Some people, myself included, had noted that the Rational Religion’s cover photo of me amounted to an ad-hominem attack—a visual ad-hominem, that is. As a result, I responded to the following tweet where Rational Religion was on the defensive, as others had apparently been making a similar charge. Rational Religion seemed to miss the point entirely. I never claimed any of their articles made a written ad-hominem attack on my person. [archived tweet]
I’ve even seen comments from Ahmadi Muslims expressing the same concern that you didn’t need to do something underhanded like that. Clearly, I’ve gotten under your skin @TahirNasser, and your ego and arrogance blinds you to even see that you’ve overreached.
— Sohail Ahmad (@ReasonOnFaith)
As I have a few more thoughts to relay, I thought I’d write a quick post instead of a long series of tweets. While this post deals with the most overt example of condescension in this most recent work from Tahir Nasser, it’s not the only example.
There are other stylistic examples used in his material to cleverly discredit my intentions which I should eventually expand upon, although I’d rather get to the content of Tahir’s articles sooner.
I will however, relay one example here where, by putting my statements in direct quotes, allegedly to provide the reader with my exact statements (normally a good thing), the paragraph reads more cynically than it would have without the quote marks. Exact quotations are good, yes. But there’s a time and place to quote inline like this, and it’s usually done in this particular way to convey a mistrust of the sentiments one is quoting. Don’t believe me? Then try re-reading the passage in Tahir’s article as if it didn’t have the quotes around my words. The introduction to where I’m coming from would come across a lot more charitably. The “so far, so good” rejoinder makes for plausible deniability to the mistrust already telegraphed. Clever.
To be sure, Tahir is an intelligent and capable communicator, regardless of our religious differences. Unfortunately, he often leverages his talents for exactly this kind of condescension with people with whom he disagrees. [archived tweets]
If you look carefully, we didn’t do so out of malice or ill-will. If you look at the quote HE SCREENSHOTS we’ve actually quoted him multiple times, so as to acknowledge his own stated position. At the of the paragraph, we finished with “so far, so good”.
Why is this offensive? pic.twitter.com/cs4uuOapXo
— Tahir Nasser (@TahirNasser)
A Different Approach
I often have many article ideas in draft form to capture points I may want to expand upon in the future. Like many people who are reading too many books at once, it’s sometimes difficult to finish them all off in a timely fashion.
On Twitter, Tahir Nasser and I had often gone in circles. Part of that is of course, the nature of the medium. It’s brief. It lends itself to being terse.
So, about a year ago, I had begun an article where I would expand on some of my conversations with Tahir where I believed that a long form medium would be helpful to tease out where we talked passed one another, or where a simple tweet wouldn’t properly address what I felt was a mischaracterization or a misunderstanding.
Here’s a snapshot of the beginning of that draft article of mine to address some of our past exchanges.
I spent a few minutes to make sure I grabbed a frame from your video Tahir, that didn’t make you look awkward, and which captured you in an expression of sincerity.
I did it from your video to also capture your logo, font, and branding. For anyone who has worked with video, you’ll know that this requires some effort to grab the right frame.
My goal in taking this kind of care? Simple. To steel man your presentation. This wasn’t about how you looked. It was always about the content of your arguments and at times, the content of your character, as expressed in how you conducted yourself in exchanges.
When we take this level of care, Tahir, we put the focus on our arguments instead of distractions regarding personal attacks. The reason I picked up on this quickly, and tweeted my distaste for your approach and not the meat of your article contents is simply because I haven’t read all of your articles yet. Of course, I will get to them all in due time. I will read through all of your response articles with care and attention. You’ve obviously put some thought into these responses and they will make for an excellent springboard for an exchange of ideas.
And yes Tahir, you have responded to me. In my haste on Twitter, I mistakenly wrote “attempted response” when the concept I meant to convey was “attempted refutation”. You have obviously responded. The rest of my statement, with this correction, however, stands. And while a full accounting of that can only be done when I’ve read all of your articles, I can safely use the adjective attempted for the noun refutation as, per my skimming, I can see that many of your assertions are presenting claims adjacent to the points I am making, and not actually responding to my claims. Not in all cases.
The only thing fit for me to comment on at this early stage are those things which by definition, are very much on the surface. In this case, your visual portrayal. My not commenting on the depth of your articles (yet) is a way of giving them their due respect; they deserve to be read and reflected upon. And they will be.
Obviously, such an effort takes time. You started reading my work in order to respond “one fine winter morning”, and now it is summertime. So too, I will take my time to read and ponder your arguments, and tease apart your points where I feel they have missed the mark.
I’m not going to respond in a knee jerk fashion on Twitter to all of your points. True, upon a quick skimming there are some points which I can see you are making adjacent to the points I’m actually making. I’ve tweeted about those briefly to register that even this early in, I don’t agree with many of your characterizations. Until then, I’m certain that many Ahmadi Muslims will see the immediate vacuum of 15 “missing” response articles from me as some manner of a victory lap for you; that I have been “owned” and “defeated”. That’s fine. I won’t take that personally, as I’m glad that these people are now aware of my content and I look forward to having them read from my source material to judge for themselves, whether I am asserting what you have characterized in your work.
More so, I’m looking forward to having people engage with the material I will eventually put out in response to your critique. I can already see black and white fallacies in your responses where you conveniently omit from the reader that the way you’re interpreting a verse is very much in contrast to the earliest scholars, reasons for revelation, and lauded mufassirūn of the Qur’an. With those details, readers will eventually see that there’s more to the arguments than your simple packaging would lead one to prematurely conclude.
Of course, if I find any of your arguments to be strong, I will be happy to concede where I spoke out of turn, or where a conclusion of mine was ill-conceived. I’d love to believe that you would do the same. However, I know that it is much harder for the religious believer to do this. For, any admission of a mistake in a theological defence is to flirt with casting doubt on the entire enterprise of one’s religion. But hey, sometimes people do surprise us.