In medieval Arabic literature, maqama were collections of tales recounted in a mixture of poetry and prose. Each vignette described the accomplishments of a sly trickster who hoodwinked his adversaries using deceptive rhetoric.
In recent days here at Gates of Vienna we’ve had our own silver-tongued Arab dazzling us with his maqama in comments on various posts. Dubbing himself “Muslim”, he left a series of reasonable-sounding, carefully balanced comments whose style verged on the unctuous. When anyone responded to him, he offered additional soothing bromides with equal verbal virtuosity.
It was clear when “Muslim” posted his first comment here that we had been graced with the presence of a sophisticated taqiyya artist on the level of Maajid Nawaz or Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf. His comments and responses were carefully tailored to make him seem more tolerant and reasonable than any but the canniest of his fellow commenters.
Countering the rhetorical deceptions of maqama writers is a difficult and time-consuming task. They are adept at sliding out from under any attempt at refutation, all the while maintaining the persona of a calm, dispassionate, and thoroughly reasonable interlocutor. So I watched Muslim’s contributions with interest, paying special attention to the way he parried any criticism of Islam by other commenters, while I waited for an opportunity to offer a meaningful response.
Muslim’s preferred technique was to deflect any critical discussion of Islam by initially making a mild acknowledgment of some Islamic fault, followed immediately by an assertion pointing out an equal or greater fault in Western culture or history. This is a favorite tactic among “moderate” Muslims who do rhetorical battle with the kuffar — trot out the Crusades, or the Inquisition, or pogroms against the Jews. Or — their all-time favorite — the Holocaust. This sends their opponents haring through the underbrush, defending against whichever Christian or Jewish or atheist atrocity was adduced, and leaving the original issue concerning Islam all but forgotten.
It’s not worth engaging a maqama practitioner unless one has plenty of time and an inexhaustible amount of patience. And successive counterarguments always turn the exchange into a war of attrition — he will never truly concede a point, and will continue parrying any attempts at refutation until Judgment Day arrives.
If you decide to cross swords with a commenter like Muslim, it’s important to remember the best way to do it, to avoid the traps that he continually lays for his kuffar antagonists. I’ll have more to say about tactics later in this essay, but first I’ll present my interactions with him to show why he is no longer welcome to comment at Gates of Vienna.
I knew that I would eventually have to ban Muslim, but first I needed to demonstrate to my own satisfaction that he was not commenting in good faith, but was in fact a maqama troll.
My expectation was that a sufficiently skilled reply to him would elicit no response. Sure enough, when he mentioned the Crusades, I asked him a question (about how Syria, Palestine, and Egypt became Muslim after formerly being Christian) and received no reply.
That was strike one, and I was only going to allow him two strikes. I was eventually presented with another opportunity when he left this comment:
The proselytizing violence is an overplayed stereotype, which does not reflect the reality of roughly 20% plus of humanity.
Anyone can pick a large enough population, apply constant monitoring & then highlight fringe behaviour as representing the norm to the ignorant or agenda-driven echo chambers. [emphasis added]
By including the highlighted statement he had made himself vulnerable to fact-based refutation, because violence is deeply embedded in the scripture and laws of Islam, and is in fact the major technique employed to convert non-Muslims to Islam — or convert them into milch-cows for their Islamic masters.
First I told him this:
I have asked you reasonable questions previously and received no answers. If you fail to answer the questions detailed below, I shall assume that you are a troll, and any subsequent comments by you will be deleted.
And then I presented a carefully prepared rebuttal, drawing on the groundbreaking work of Major Stephen Coughlin to lay out the basis for jihad in Islamic scripture, tradition, and law:
You say: “The proselytizing violence is an overplayed stereotype”.
There is a text of Islamic law that defines jihad. In full, its title is ‘Umdat al-salik wa ’uddat al-nasik, or The reliance of the traveller and tools of the worshipper. It is commonly referred to as Reliance of the Traveller when cited in English.
The Revised Edition (published 1991, revised 1994) is “The Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law ‘Umdat al-Salik by Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri (d. 769/1368) in Arabic with Facing English Text, Commentary, and Appendices”, edited and translated by Nuh Ha Mim Keller. The publisher is listed as amana publications in Beltsville, Maryland.
It is an authoritative source on Sunni Islamic law, because it is certified as such by Al-Azhar University in Cairo. There is no higher authority on Sunni Islamic doctrine than Al-Azhar. The government of Saudi Arabia has given its seal of approval to this translation as an authoritative source on the fiqh.
Book O, “Justice”, § 9 begins the section on jihad. Jihad is similarly defined in Book X “The Book of Jihad” from Ibn Rushd’s book The Distinguished Jurist, and in Book XIII “Siyar (Relations with non-Muslims)” of the Hidayah:
Jihad means to war against non-Muslims and it is etymologically derived from the word mujahada signifying war to establish the religion. And it is the lesser jihad.
It goes on to explain that the greater jihad is the struggle for the spiritual self. However, it also tells us that the hadith that is weak or false, depending on what authority is referenced, so is not authoritative. When the book refers to the greater and lesser jihad, it indicates that it is not a part of the law of jihad.
The following passage is from an English-language high school textbook from the Islamic Center of Oakland, California:
To be true Muslims, we must prepare and be ready for jihad in Allah’s way. It is the duty of the citizen and the government. The military education is glued to the faith and its meaning, and the duty to follow it.
Take a look at Koran 4:95:
Not equal are those believers who sit at home and receive no hurt, and those who strive and fight in the cause of Allah with their goods and their persons. Allah hath granted a grade higher to those who strive and fight with their goods and persons than to those who sit at home. Unto all in Faith Hath Allah promised good: But those who strive and fight Hath He distinguished above those who sit (at home) by a special reward…
Majid Khadduri, a professor at Johns Hopkins University, wrote War and Peace in the Law of Islam (1955):
It follows that the existence of a dar al-Harb is ultimately outlawed under the Islamic jural order; that the dar al-Islam is permanently under jihad obligation until the dar al-Harb is reduced to non-existence; and that any community accepting certain disabilities must submit to Islamic rule and reside in the dar al-Islam or be bound as clients to the Muslim community. The universality of Islam, in its all embracing creed, is imposed on the believers as a continuous process of warfare, psychological and political if not strictly military. (pp. 63-64)
Continuing with the discussion of the “lesser” jihad Reliance of the Traveller says:
The scriptural basis for jihad, prior to scholarly consensus is such Koranic verses as:
- Fighting is prescribed for you (Koran 2:216)
- Slay them wherever you find them (Koran 4:89)
- Fight the idolators utterly (Koran 9:36)
And at o9.0:
… and such hadiths as the one related by Bukhari and Muslim that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said:
“I have been commanded to fight people until they testify that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and perform the prayer, and pay the zakat. If they say it, they have saved their blood and possessions from me, except for the rights of Islam over them.”
I could go on, but you get the idea.
I’ll just add a short quote from The Quranic Concept of War, which was written in 1979 by the serving Brigadier General S. K. Malik when he was chief of staff of the Pakistani army.
So spirited, zealous, complete and thorough should be our preparation for war that we should enter upon the ‘war of muscles’ having already won the ‘war of will’. Only a strategy that aims at striking terror into the hearts of the Enemies from the preparation stage can produce direct results and turn Liddell Hart’s dream into a reality. (p. 58)
So please explain to me: How do you determine that “The proselytizing violence is an overplayed stereotype” in Islam?
Or: Which verses of the Koran, and which authentic Hadith, are you willing to repudiate?
After posting this response, I waited. I did not expect an answer — when cornered by an argument that he can’t convincingly answer, a maqama troll will simply ignore it.
And that’s what happened in this case. For more than 24 hours Muslim ignored my questions, all the while leaving dozens of comments on other posts and in response to other commenters. After those 24 hours his time was up, and I started deleting his comments. He left eight or ten more, which I promptly consigned to the trash can.
Eventually he must have noticed that nothing he wrote was getting through, and returned to my rebuttal to deliver his (lame) response. At that point I could have rescinded the ban, approved his comment, and fisked it in response. However, that would have led me down an endless rabbit hole of point-counterpoint, which is the whole purpose of the exercise for the maqama troll: to make Islam-critics argue at length indefinitely, and take up massive quantities of their time, thus effectively diverting them from their mission, to no real purpose.
However, it would be useful and informative to present Muslim’s response to me here, as a case study in what a maqama writer does when he has been backed into a rhetorical corner:
Step 1: Unctuous flattery
Baron — With respect, as with most here, I do work & play, along with spending some leisure time here, so I can see differing views. As a someone who is contrarian by nature, I enjoy reading & participating.
I appreciate that you have allowed someone who is on the “Other” side space to engage in hopefully civil discourse.
Step 2: The first lie, feigning unawareness
I have not seen, or had the time to see > “I have asked you reasonable questions previously and received no answers.”
This is obviously false, since he paid close attention to every other commenter who responded to him, offering further counter-responses.
Step 3: The second lie, feigning ignorance, with more flattery
I am not a professional scholar, just an ordinary amateur. I respect the fact that you have taken the time to research.
Step 4: Continue with some boilerplate
I do have a sense of idiosyncratic humour.
If you do delete my future posts as trolling, fair enough, it is your experienced eye & your site.
Step 5: Continue the third lie, feigned ignorance
I have heard of the “Reliance of the Traveller”, mentioned by a friend of mine, but as a layman, I am not that intrigued as to read about Jihad in academic detail, as I engage with the Greater Jihad daily, not the Lesser Jihad (at all).
A literate, educated Muslim who comments extensively on an anti-jihad website cannot be ignorant of Reliance or other major sources on Islamic law. Such a statement strains credulity to the breaking point.
Step 6: The fourth lie, denying an authoritative source, while adding the old familiar all-religions-are-equivalent line
I doubt that Saudi has recognised Al Azhar’s translation, as authoritative, as they are two rivals in prestige as well as Sunni schools of thought. It is similar, to a lesser degree, to the variant number of books in the Protestant Bible as opposed to the Catholic.
He must think we’re all stupid, to tell us anything so blatantly mendacious. A copy of the official authentication of Reliance of the Traveller by the President of the Fiqh Academy in Jeddah is included in the “Documents” section at the front of the book, in English and Arabic, with the President’s signature included in the Arabic version. Official authentications are also included from Syria and Al-Azhar University.
Muslim is neither ignorant nor foolish; he knows these facts. We are being lied to.
Step 7: A diversion, possibly including a tactical error
I know that Saudi is hot on “weak” hadiths, so what you are stating does appear to have some Saudi style theology.
This is strange, because if the Saudis are to be deprecated, and they are big on weak hadiths, that would tend to support my contention that there is no “greater” non-violent jihad, which is attested only by weak hadiths.
Step 8: Reluctant concurrence, but with a twist
No genuine Muslim believer would ever dispute the words of the Quran in its native language.
He knows he can’t repudiate any Koranic verses without losing his credibility entirely. But notice the implication that one must read it in Arabic. If I had responded to him, I would have pointed out that 80% of the world’s Muslims don’t speak Arabic, yet they learn Islamic law somehow — often using English-language texts.
Step 9: Continued feigned ignorance (“vaguely aware”), with more boilerplate equivalences
I’m not familiar with Majid Khadduri & his work.
AFAIK, Dar ul Harb is the abode of War. As to what & who qualifies for inclusion in that category is something that I’m not familiar with. What I’m vaguely aware of is that there is not just a binary Muslim abode vs “Other” abode, but other categories e.g. Dar us Sulh etc. The other categories allow for alliances & mutual non-aggression pacts.
As to war, that is AFAIK similar to the rest of the world, or even more peaceful. In the West, & most Westphalian states, including Muslim heritage states, take their cue from western theories.
1. “There are no permanent friends (despite the honeyed language), just common overlaps of selfish National Interests” 2. Clauswitzian “war by other means” in all spheres of life e.g. Olympic sport rivalry. 3. Total War — the militirisation [sic] of all environments leading to Full Spectrum Dominance including space, where all are chess pieces, including innocent civilians e.g. nuclear bombing of Japanese civilians. 4. Social Darwinian Heartless Babylon/Roman style “Survival of the Fittest” & “Nature is bloody in tooth & claw”. 5. Machiavellianism — where the powerful aim to remain in power by fooling the weak e.g. even Churchill’s “Bodyguard of Lies”.
Step 10: Generalized dishonesty, repeating false assertions about the peaceful nature of Islam
In Islam, only the oppressed have a right to Self-defence, aggressors are rebuked, as is religious coercion.
The proselytizing violence stereotype unique to Islam, is no stranger to any of the numerically dominant faiths/ideologies including, if not more so, Christianity. The unique “sword of Islam” stereotype is disengenuous [sic].
Many a fair-minded non-Muslim scholar has scorned the agenda-driven stereotypes.
Step 11: A section of argument based on Western academic writings, including some of the jargon
The baggage of Occidental/Oriental rivalry has ancient roots e.g. the demonisation of Persians by Greek historians, the fear of Carthage & her treatment etc. The psychological effect of violence at a young age remains irrationally traumatising the adult e.g. Crusades.
History is an anchor, but there is no need to let it mindlessly weigh us down & our posterity forever.
“Occidental vs. Oriental” is in there to push the buttons of Western academics à la Edward Said, but it doesn’t work with Counterjihad people, who have had all that stuff deprogrammed out of them.
Step 12: Reluctant concurrence again
Naturally, as a Muslim, I do not repudiate a single verse of the Quran, nor the authentic Hadith.
Step 13: The final twist of the knife, using abrogated verses of the Koran
What I do say is follow the Prophetic plea:
- “No compulsion in religion”
- “Do not be the Oppressor”
- “I have been sent for naught but spreading goodness”
If I had engaged Muslim in any further argumentation, I would have pointed out that under the Doctrine of Abrogation (which is Koranically established), the earlier peaceful verses from the Meccan period were abrogated by those of the later Medinan period, and have no legal force. Notice that he failed to cite sura and verse, knowing that he would be vulnerable on those points if he did so.
I enjoy participating in such arguments occasionally, but only to a limited extent, because ultimately they are a waste of time.
Muslim was practicing sacred misdirection at our blog, as required by the Koran and hadith. His task — whether he set it himself or was assigned it by his superiors — was to confuse, distract, divert, and otherwise interfere with the enemy, i.e. us, the kuffar. He was wasting our time and keeping us from doing more useful and productive things in our efforts to roll back the Islamization of the West.
In addition to those functions, he was behaving in a manner designed to make non-Muslims look bad and Islam look good. By inducing other commenters to react as they do among themselves, he made himself appear more reasonable, more open, more tolerant, and more humane than the loudmouthed “Islamophobes” he pitted himself against.
Anti-jihad commenters who deliver their usual responses to a skilled maqama troll are making a mistake. When they refer to “desert savages” or “7th-century barbarians”, or mention “the pedophile prophet”, or talk about “Islamic hellholes”, they are making the troll appear the nicer, more reasonable fellow, and are scoring points for him.
This is because when you argue with a maqama troll, you are NOT trying defeat him with your verbal acrobatics, or convince him that you’re right. That’s never going to happen. He’s in this for the long game, and has no need whatsoever to best you in an argument. His arguments are a smokescreen.
What he is doing instead is to discredit you in the eyes of fence-sitters — non-Muslims who are not yet convinced that there is any inherent danger in Islam that needs to be vigorously opposed. If one of these hitherto neutral observers happens upon a thread like this, they may well be convinced that Muslim is right and you are wrong, just by the tone of his discourse, as contrasted with yours. That observer is then delayed for a while longer in joining the Red Pill Brigade, as Major Coughlin might call it.
When that happens, Muslim wins. He has performed a service to Islam, as he intended. And you may have the satisfaction of telling him off, but you will have gained nothing.
That’s why I advise commenters to fight smart. When you deal with a maqama troll, consider your answers carefully. Make your responses fact-based, and deliver them in a neutral, reasonable tone — just like he does. Remember that your larger purpose is to recruit Red Pill Cadets.
Above all, study the material. Buy a copy of the Koran. Buy a copy of Reliance. Read Major Coughlin’s book, Catastrophic Failure: Blindfolding America in the Face of Jihad.
Finally, don’t direct invective at Muslims in the comments. Your time would be better spent studying Islam so that you can understand it the way a Muslim does.
Only when you learn to think like the enemy will you be able to defeat him.