Thursday, 15 November 2012

The coffee shop fallacy

This is the "coffee shop fallacy": you're in a coffee shop, an outdoor cafe somewhere.  In a pleasant square, maybe Taksim Square in Istanbul, or the Djemaa el-Fna in Marrakesh, or even in a non-Muslim country, Piazza Navona in Rome, say. And you get into a friendly discussion with the folk at the next table.  Turns out they're Muslims, they invite you to join them, maybe, or even dine with them.
And you come away thinking "goodness me, I never knew Muslims before and I always suspected them; now I find they're regular people.  That business about Islam being violent and dangerous: it must be wrong...".
Here it is in the latest incarnation in "The Stories of Our Fathers", by Aman Ali, IHT Global Opinion, 9 Nov.
Ali, a sometime stand-up comedian, gives a performance in Berlin, after which a fellow named David comes up to him:
“I’ve never met a Muslim before.”
He continued: “And I’ll be honest with you, I’m really afraid of you guys. I hear about all this stuff in the news, and the idea of Muslims living here really used to scare me. But then I saw your performance and learned about who you were, and I realized I forgot that we are all human beings. Now I feel ashamed to have ever been afraid.
You see this version of the "coffee shop fallacy"?  David meets one Muslim, the first one he's ever met (!), finds him pleasant, and so overturns his previous views. Now, I'd say that David ought to have been "ashamed to have ever been of afraid"; for that's not the proper reaction to resurgent Islam.  And it's probably the case that his previous views of Muslims and Islam were bigoted, to the extent that they were ignorant, based on no research. 
No, the correct reaction to resurgent Islam ought to be self-education. To learn about the Islamic Trinity; to find out about the ideology of Islam (even the BBC has implicitly acknowledged that Islam is an ideology). And then to take whatever action seems to be appropriate for one's circumstances: which at the very least ought to be to resist the Islamisation of western countries: whether it be more Sharia Courts, sexual segregation, promotion of Sharia Finance, muffling of freedom of speech and freedom to criticise for the sake of "sensitivity" to this one faith -- a sensitivity only to this one faith -- or of any other special treatment of the religion of peace over other religions.
In short, the reaction to resurgent Islam ought not be be "fear", on the one hand, or "the coffee shop fallacy" on the other ("this is a nice Muslim comedian, therefore Islam must be fine").  
The reaction should be knowledgeably robust resistance to the expansion of a uniquely intolerant religion.  
Andwe ought to try to stop its expansion if we care for the rights we have fought so hard for, in the west, over centuries. Western Enlightenment rights. 
The rights to freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of conscience and equal rights for women and minorities.
That ought to be the minimum -- resistance -- if this backward, anti-enlightenment and profoundly problematic religio-ideology is to be stopped.

See also my earlier post on this topic, here.