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Even (almost) three years since the site opened, answers on the main page are still far more heavily "Truthy" than neutral/academic: Many posts are written with a bias that "Islam" has exactly one "correct" opinion (and that that opinion is the one that the poster holds). These posts almost inevitably devolve into bickering between users who, well, disagree with that claim.

Sometimes these are answers to questions that should probably have been closed as being primarily opinion-based in the first place (see also relevant meta discussion: Is there any way to make Truth questions constructive?) but I am constantly seeing answers which ostensibly start by answering the actual question asked before diverging into the irrelevant Truth claims.

And this is hardly limited to answers: I have seen comments, edits, questions and even tags posted for pretty much the sole purpose of pushing a particular Truth. And that's not to mention the voters who vote based entirely on agreement, rather than on how relevant or useful any particular post even is.

I don't want to provide any links because I don't want to point any fingers here (rest assured, this is a consistent problem across multiple users), but I do know that this has been rampant for almost the entirety of the site and we have lost a number of constructive users over the years because of this: Typically people who are interested in the academic study of Islam are not interested in the constant debate and apologetic that comes from people who are only interested in pushing dogma.

There are multiple meta posts not only from users and site moderators, but from the community team itself, all of which are coming from the same bent: We are a site for learning about Islam, not for preaching about Islam. Yet for some reason, three years in, the community at large still isn't grasping this basic notion.

Or, as Shog9 so eloquently put it:

Maybe you see this as nothing more than a soapbox upon which you can stand, and anyone who chides you an enemy to be attacked. If so, then this is not the site for you - leave now, and don't come back.

I am, quite frankly, sick of seeing this garbage. Over the years, I have personally…

  • … downvoted posts that heavily push Truth claims,
  • … left comments explaining why Truth claims are irrelevant and unwelcome,
  • … edited out irrelevant Truth claims, leaving little more than a shell of the original answer,
  • … closed questions that were phrased in such a way as to encourage Truth claims,
  • … outright deleted posts which are written for the sole apparent purpose of pushing Truth claims,
  • … written and/or linked to countless meta posts explaining why Truth claims are problematic,
  • … prompted open discussions as to how we can handle Truthy situations constructively,
  • … suspended problem users who consistently used the site to push Truth claims,
  • … and, when applicable, encouraging other users to do the same.

And you know what? IT'S NOT WORKING. Users are still regularly using answers as a soapbox to post Truth claims, the community is still encouraging them (by voting based on agreement/disagreement rather than usefulness), the users are still arguing about them in comments, and the actual experts are still being driven away.

This is a problem with the community, and one which the community is more than equipped to handle. However, most days it still seems that it's only the diamond moderators who are actually bothering to do anything about it.

The site, however, has grown well beyond the point that it can be moderated without significant community involvement: Diamond moderators are supposed to be human exception handlers, not full-time janitors. Something needs to be done, and short of just suspending everybody who ever posts a Truth claim ever (which may be a little draconian, even for me), I am frankly at a loss as to what it should be.

So, in short, rampant Truth claims are still destroying the site: How can we stop them?

  • Why not mark the answers themselves as either truth-based answers or actual constructive and evidential answers. – Dinar May 15 '15 at 22:37
  • @Dinar Perhaps I'm misunderstanding your suggestion, but I am reminded of "Community Wiki is not a Quick Fix" discussed back in blog.stackoverflow.com/2011/08/the-future-of-community-wiki: In short, if an answer isn't constructive, I'm not sure why we'd want it to stay on the site at all (marked or not). – goldPseudo May 15 '15 at 23:09
  • You could 'mark' down answers in which are seemingly solely to push truth claims. By 'mark', I mean to either delete or grey out their answer until it is either edited by themselves or a peer, and then peer-reviewed. Or you could implement a feature where a user with a certain amount of reputation can signal whether an answer is truth-based or not, this signal will be in the form of text on the answer itself to notify the reader. However, as you said, the point is to get rid of truth claims, not to categorise them – Dinar May 15 '15 at 23:57
  • @Dinar I see what you're saying, but "marking" as you've described has one major flaw (or, more accurately, doesn't have any flaws): That's more-or-less how the system is already designed to work. Posts that are heavily downvoted already get grayed out and can be deleted, while still being peer-reviewable and consequently voted back up and/or undeleted when amended. The tools are already there, have always been there, but nobody's bothering to use them. – goldPseudo May 17 '15 at 0:39
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Many posts are written with a bias that "Islam" has exactly one "correct" opinion (and that that opinion is the one that the poster holds).

From what I understand (correct me if I'm wrong), you're looking for answers that will provide different views of the different sects in Islam, rather than only answering from a particular sect's perspective.

I'm not sure if that's possible. If somebody belongs to a certain sect of Islam, then its only natural for them to write through the perspective of the sect which they believe is correct. Furthermore, they may not even be aware of the different opinions belonging other sects. I personally think we can find better solutions instead of asking people to stop answering from a single perspective (which I think is impossible to be honest). I don't know if this is just me...but I think it would be useful if every user had their sect (if they belong to any), written beside (or underneath) their user name so we can know which perspective this answer is coming from. This is how it's done on sunniforum.com and I personally found it very useful. Instead of looking through the posts made by a particular user to know which perspective they're answering from, you can simply look underneath their user name. That way it doesn't seem like this answer is the only answer which exists in Islam. I don't know if other users will like this, but that's just my opinion. As I said above, I don't think that preventing such answers is possible...

  • I think your right, but the fix should be more sect views and more answers and more voting. A answer would then be a set of answers each with a metric (the vote count) that shows how much consensus there is. – user13203 Aug 18 '15 at 0:27
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It's impossible to get rid of it. I feel exactly the same. The majority of the questions on the front page right now can be considered Truth questions and have no objective answer nor does it relate to the academic study of Islam.

The problem isn't with the site. The problem is the philosophy (of any and all religions) and the mindset. Lot of people (including me) never had formal training in the subject of Islam but were grown up with stories (most of them false, really) and rituals and fairytales.

As an anecdote, I commented once on an answer saying how the answer is purely opinion and not even true for that matter. After a couple of comments back and forth, we moved it into chat. There I found out that the person was a conspiracy theorist. Basically a nut job, with all due respect.

So the rituals and the stories passed down from generation to generation leads to apologetics, people who are so terribly closed minded that they see no reason or rational. And because the Quran is open to interpretation and is easily taken out of context, the apologetics can EASILY make their answer look "authentic" by quoting hadiths and Qur’anic verses. (Which is ironic because Muslims usually make the biggest deal about pulling verses out of context).

So where am I going with this? Well, it depends on how the moderators and the SE administrators view "objective" answers. Do we only care about answers that are verifiable and can be objectively proved? Who determines if the verses and hadith are in the correct context (for a particular Q/A)? Do we care about who is giving out a fatwa?

Consider me as an example. As controversial as this may get, I simply don't believe in black magic. There are lots of logical and rational reasons to not believe in it. The main one being that it’s something that can easily have verifiable evidence and yet there is still none. Now when a question on black magic comes up, say "does black magic exist", what is the right answer? According to me its "no". According to some, its "yes". I am also one of those that calls for a reform in Islam. I think many of the practices/rituals in Islam are out of date and simply haven’t stood the test of time. But I never answer questions based on this (my) understanding as I know I can never be objective with it.

In summary, we have to review what the world "objective" means. I don't really see this site surviving unless major changes are made. If this means to aggressively close/down-vote questions, then so be it.

  • Yes, that is point worth considering "Qur'an is open to interpretation", and hence everyone develops his own version of Islam from what he understood from the Qur'an (and probably Hadith) – servant-of-Wiser May 18 '15 at 1:36
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    -1 for labeling religious stories as "fairly-tales", for gossip behind other users, and for making rude remarks about them. – infatuated May 20 '15 at 14:26
  • +1 Its not the site's problem. Though its not just because the site's topic is a religion :) – user13203 Aug 18 '15 at 0:23
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I believe StackExchange is a sort of democracy where citizen's primary right is assumed to be the freedom of speech. This site is of course not a platform to preach or to advertise Islam because it is not backed up by any School or Missionary.

Truth preaching is prevalent because StackExchange provides equality for every sect of Islam and everyone are allowed to join (that is of course in good spirit). Every person tries to prove his point in a manner that would signify his/her own sect and make it appear truthful.

Rather than sticking to a particular school, if the community sticks on to what is common between all the schools (The Holy Qur'an and Ahadith), this can be gradually stopped. This mindset can however not be expected from new users. But the core members of the community can join hands to make it possible by first following it themselves, then educating the newcomers.

In a nutshell, StackExchange (the owner of this site) has very little to do here. Rather, the community itself has to work itself out from this problem and it is not possible overnight.

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    if the community sticks on to what is common between all the schools: This feels really wrong to me. If we as a community only focus on the lowest common denominator, we lose out on pretty much all the deeper nichey expertise that makes all the other SE sites excel. – goldPseudo Jun 16 '15 at 20:36
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    O you who have believed, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you. And if you disagree over anything, refer it to Allah and the Messenger, if you should believe in Allah and the Last Day. That is the best [way] and best in result. An-Nisā'::Ayah 59 If there is a difference in opinion (which of course leads to so-called truth preaching), we are called back to stick on to Allah and His Messenger(ﷺ) ie. in other words The Qur'an and the Ahadith. I don't see a reason why it may bring down the expertise of the community. – Tabrez Ahmed Jun 16 '15 at 22:54
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    I really don't see this working, especially given that most of the differences of opinion stem from how one chooses to interpret the Qur'an and the Ahadith in the first place. If we as a site only cater to questions in which there is no difference of opinion, I reckon we'll run out of interesting questions to ask right quick. – goldPseudo Jun 16 '15 at 23:05

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