been times of peace and stability where a progressive culture was created that produced philosophers and mathematicians and scientists.

That's pretty euphemistic. After military conquest and subjugation, there are periods of peace and stability. 

But the fact remains that, by God's common grace, a higher-order Islam has existed, and continues to exist through to this day. I KNOW, personally, Muslims who remain faithful to the central tenets of their faith who would never accept any definition of their faith that would lead them to murder their fellow men. Argue that they are not Muslims all you want: all you are doing is demonstrating why the conflict exists in the first place.

Are these the "street level" Muslims who "rarely read their own history"? Didn't he tell us in the podcast that we should discount their testimony, given how ignorant they are of their own religious tradition? 

But demanding that this corrosive form be taken as the ONLY representative of Islam is to make the very same mistake the secular world does in demanding I answer for the Westboro Baptists and Steven Andersons and Walid Shoebats of the world.

Once again, that comparison is vitiated by disanalogy. White doesn't think the position of Westboro Baptists and Steven Andersons of the world are Biblically justifiable. By contrast, he concedes "the toxic, self-destructive forms, which I have always said have deep and ancient roots in the Islamic tradition itself." Therefore, Muslims are answerable for jihadist massacres in a way that Christians are not answerable for Steven Anderson and the Westboro Baptists. 

White keeps using illogical arguments. Yet he's a professional Christian apologist. Is it asking too much that he be logically consistent?


  1. Someone please inform James White this is not 1939 and that Neville Chamberlain wants his spine back.

    Why you're at it tell him the average guy (or street level guy) doesn't care about his interllectual poppy cock... they want action from strong brave non-PC leaders, not tw-ts like him.

  2. It pains me to see two of my favorite apologists (both of whom are Calvinistic Baptists like myself) fight with each other.

    On the one hand I think Dr. White is right:

    - in pointing out and correcting the wrong impression that all Muslims are violent jihadists
    - in acknowledging the fact that many Muslims are sincerely peace loving
    - in pointing out that there are genuine traditions in Islam that promote peace

    On the other hand I think Dr. White is wrong in NOT emphasizing enough the fact (which he knows) that most modern forms of Islam around the world have the seeds (or already the trees) of violence in their sects, traditions, theology and practice. If nominal Muslims are ignorant of that, then he's doing them a disservice by not informing them of it. And of not showing how a better case could be made from the primary and earliest sources that more consistent forms of Islam support violence than don't. In fact, people who were only brought up in a Muslim community/tradition that teaches a peace loving form of Islam can easily change to a more violent ideology PRECISELY BECAUSE a better case for a more violent form of Islam is in better keeping with more of Muhammad's life and example (despite some of the other minority report traditions of Muhammad's irenic teachings and examples). The more serious a person becomes in their Islamic faith the greater the tendency toward violence (or sympathies towards it) rather than becoming more peaceful the more one studies Islamic theology and of Muhammad's life (who is supposed to be the paragon Muslim whom all Muslims ought to seek to emulate).

    When there's an outbreak of a deadly form of E. coli (say) in a restaurant, that's not the time to point out the logical fact that not all forms of E. coli are deadly (true as that may be), or even that most E. coli cultures aren't deadly. Rather, it's time to bring out the disinfectants. We can't let the abstract and theoretical facts obscure real world particulars and percentages. For example, when dealing with Mormons you get more done when you address the teachings of the main Mormon denomination rather than focusing on the smaller splinter groups.

    If these same peace loving Muslim people were confronted with the facts of how it's more consistent to be a violent Muslim than a peaceful one, it'll force them to make a choice. To either realize their inconsistency and so lead to their renunciation of Islam (and hopefully accept the true Jesus, the Prince of Peace) OR (unfortunately) lead to their becoming violent (or sympathetic to violence) Muslims.

    Some might argue that this approach will lead a greater percentage of Muslims becoming violent than renouncing Islam and so it's not worth it (i.e. creating more terrorists than non-Muslims). But it's not the duty of Christian ministers to veil spiritual errors and poisons that lead people to hell. Rather, it's their duty to expose it. And Islam is one of those damning worldviews/religions.

    I understand the reason why Dr. White often emphasizes differences among Muslims regarding the use of violence. It's in order to maintain his credibility so that he can continue to interact with and witness to Muslims. I commend him for that. But, for the sake of the glory of God, the Gospel, and lost Muslims I think he needs to focus more on Muhammad's life than on Islamic sects. By so focusing on the PERSON of Christ and the PERSON of Muhammad, the contrast between the two religions can be made more stark and the choices more clear.

    And so I recommend to everyone my blogpost where I collected links to 5 videos where Sam Shamoun and David Wood provide their:

    50 Reasons Muhammad is Not a Prophet [of God]

    1. //When there's an outbreak of a deadly form of E. coli (say) in a restaurant, that's not the time to point out the logical fact that not all forms of E. coli are deadly (true as that may be), or even that most E. coli cultures aren't deadly.//

      I think Christians, including myself, do need to be reminded that there isn't one type of Islam. Likewise, when I evangelize Jews I don't want to assume everyone is Chasidic.

      When everything is inflamed, this is a really good time to remind ourselves of this so we aren't afraid to reach out. And so we can be heard by non-violent Muslims. Accurately understanding each group is important.

      It is also important to note that Islam does have reasons for its history of violence. It isn't just random.

  3. Annoyed,

    Unless something has changed, I don't think Steve's a Baptist.

    1. Oh, I was under the impression that Steve was a Baptist theologically (even if he may attend a non-Baptist congregation).

  4. After Action Report Part 1
    On yesterday DL at 31:34 Dr White addresses Rich…

    “I get the feeling that Rich just had a similar debate… you have any idea how hard that was for me to survive that, that is not a sound proof wall.”

    I am the person that Rich had the “debate with”. So after some reflection I thought I would share my experience calling the DL. The following is my best recollection of the interaction I had with Rich. Somethings may be out of order to the actual sequence of events. Not by intention but just do to memory recall. Some things may have been left out. Not by intention, but do to memory recall. If Rich has anything to add that he recalls it would be welcomed, or anything he disputes, again it would be welcomed.

    I first called in just as the show started and asked Rich if Dr White would be taking any calls. He replied he did not know, and he only finds out 30 seconds before everyone else does, so I should just keep listening for the show.

    So I hung up and began listening to the show when Dr White started to address a FB interaction he had which I was part of. Since this FB interaction was the reason for my call I decided to call back to see if Dr White would like to let “The other side” respond. Something he often claims he does on his show.

    I explained to Rich just that, to which responded with…
    “What are you on the other side of?”

    I began to explain and said that I just wanted some clarification since Dr White seems to be separating Political Islam from Islam. I tried to explain that you cannot separate the two, and I asked “Are the flavors of Islam that Dr White seems to be promoting are they Historically Viable”

    Rich responded “No they’re not, but what does that have to do with anything”

    I then began to explain that Islam is a corporation, and that no corporation is a monolith, that there are different flavors of Communism, Socialism and National Socialism etc.., but when referring to them we would say they are all BAD, and would not need to spell out that there are different levels of understanding or interpretations with in these political doctrines.

    To be fair I don’t know how much of this got through or how much Rich heard, because 1. Calling into the show is not full duplex, and 2. He kept interjecting trying to get in his thoughts.

    Rich then did what James White decries, first he appealed to emotion and then got very emotional doing it.

    He said “What would you do about the nice Muslim woman who works with my wife” and then kept repeating “AND WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?”. To get an idea of the tone of this often repeated question, please view this clip from the show Ray Donavan.

    That is exactly what he sounded like, that is the image that came to my mind.

  5. After Action Report Part 2

    I asked him to dial back the emotions, and he responded saying “NO… “ and then I couldn’t make out the rest as I said the call was not full duplex.

    He then asked if he could speak and I said sure and I listened to what he had to say for a few minutes.

    First he did not understand my position and proceeded to go on about a position I do not have.
    He said that there are peaceful Muslims who have a peaceful interpretation of Islam and that not all Muslims are terrorists and that there are Muslims who are appalled by what these Jihadi’s are doing, and they want no part of that Islam…

    The call got disconnected. I called back and continued to listen to Rich speak on this issue.
    When it became my turn, I explained that what he just said is not my position, I agree that there are Muslims who are shocked and appalled, who do not want anything to do with violent Islam etc…

    That the real issue is that these same Muslims who are shocked and appalled by ISIS, also want to do what ISIS is doing. They want the Caliphate, they want to live under sharia law. And just like there were NAZI members who were shocked and appalled by what the NAZI’s where doing, they were still NAZI’s, and they were a part of it and they fed the beast. Not every Nazi member was a member of the SS, and not every SS member worked in the death camps, but they all wore the Deaths Head they all feed the beast.”

    I don’t know how much of this Rich heard or how much got through but it was at this time the conversation got really bizarre.

    He said the strangest thing. He said “that’s eschatology, pre millennial stuff”
    I said “I don’t know what you mean”

    He responded “Yah the Caliphate, that’s eschatology like the Puritans and pre millennial, end of the world stuff”.

    I responded that people have tried to explain to me pre millennialism and Millennialism etc.. but I don’t understand it and never had any interest in it.

    He then went on to throw the Puritans under the buss saying in a tone (see video) “Well the Puritans they had a belief and a political system, I wonder what would happen if they enacted their political system… OH THAT’S RIGHT THEY DID… AND THEY BURNED WITCHES” (Emphasis added because he really emphasized that part)

    I responded that was several hundred years ago and no one is wanting to go back to the days of burning witches, but Muslims do want to go back to the 7th century and the Caliphate.
    He then said “When was the last Caliphate.”

    I said “90 years ago” (yes I know it was 98 years ago) anyway he then responded with this…
    “Well that’s debatable”

    I responded “No its not debatable. As a matter of fact Sheik Yassir Quadi said in a lecture on the Caliphate, that the abolishment of the Caliphate after WW1 was the “greatest catastrophe that befell the Muslim Ummah before the creation of Israel, and since that day every Muslim has longed and prayed for its return”

    He then went back to his original “What are you going to do about it” stance on his wife’s coworker… he said what they are doing is proclaiming the gospel to which I replied yes keep doing that… he then asked “So then whats the problem” I then tried to explain again that just proclaiming the gospel and not addressing the political nature of this thing is not a complete solution.

    He then went back to again “What are you going to do about it” (again see video to get an idea of the tone) “What do you suggest be done come on I’m asking you to be take it to its logical conclusion to be consistent…”

  6. After Action Report Part 3

    I need to pause here and make note that this was also a constant theme. He wanted me to come up with some “solution” to take something to its logical conclusion. At first I did not understand where he was trying to lead, but after reflection I think what he was trying to do was get me to make statements like “Nuke Mecca” or “Deport them” or “Put them in a concentration camp”. None of this was the reason for my call and neither is it my position as something to be done now. All though all these things I can see a need for, which I will explain later. However that was not the reason for my call.

    Either way he continued to ask me “What are you gonna do, or what would you do about” his wife’s peaceful Muslim coworker.

    I tried to explain again that it’s not about individual Muslims they are not the authority on what corporate Islam is and is not, and that Islam is a political ideology just as much as a religious one… and that there were peaceful NAZI house wives, and peaceful NAZI bus drivers, and school teachers, etc… that everyone plays a part…

    He responded Ok what is your Part we are preaching the Gospel so what is your solution…
    I tried to explain that in the case of his wife’s friend, if she is peaceful she still needs to be monitored and watched and held with suspicion for the simple fact she holds to a political ideology, diametrically opposed to our political and economic system. Just like Communists and Nazi members are watched and monitored and held with suspicion. I even brought up how we did just that in the 1950’s.

    He then asked “Christians did that?”
    I said no that was the United States Government.
    He said “Well I got news for you we are not a government agency we are Christian ministry” he then went on to bring up some tax code…

    I responded “So as Christians we cannot pass legislation, we cannot defend ourselves and our nation, we cannot secure our borders, and decide who can enter and who can stay in our country…”

    He said “Dr White has often said that the biggest victims of Islam are Muslims”
    To which I laughed and said “yes I fully agree with that”.

    He then said “So what’s the problem”
    It was at this point that Rich said “well listen I have to go” and that was that.

    1. I think this is why Rich Pierce and James White never dialogue with anyone who actually holds this position. Delete comments, and never publicly interact with anyone who would refute their naive attitude towards Muslims. I very briefly considered inviting James White and/or Rich Pierce onto a Live Google Hangout on MY channel (not theirs) where they would never be muted or censored in any way, and we could actually debate this issue. However, Dr. White has already been caught dead-to-rights on their false charge against Steve Hays. And they deleted those comments. There's no way they'd stop onto someone else's platform to debate that or their attiude towards Muslims when they no longer have the ability to mute or otherwise censor their opposition when they say something they can't refute. And yet Dr. White wonders why it's so hard to get people to listen to him.

    2. BTW, do you still have your old blog?

    3. Me? Lol, it's still up, but I stopped updating it a while ago. I'm almost strictly YouTube now.

  7. "I think what he was trying to do was get me to make statements like “Nuke Mecca” or “Deport them” or “Put them in a concentration camp”-Radical Moderate

    This is likely. I've seen Rich do this to some other Christian on Facebook a few months back. The other guy was completely calm and Rich was very accusatory.

    1. Julie thinking more on this, he kept saying "I want you to take your position to its logical conclusion"

      Instead of him being interested in the logical conclusion of my position which he never took the time to hear, he should be more concerned with taking Islam to its logical conclusion and that is ISLAM>.

    2. Valid point. I wish Mr. Pierce treated fellow Christians with a little more charitable nature. We're not all dangerous bigots or uneducated hillbillies because we may differ with them on Islam.

  8. Steve,

    I must confess I watched in dismay as Dr. White once again haphazardly addressed this issue. For me, White is an excellent apologist and without a doubt an asset to the church. Yet whenever we come to this issue he, to coin his own phrase, melts down!

    Perhaps I am a romantic, or just plain foolish, but I watched the DL hoping that White would heed his own standard and acknowledge the diversity of his critics, but once again we saw him lump you in with the likes of the ignorant Anderson and company. And based on what? Your 'Muslim partisan' comment. It's as if White read those two words and nothing else!

    White's immediate default in these matters is to jump to the defence of 'diverse Islam' and set up his (now utterly boring) disanalogy with the cranks we have masquerading as biblical Christians.

    I can only conclude that, in his eagerness to try to win the hearts and minds of Muslims through his debates and dialogues, White has seriously hindered his own ability to think rationally when we come to these matters.

  9. Well isn't that a daisy? I've had posts deleted and been blocked from posting on the A&O Facebook page. Why? I made two posts, the first pointing out how shocked and sad I was at Pierce and White's shabby treatment of a sincere brother; the second admonishing Pierce for misrepresenting a poster by attributing ludicrous motives to them.

    For a couple of Christians who rave about consistency and against burning straw-men, the irony is astounding.