• My understanding Islam debate now available online – please check it out!

    I recently had a fascinating debate with David Warden of the Dorset Humanists concerning Islam, which I have written fairly extensively about. The debate was really well-mannered and a pleasure to be involved with. Thanks to the Dorset Humanists for hosting and inviting me. Here it is:

    I was arguing, as I have done here, that Islam more properly lends itself to a conservative interpretation, including violence and intolerance of non-Muslims, than to a liberal or moderate interpretation. Please let me know what you think.

    Category: DebatesExtremismFeaturedIslamReligion and Society


    Article by: Jonathan MS Pearce

    • Michael R

      I think you need to write another book: How To Debate a Post-Modern Apologist For Islam. LOL.

      I groaned when David Warden raised the post-modern essentialism argument i.e. there is no true Islam, and you can define it anyway you like. Ugh. It’s like debating Bruce Lee, your opponent dissolves like water.

      How to defeat the essentialism argument? Maybe the answer is to take the debate into the realm of “the battle of memes”.

      We know that memes need certain qualities for persistence e.g. they must be clear and compelling.

      The history of Islam seems to be the swinging between two memes (1) classical jihadism/martyrdom for your 72 virgins, interspersed with periods of (2) humanism i.e. where human nature rebels against Islam’s perpetual wars.

      This historical pendulum is summarised in the Koranic verse: “Fighting is prescribed for you, and ye dislike it”.

      So, Warden chooses to highlight those humanist periods of Islamic history and he wants us to encourage that sort of Islam.

      That’s okay but does it really solve the problem? The problem being: how to contain the jihadist meme?

      This is where we diverge into different camps: those who think the meme is best battled with an old fashioned containment policy; those who think we should try to ideologically/intellectually disarm the jihadist argument; and those who think we should just ignore the bad interpretation of Islam and focus on the good.

      Which one is right? Tough question. We need a meme futurist to answer that.

      Personally, I favour an old fashioned containment policy. The violent role model of Mohammed makes Islam a uniquely dangerous religion, and the jihad meme will persist into the foreseeable future, and thus we need to treat Islamic doctrine in the same manner as other dangerous ideologies like Nazism and Communism.

      If we look at David Warden’s approach, it seems like a weak meme i.e. it’s not very clear what his interpretation of Islam actually is; it requires a creative interpretation of the Koran to find its “true and peaceful” message; and it’s not very compelling from a religious viewpoint if you have read the biography of Mohammed.

      • Thanks for your comments, Michael.

        In total honesty, I am not sure what the course of action should be, only that I am fairly certain it must include secularism.

    • Michael R

      Regarding the meme wars, here’s an awesome article about the strength of the Islamic memeplex. This explains (a) the persistence of Islam and (b) the unlikelihood of defeating it with a soft approach:

      The Terrifying Brilliance of the Islamic Memeplex


    • I’ll review your debate if you’ll review mine. It’s on the resurrection and was with a Pr Vocab Malone.

      Who am I kidding…I’ll probably review your debate anyways.