Muslims love a good cyber-fight. All it takes is one news article or community event for everyone to launch into each other, locking horns in an epic battle of Facebook rants. I’ve never been the type to get into these debates. I don’t have the confidence, zeal or energy to defend my opinions in public forums. But I do follow them with avid interest. I’m fascinated by people’s diverse opinions and I feel that these opinions deserve to be fully fleshed out. This is why I get really, really (really, really) annoyed when Muslims try to skirt around issues instead of tackling them head-on. The following are a list of lazy, diversionary tactics commonly pulled by Muslims in cyber-arguments:
1.) The Adab Card
Nothing irritates me more than when robust, healthy discussions are hijacked by some long-winded piece about adab. Adab is important. A reminder, unobtrusively placed, never goes astray. But to criticise someone’s adab rather than their arguments merely smacks of a lack of real insight. It’s a lazy way to throw an opponent offside. I cringe when someone tries to play it and secretly hope everyone will note it silently and continue with the discussion of the real issues at hand.
2.) The 70 Excuses Card
Again, this is a real principle, and an important one. But it gets played selectively in discussions to prevent people from airing real grievances. No one can claim to know a person’s intent; that much is obvious. But that doesn’t mean their actions can’t be critiqued.
3.) The Backbiting Card
This is yet another principle which gets distorted and flung around willy-nilly to stifle discussion. I’m no scholar, but pure logic suggests that critiquing actions without critiquing the person can hardly be dismissed as mere malicious backbiting. There’s also the small fact that actions committed in public often necessitate public discussion. Besides, the people who suggest private criticism is the only way to go fail to take into account the reality that such a course of action may have already been taken, or may not even be possible. Where are the 70 excuses now?
4.) The ‘Muslims are dying’ Card
This is one of my pet hates. Whenever a discussion starts to heat up, someone is bound to try and shut everyone up by attempting to make their discussion seem trivial and petty. ‘Muslims are dying in Syria, and you’re discussing this?’ ‘This is so trivial and such a waste of time. Go pray instead.’ Okay, well if it’s so trivial and beneath your notice, leave everyone else to discuss in peace.
5.) The ‘You’re so mean’ Card
Critical analysis is good. Whining is not. Some people don’t seem to be able to differentiate the two and immediately label anyone who engages in any kind of critical analysis as having ‘tall poppy syndrome’/not having a sense of humour/being too critical. Out come the ‘Muslims are like this’ and ‘Muslims are like that’ statements, threatening to take down the whole discussion if not nipped in the bud.
6.) The ‘Stop getting personal’ Card
This tactic for stalling discussion works in a couple of ways. The first of these involves a person trying to delegitimise someone’s argument by attacking them for the organisation they belong to, or the friends that they keep. The other way it works is the reverse of this. Let’s use an example to illustrate what I mean. X is critiquing Y’s actions. Z comes along and accuses X of ‘getting personal’ and attacking Y when all X was doing was discussing an action. It’s a variation of the Backbiting Card, and it’s just as annoying.
7.) The ‘Let’s all hold hands’ Card
I know the people who do this are often sincere, but it’s still irritating. In their efforts to get everyone to stop arguing they effectively stifle any legitimate complaints or issues people may have raised. Conflict isn’t nice. It can get ugly and messy, but it’s a necessary and healthy part of any society. Telling people to ‘just get along’ is somewhat condescending and ignores the realities of whatever issue is being discussed.
It’s fairly obvious from what I’ve said that I’m a huge fan of discussion and debate. I’ve benefited immensely from reading online discussions, which is why I get annoyed when people try to shut them down. Even when we don’t agree (especially when we don’t agree) there’s much to be gained from absorbing different perspectives.
Do you get involved in online debates? Do you see these tactics being used and do they annoy you as much as they do me?