Monday, August 18, 2014

Logic, History and Islam

I recently saw this video in my facebook feed.

I wasn't comfortable enough with the friend to dive into a discussion about it with her on Facebook and to be honest, I'm not confident enough with the subject matter to have a competent opinion from which to defend. But that won't stop me from taking the argument on from my blog, so here goes.

First of all, read the wikipedia entry about the speaker. She's definitely legitimate. Her passion comes from experience and she knows more about this topic than I do, that's for sure. But before reading anything about her, watched the video. And through it, alarms kept ringing in my head with words like "no", "stupid", "bad logic".

You see she speaks with emotional passion, energy, and rhetorical flourish, so it's understandable that she gets the applause and the facebook shares. But there's danger there. In their book , Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise talk about how to study history during the logic phase and they make the following point:
Creating a time line teaches the student to trace chronological connections; outlining trains the student to look past rhetorical smoke and mirrors in order to find the "bare bones" argument of a speech or essay; the use of primary sources teaches the student to interpret the material himself instead of relying on "experts"; organizing information into divisions of the history notebook helps the student to classify similar events and historical trends together.
The point about outlining is important here.  So, let me apply it now. What were Brigitte Gabriel's main point and what were arguments she was making to prove it. Unfortunately the clip is taken out of context so this will be a fragmented analysis.

First, the questioner makes the point that it's erroneous to paint all 1.8 billion worldwide followers of Islam as bad. Further, there are 8 million Muslim Americans in this country and not one on of them sit in this particular panel. This leads her to ask, how can you expect to win and end an ideological war with weapons, when it seems more appropriate and effective to win an ideological war by taking on the ideology. Ms. Gabriel responds:
  1. She denies anyone on this panel mentioned anything about Muslims. Rather they want to know why four Americans died in Benghazi and who will be held accountable for that.
  2. She then pivots to the religion itself (since the questioner brought it up). She sites the statistic that 15-20% of Muslims are radical.
  3. Then because that's true, that means 300 million people are dedicated to the destruction of western civilization.
  4. The reason why we should worry is because that also means that there are 300 million people who are either currently killing or want to kill.
  5. She sites other examples in history that we should consider. 
    1. The Nazis drove the agenda in Germany and as a result 60 million people died.
    2. Most Russians were peaceful, yet the Russians killed 20 million people.
    3. Most Chinese people were peaceful, yet the Chinese people killed 70 million people.
    4. Pre-WWII Japanese were peaceful, yet the Japanese killed 12 million people across SE Asia.
    5. It took 19 radical hijakers to bring America to its knees.
Ok, I'll attack the logic by simply diving into these points with further questions:
  1. Where did the 15-20% statistic come from? What actually constitutes a radical Muslim. Do all 15-20% of them really want to destroy western civilization and are they all brutal murderers?
  2. For those who are classified as radical Muslisms, is their religion the predominant factor driving their radicalism. Or are their other more important drivers - say, the region where they live, it's history, culture and whether they are or recently have experienced war.
  3. If their religion is the primary driver, can we expect to enter a random mosque anywhere in the world and encounter 20% of the congregation as possible murderers? If not, why not?
  4. Since most predominantly Islamic countries are in the Middle East and in portions of Africa, what could we learn about its history that may teach us some lessons about what's driving the wars that seem to dominate these regions in recent history? 
  5.  She brings up Russian, German, Chinese and Japanese examples to further her point. How do these examples compare and contrast with the terrorism we're seeing in the world today? 
  6. Could it be, to use one example, the problems were not the Russians, but the Russian leadership (Stalin), his control of the government and its military? What drove Stalin to massacre his own citizens and how are those motivations relevant to the problems facing the Middle East? 
  7. What of fascism and Hitler? It's interesting that Fascism in Germany and Communism in Russia both took off only after the catastrophic first world war that destroyed Europe. How is that fact relevant then and today?
These are not easy questions and I don't have easy answers. But what I know for sure, is this video snippet was not helpful to the discussion at all. And that is why, while listening, I kept thinking, "stupid", "bad", "no"... I don't deny Ms. Gabriel's passion and I know she's experienced some stuff that I hope I nor my children ever have to. And I'm sure she has smarter arguments to back up her opinions than this. Let's dig into those instead.

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