Good Manners in Debate Put to the Test

It was only a few days ago that I posted on the importance of maintaining good manners when discussing religion with others. The following day, I was resoundingly put to the test on this very issue! Alhamdilulah, fortunately I have thought about this issue a great deal (long before posting on it) and was thankfully fully conscious of myself and the situation as it was taking place, which prevented me from reacting in the wrong way. Indeed, it was clear to me that God was putting me to the test – I understood the concept in theory, now how about in practice? In the midst of the situation, I was reminded of one of the first verses of Quran I have memorized:

“Ahasiba an nas an yutraku an yakulu amana wa hum la yuftanoon?”

“Do people think they will be left alone after saying, “We believe,” and not be tested? (29:2)

Islam is not merely a philosophy that we can spend all our time pondering and use its wisdom to analyze situations and circumstances – it is much more than that. After a great deal of thought, reflection, and understanding, we must then put our knowledge to the test by living it out and practicing it in real life.

The specific situation in which I was put to the test involved a friend of mine from undergrad on Facebook, of all places. My friend had made a comment in opposition of the NYC mosque on his status, and some of his friends commented with supportive, ignorant remarks. Normally I don’t get involved in debates on Facebook because the opportunity for misunderstanding and hurt feelings is quite high (the most important communication tool is nonverbal communication, which is nonexistent online!). However, because I knew my friend as a reasonable and open-minded person, I decided to provide some facts. Here is the exchange below:

My friend: They could’ve chosen any other site in the country to build the super mosque and I wouldn’t have a problem with it. Does it really have to be in Manhattan? At Ground Zero? Is that not a thinly-disguised middle finger/victory sign? If it’s acceptance they want, this would seem to be the wrong way to go.

Person A: I posted something similar on my status as well. I think it’s crazy!

Person B: yikessss!

Person C (another friend of mine whom I thought was reasonable): I agree with you (name of friend)!

Person D: Amen, yo.

Person E: Do the classy thing?

Person F: Revenge, American styleโ€ฆ Chuck E Cheese’s of Mecca

Person F: Thinly-disguised middle finger? I think it’s the spike of the football in the endzone followed by the Ickey Shuffle.

Person G: nah…. we need a hooters in Mecca, and strip clubs in every Saudi village, and a Bob Jones University in Ryiadh..

Me: โ€Ž(sigh)…
1. Extremist terrorists are responsible for 9/11. The 90% + of the rest of 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide CONDEMN acts of terrorism and 9/11 in particular.
2. The Quran expressly prohibits the murder of innocent life (chp 5 v32)….
3. Those building the mosque also condemn the 9/11 attacks (see their website: http://www.cordobainitiative.org/).
4. Several Muslims also died as victims in the 9/11 attacks, and a mosque inside the towers was destroyed as well.
5. bin Laden and other terrorists would happily murder the leadership of this mosque as imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is Sufi, not Wahabi.
6. They are not building it on ground zero itself.
7. This mosque is nothing new; there are other mosques in the area: the imam for the new mosque has been at another mosque 12 blocks from ground zero for the past 20+ years.
8. Muslims have had a strong presence in NYC for over 100 years.
9. In sum, these Muslims have nothing to do with 9/11. Building a mosque in NYC is just like building anything else there.

Hope that helps clear up any confusion, misunderstandings, or disinformation. ๐Ÿ™‚

Person F: Yea! A wacky liberal has been drawn out of the bushes. (like a moth to a flame) I’m grabbing the popcorn. This is about to get real entertaining. Ladies and Gentlemen….herrrrrrreeeeeeeee’s (Person G)!

Person G: (My name), it is blatently, clearly, obvious, that YOU, are the one furthering that which you CLAIM, to discourage..

When do we get the David Duke Museum in Selma, or the Julian Stryker hall of remembrance near Auschwitz?

Or the Conference on ho…w Eicmann and Mengele were just misunderstood, to be held in Tel Aviv?

Person G: of course….right on cue…..

Person G: I’ll be okay with it, when and only when, this is allowed first….

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Everybody-Draw-Allah/136441216391250?ref=ts#!/photo.php?pid=24518&o=all&op=1&view=all&subj=136441216391250&aid=-1&id=100001450896448

Person G: โ€Ž1. Muslims…. were responsible
2. Wrong….. I know it too, your quote reference doesn’t mention it ….
http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/Quran/023-violence.htm

3. What about the founder not condemning Hezzbollah….
http://prayerandaction.com/?p=6998

4. What about the Jews and Christians murdered by Muslims on 9/11, including many of personal Colleagues?

5. Not murder, praise…. That’s Usama and the other goat fuckers would do.
6. Like that matters.. and yes, you know it… deep down, you do…. You can pretend and be hypocritical otherwise, but deep deep deep down, you know.. its a slap to our nation, which is, JUDEO….CHRISTIAN….. SORRY, ITS TRUE….. DEAL WITH IT!!!!!!!!
7. YES…. IT IS NEW… YOU TWIT!!
8. That doesn’t make it right..
9. Trust but verify….. Since they have proven beyond any shadow that they can’t be trusted, why should we bother…

HERE’S THE DIRTY LITTLE SECRET.THAT NNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! IS TALKING ABOUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

if…………….. they can’t build a mosque there, then the same people can tell those who made this country, our fellow Christian and Jewish brothers, when and where they , can and can’t hold worship, pray, etc…..

That’s what anti american, Muslim apologizing, jew and christian hating, intellectual liberal progressive types want and desire….

We have nothing to apologize for and everything to be proud of and why not??????????????

…………..BECAUSE………………………WE….are Americans………

Born and living in the greatest country founded on principles founded by god, not………….. a used carpet salesman.
http://thereligionofpeace.com/

My friend: (My name) — You don’t find it to be in any way distasteful? You don’t see how it would be perceived as such?

Me: Goodness. ๐Ÿ˜€

(My friend’s name): I really don’t, just like I wouldn’t find it distasteful for a church to be built next to any of the number of bombed abortion clinics or sites where abortion clinic providers were murdered. There is a stark difference between marginal, extremist Christians and mainstream Christians. The same is the case with this mosque. It is important to differentiate between extremists, who exist in all ideologies, and the majority of everyone else.

The real issue here is simply ignorance. Ignorance is the true enemy, as it causes a great deal of harm to others and most of all, to yourself.

Person G: Precisely, please recognize yours….

Ok so a lot of issues can be deduced from this exchange. First, I should mention that when I read the exchange before commenting, I felt so shocked that two of my friends would participate in such ignorance; people who are college educated and open-minded. In fact, as I was trying to write my initial response, I had a hard time even typing because I was shaking from the anxiety (I HATE HATE conflict and often start having serious panic attacks). Nevertheless, I wanted to present the facts from the original sources (i.e. the Quran, the website of the proposed mosque, and so on), since it was clear all the commentators are using secondary sources (which are often ripe with bias, misinformation, or omission of facts) as a basis to form their opinions. I also tried to end on a positive note, as God has said that we should wish others peace, and to always give excuses for their behavior (by attempting to frame my remarks as being offered for the purpose of clearing up confusion or disinformation through no fault of their own – the problem is the information they have, not them personally).

Yet, you can see for yourselves what sort of derogatory attacks I received in response. Surprisingly, when I read the responses later, I wasn’t breaking out in a panic attack, I was amused and calm. The truth reveals itself every time. The facts that I provided were not in dispute; instead, attacks on my personal character were rampant. There were gross assumptions made with no basis whatsoever. I just hoped that my friends would read that and feel very uncomfortable because they know who I am. I was probably the most uptight, conservative person they knew when we were in school together (they all went to bars and parties while I refused to even be in a place that served alcohol – and most definitely never touched alcohol! This was all when I was still a strictly practicing Christian). My friends know very well that I am none of those things I was accused of.

Nevertheless, I refrained from responding to Person G, as he had revealed himself as being close-minded, foolish, and uninterested in an intellectual discussion of the truth. Imam Jafar as-Sadiq has said that arguing with a fool is like putting wood on a fire, and the Quran tells us to deal with these types of people by simply wishing them peace and walking away. Further, any response to Person G would have simply been a repeat of all the points I made in my original comment, so I had nothing more to add. Addressing his personal attacks would only deviate the discussion from the main point, and since I don’t know him, I have no interest in or need for defending myself.

Instead, I chose to address my friend, since it was for his sake that I posted my comment in the first place, and because he was the only one who responded respectfully.

Of course, Person G had to respond yet again, in an attempt to jab at me once more to get me to respond to him. I was also a bit disappointed that my friend didn’t respond again, especially since I felt he should have spoken up against the accusations being made against me as he is the one who actually knows me personally.

But, in the end, I walked away from the incident feeling very positive about the experience, and happy that God had enabled me to carry out His injunction to discuss faith with the best of manners. I knew that I had spoken the truth and nothing of my own. I also felt confident that there were many others on Facebook, my friends, my friends’ friends, and the friends of the other commentators, could see our exchange via the news feed. The spectators and people on the periphery should be the ones we always keep in mind in any debate we have. There may be no hope whatsoever for the person we are talking to, but for those on the edges, listening in, those are the ones who may very well be seriously considering what you have said. It becomes even more important to remain in control and refrain from getting angry and firing back insults, as once we do that, the spectators will conclude that we are just like the one we’re discussing with, we’re both wrong, and may stop listening. But, if you keep yourself at a higher level, stand by your own code of ethics and standards, you will absolutely attract attention and respect.

It was a really good lesson for me, and I thank God for giving me this opportunity to put my words to action. I am also grateful that it took place in a written format, as in verbal conflict I typically get too anxious to respond very well!

Alhamdilulah.

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8 thoughts on “Good Manners in Debate Put to the Test

  1. Hi Sakina,
    Isn’t that the way it always goes:
    you firmly state a belief and then, you are promptly tested as to your strength.
    Great response.

    You make a great point about another mosque being close by for more than 20 years.
    No one seemed to notice.
    You made a great point about Muslims also being killed in the 911 attacks — (something that no one wants to admit) and that in no way is this Imam associated or would be approved by Bin Laden. (But, no response to that either).

    I am not sure where I stand —
    But, not for any of the reasons mentioned by those on Facebook.
    I think that it has the potential to escalate an already tension filled relationships between Muslims and Christians—
    which by the way, I don’t feel our nation is “Christian” at all.
    We are Christian in name, but
    the hate mongoring, money hoarding, questionable business practices, (must I go on) that is supported by most people of America who also call themselves “JudeoChristian,” is outrageous.
    So, I guess, the tension is more aptly between Muslims and nominal Christians who seem to be more patriotic than Christians.

    I am glad that you put it on your blog. Will you allow me to grab your response — if necessary?

    • Thanks for your comments, Jamily – I appreciate the support. You are an excellent example of how we should discuss issues with one another; respectfully and factually!

      I think you’ve hit on an important point too: it seems like a lot of nominal Christians are in outrage over this. I think the reasons for this are that nominal Christians aren’t intimately familiar with the teachings of the Bible and of Jesus specifically. Jesus taught us that we should be peacemakers, to love our ‘enemy’, and to turn the other cheek. It seems that all these basic principles are lost on some individuals who pick and choose what parts of the religion they want to follow and what parts they don’t. These same individuals also put country before God, which is very dangerous. Putting country first means there is no system of balance and accountability, as the ethics and morals given to us by God are thrown out the window (as we can see today with much of what our country is doing).

      I also think it is ironic how protesters of the mosque call themselves patriotic but are dead-set on denying other groups freedom of religion.

      I agree with you that it most certainly could escalate tensions between Muslims and (nominal) Christians, but I don’t necessarily see that as a negative thing. Since the tension stems from ignorance about Islam and about mainstream Muslims, I don’t think the Muslims should cower and hide, but I think those in opposition should take responsibility by educating themselves. I also think this mosque will continually be in the spotlight, so it is a perfect time for the leadership there to really speak out about the truth of Islam and help educate and fight against all the myths and lies.

      And yes of course, you can use my response if needed! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. As my philosophy professors used to say, repeatedly, ad nauseum, “If you have to resort to swearing, you’ve already lost the argument.”

    Your responses were awesome. I’ve had that experience where you suddenly learn something…new…about friends. It’s like, “Who are you? What did you do with Bob? Didn’t your alien overlords properly imprint you before you replaced him?”

    • Very good quote from your professors – and so true!! Unfortunately, this seems to be a common technique utilized by certain news channels – and then their viewers begin to think that this constitutes good debate skills, LOL.

      One of my Arab friends was aghast when he first saw one of these shows. He couldn’t believe these people had jobs and that they actually had viewers! I can hardly stomach it myself just from being in an academic environment for so long… it is entirely counterproductive to derail the conversation to insults and swearing. It provides no solutions and only puts up walls and obstacles between the two sides. If you can’t make your point with fact and logic, then you have some obvious flaws in your viewpoint.

  3. I think your response was very restrained, considering! Well done for stopping the ‘conversation’ when you did. With me, that’s often the hardest part! As you say, it’s worth the ‘debate’, just so that others can see it taking place, sometimes.

  4. SubhanAllah. It’s just so ridiculous. I don’t understand why people think that it’s okay to be rude and insensitive. MashaAllah I think you approached it and dealt with it in a very mature way, alhamdulillah that if someone else reads that at least inshaAllah they will see the true face of Islam.

  5. I’ve recently had the “pleasure” of discussing religion with a “friend” on Facebook. We’ve all been watching the Olympics and cheering for our country (Brazil) and the women’s volleyball team won the gold medal against the USA. It was a highly emotional victory as these things tend to be and the women on the court were obviously over the moon, which I always love because I figure they work a lot toward that goal and they deserve it. So in the middle of all the running around the court, the entire team plus their coach and the rest of the people who work with them went to their knees, joined hands and prayed. It was just “our father” and it was over with fairly quick.

    My friend made the following comment on his status:

    Apparently, god loves some of his daughters more than others… lol

    And then responded that he felt the court wasn’t the place for that particular display of faith, specially as there are millions of atheist watching the game and cheering on them. And he thought it was disrespectful with these atheists (like himself) to be praying after the game on TV. And specially because the coach thanked God first. He also felt the prayer was “unnecessary”, I don’t really see how he can be the judge on what’s necessary when it comes to prayers.

    I’m a catholic myself, though I admit I don’t go to church as much as I should or observe the rituals of my religion. But that comment irked me in a way I can’t really explain. His main argument was that praying should be restricted to homes and churches, not game courts after a victory because it could offend the atheists! Now I respect the fact that he has no faith. If he’s happy with that belief, then I wish him nothing but the best. I’m comforted by the belief that there’s something bigger than me, that there’s someone I can call to when I’m in need, that there’s someone to thank for all the blessings in my life.

    But the idea of restricting the place where is acceptable for a person to observe his or her’s beliefs feels a lot like repression for me. And I don’t understand how this friend, who claims to be so open-minded can defend such idea.

    I did my best to explain my arguments in the most non-agressive manner I could. I even quoted to him the Universal Bill of Rights and how freedom of religion is being able to observe your faith individually or not, in private or in public. But of course, those arguments he ignored. He simply focused on the fact he thought it was absurd that I was even criticizing him for having an opinion. Though I felt like telling him the meaning of tolerance, and how it goes both ways, I decided the best thing for everyone’s sake was to acknowledge that since we weren’t going anywhere with that argument it was best of me to take myself out of the discussion.

    To make matters more interesting, this person is a homossexual. Which makes me really wonder about the state of things where someone who is in an oppressed minority feels it’s okay to censure someone for practicing their faith and then later claim that’s not being intolerant.

    I can’t begin to understand what it’s like to be a Muslim in a country that has a tendency to say whatever comes to mind without putting any real thought behind it and later claiming “freedom of speech”. But there is some peace in knowing we are not the ones that are wrong. God does finds us the trials we are ready to face when we need to face them. And I do feel every little rock on the way makes us grow as people. Ignorance is not bliss, people need to be informed, it’s sad that most of them don’t want to be informed. And we really can’t force them down and say: no, not all Muslims are bad, just like not all Christians are good. People do bad things in spite of their religions. Though I know little about Islam, most religions I know ask for peace and not more war. Most religions ask us to love our neighbor, not kill him.

    Thank you for the text. It’s good to know I’m not the only one who gets frustrated by people trying to sound cool on the internet by slamming some religion or another.

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