Friday, 23 March 2012

Accusations of Bias at WikiIslam: Beheading the Messenger

One of the most common complaints against the use of WikiIslam, and other similar sites, as a source on Islamic beliefs is that it is critical of Islam. The argument used by the more intelligent Defenders of the Faith ™ , rather than the ones who simply cry "hate site!", can be summed up with the following:

WikiIslam, by it's very nature (anti-Islamic), is a biased source.
A more accurate/neutral source that represents what Muslims believe would probably be an Islamic website.
It's easy to argue bias in the first instance, but the only argument in the second instance is humans suffer from universal bias.

I think this response is quite rational and correct, but only up to a certain point. There are many problems with this,  and I shall elaborate on them.

Sites critical of Islam

A site is only as good as the references it provides. If the references are reliable, the perceived bias of the site providing the information is irrelevant. It could be run by the grandmaster of the KKK and all the editors could be his evil minions, and it would not diminish the reliability of the information they provide.

What is being done here in order to defend Islam is "attacking the messenger", a subdivision of the ad hominem logical fallacy.

For example; I could hate the taste of sugary foods and claim "eating sugary foods can contribute to damaging your teeth". The fact that I hate sugary foods (yes, I'm a hate monger!) does not alter the validity of my claim.

Pro-Islamic sites

Regarding Muslim websites and representing what Muslims believe; anyone can open a website and claim to represent anything, so, knowing the type of Muslim site that is being referenced is more important than who is behind it. Are the sites scholarly or apologetic in nature?

Apologetics sites are hardly a reliable source about Muslim thinking. By their very nature, they are there to defend Islam from criticism, they are not there to reflect current Muslim thought on anything. They are just as guilty of bias as the sites critical of Islam are. For a Muslim to disparage sites critical of Islam, and then to present these sites as an alternative source for learning about Muslim beliefs, is extremely hypocritical.

Additionally, with scholarly sites, you have to consider whether or not the particular site that is being referenced is taken seriously by Muslims. Looking "scholarly" is irrelevant if Muslim in general disagree with the site.

Does WikiIslam accurately reflect Muslim Beliefs?

Putting WikiIslam to the test, I came across a forum discussion which included the discussion of Aisha's age at consummation. Some WikiIslam articles were cited by a user, and the response was:

Wiki Islam? Are you kidding me? Its a hate site.
Aisha's age at marriage.

All of those arguments presented in that article, and more, were first popularized by an apologist named Moiz Amjad. They have all been refuted by WikiIslam. Additionally, Shaykh Haddad, one of the most respected Islamic scholars alive today and someone who I respect immensely, replied to his polemics many years ago. His reply was never addressed by Moiz Amjad.

Isn't it strange that a "hate site" more accurately reflects mainstream Muslim beliefs than the site a  Defender of the Faith ™ provided?

It is the same with the issue concerning 72 virgins. Whilst Muslims will often provide you with articles that claim it's all a Jewish conspiracy, WikiIslam provides you with references from scholarly pro-Islamic sources (here, here & here).