Sunday, 1 November 2009

Argumentum ad consequentiam

Richard Dawkins in The Greatest Show on Earth, describes a “common fallacy called argumentum ad consequentiam – X is true (or false) because of how much I like (or dislike) its consequences” (ibid p 402).  That would about sum up the fallacy in the folks over at loonwatch, who argue that death for apostasy in Islam does not exist, despite the canonical and factual evidence for it.  The don’t want it to exist – for then how could Islam be the “Religion of peace and tolerance”? -- so it doesn’t exist. 
The censored my 800-word post (I posted it here instead), so I posted a little post, for they say that’s all they can bear.  This was published and  elicited a response from “Danios”,  but again he censored my response, so again, I’ve posted it below.
Is this important, or is it just an obscure argument on religious theory?  Well, it’s about whether or not there’s penalty for apostasy in Islam, up to and including the death penalty.   So yes, it’s important, if you consider the 1.2 billion Muslims, many of whom may fear death if they leave that baleful ideology.  People can and do get killed for leaving it .   There’s Rifqa Bary who has fled her home in fear of her pious Muslim parents, as she’d left Islam for Christianity.

If you’re new to this issue, then no doubt you’re going to find that the thought any punishment at all for thinking for oneself is shocking.  That one could be put to death for changing one’s religion is beyond shocking; it’s truly barbaric.  Of course, the apologists will say that Christianity had centuries to reform itself, so you have to give Islam a chance (give pious a chance).  But hey, folks, it’s been 1400 years already!  And these days things happen rather faster than they used to in the dark ages – in the non-Islamic world, at least…
Anyway, the exchange is below, only the first two of which were published by “Danios”.  Am I guilty of the argumentum ad consequentiam fallacy?  You judge.  Every time I check myself on it, I just have to raise my head from the keyboard and note that there are still eight countries that have the death penalty for apostasy, Iran as recently as 2008: Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Qatar, Yemen, Iran, Sudan, Afghanistan and Mauritania.  In many other Islamic countries apostasy is punishable or actively discourage.  Read on…
Peter Forsythe Says: 
October 29th, 2009 at 10:00 pm
Egypt’s Grand Mufti, Ali Gomaa, confirms that there is punishment for apostasy, as does the Islamic Research Centre of al-Azhar University, supporting him: there is punishment “in this life” for apostasy.
Article in Gulf News  July 07.

Peter, thank you for keeping your post short and to the point. Unfortunately every single word and letter in your comment is incorrect, despite how knowledgeable you thought of yourself when you posted it.
First: Ali Gomaa is not the head of Al-Azhar. Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi is the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar and holds the highest position of authority there. Please click here to see that clearly. Tantawi’s view on apostasy is that “peaceful apostasy” is not to be punished. It is only to be punished if it is coupled with seditious acts against the state.
Second: as for the Islamic Research Department of Al-Azhar, here is their view on the matter:
“The Islamic Research Department of Al-Azhar University has called the penalty for apostasy as null and void and has said that the ways of repentance are open for the whole life…So an apostate can repent over his mistake anytime during his life and there would be no fixed period for it.” (source: Al-Alamul Islami, Rabita Alam al-Islami, Aug. 23rd, 2002)
Third: You are incorrect about Ali Gomaa. His view is that apostasy is only to be punished if the apostate poses a seditious threat to the state. Initially, his comments against the punishment for apostasy were included in the Washington Post. After that, Gulf News published an article saying that he was misquoted, which you duly included in your comment. Unfortunately, in your haste, you did not come to know that a third article was then published in the Middle East Times in which Ali Gomaa said that it was in fact the Gulf News which misquoted him. In the Middle East Times article, Ali Gomaa says: “Some members of the press and the public understood this statement as a retraction of my position that Islam affords freedom of belief. I have always maintained the legitimacy of this freedom and I continue to do so.” So the top two Imams of Sunni Islam reject the death penalty for apostasy.
Three strikes, Peter. You’re out.
Do you realize now why I didn’t approve your huge misinformed post before? It would have taken me too long to point out all your numerous mistakes.
Tell me: did you enjoy having your ass handed to you?
Btilliant work Danios! I had a good chuckle at your response to Peter, you truly showed him up, i bet he is licking his wounds somewhere, and hasn’t had time to assess if he “enjoyed having his ass handed back”…Oh beautiful…… ROTFL
EDIT by Danios: Thanks for your comment. I snipped some of your post simply because I didn’t want to extend the debate. Hope you don’t mind and can trust me on this. Thanks.
My response, not published by Danios:
Thanks for your response.
First, I did not say that Ali Gomaa was the head of al-Azhar. I said he was Grand Mufti. 
Second, Ali Gomaa’s comments are hardly unqualified and ringing condemnations of penalty for apostasy, given that he calls it a “grave sin” (heavily punishable under Islamic law), and that apostates should be punished if they “endangered society”.  (Who’s to decide that?).  [1]
The same article notes that:
“In many Muslim societies, there is a long-held view – not necessarily supported by scripture - that the punishment for apostasy is death.”
Not necessarily” means it is debatable.
Third, Grand Imam of al-Azhar, Sayyid Tantawi’s comments on apostasy [2] are that apostasy should not be punished only if it does not “pose a threat” or “belittle Islam”.  “Belittling” of Islam is a loophole one could drive a truck through.
For example, Hossam Bahgat said: “Even though it is not a criminal offense in Egypt, [apostates] get detained under emergency laws or are put on trial for contempt of religion if they wish to convert.” [1]
Fourth, re the Islamic Research Centre (IRC) of al-Azhar, you quote (with no reference) a representative as saying, in 2002, that the penalty for apostasy is “null and void”.  However, five years later, Mustafa Al Chaka a senior official of the IRC said:  "He [Gomaa] cannot deny punishment in this life for the apostate." (Gulf News, July 24 2007 [3]).  Is Mustafa Al Chaka an “Islamophobe”?
[A]   Your conclusion: “So the top two Imams of Sunni Islam reject the death penalty for apostasy.”
[B]  A disinterested conclusion: “Two of the top Imams of Sunni Islam make contradictory and qualified statements about the punishment for apostasy; if a legalist were looking for cause for capital punishment for apostasy, they would find comfort in those statements.”