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In Islam—Stack Exchange is not for debates or apologetics, Jon Ericson ♦ writes:

... But this just isn't the place for apologetics or da‘wah. If you insist on aggressively promoting your particular theology, we ask that you find some other site on the internet; there are plenty.

The off-topic-ness of apologetics (defined as "defending religious doctrines") at Islam.SE seems hard to pinpoint. To illustrate, consider these questions:

Some of these directly request an apologetic answer while others require apologetics in order to give a balanced answer (and it's not hard to find more examples at the main site).

For example, it seems misleading (and even dangerous) to e.g. answer Does the Quran allow husbands punish their wives? by "Yes; see Qur'an 4:34" without giving the context. However, giving the context amounts to apologetics. The author of the +6/-0 score answer to this question went into a large amount of additional detail, which is arguably apologetics. To me, this is a clear-cut example of where apologetics is both on-topic and necessary.

However, there's clearly some apologetic styles we should discourage or exclude. E.g., the kind of guesswork you read on some blogs; compilations of cherry-picked information; pseudoscientific claims.

Question: What types of apologetics do we want to discourage?

My impression is that the post style we really want to exclude is "manipulative".

Note: Some types of apologetics seem on-topic at Christianity.SE; they even have an apologetics tag with 85 questions tagged, and tag wiki excerpt: "Defenses of religious positions using reason. This tag should only be used with respect to disagreements with religions other than Christianity."


In an answer to I'm unclear on what qualifies as “Truth”iness and apologetics, and how to deal with it, goldPseudo ♦ wrote:

Apologism, on the other hand, is problematic because it's typically unsolicited: It's less concerned about answering the question than it promotes a theological position. Language is often loaded and in many cases tangential to what was actually asked, if not explicitly opposed to it.

I'm not sure what to make of this handful of undesirable properties of some apologetic posts. Hopefully we can make this more precise.

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Jon's post referenced in OP wasn't written in response to apologism per se, rather it was a response to the sorts of aggressive apologetic behaviour that was (and, to a degree, still is) rampant on the site. It's hard to draw a line of "this type of post is bad" because it wasn't targetted at any particular class of post or writing style, rather a particular class of user who were systematically trying to promote their ideology using whatever tools available to them (posting, commenting, editing, voting, flagging, etc.).

If I had to pick any one trait to watch out for, it's that aggressive apologetic is concerned almost exclusively with promoting ones own viewpoint rather than with anything the questioner actually cares about. This is exactly the opposite of what needs to happen on a Stack Exchange site focussed on high-quality questions and answers.

At best, this is noise — couching the actual answer in flowery rhetoric that distracts from the point of the question — but often it's a blatant attack on user beliefs which just drives them away. Neither is conducive to giving the questioner their actual answer, which should be the primary driver for any activity on this site.

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First some comments on the examples portrayed, and then working from that, an answer to the question as I see it.


First: "others require apologetics in order to give a balanced answer (and it's not hard to find more examples at the main site)." with regard to questions: I think questions that require apologetics as an answer are bad questions per se since they are looking for debate, which is not what SE is about.

About the specific examples: I don't see how the example about wife beating is apologetics, it's precise on what is allowed (i.e. the right of the husband for which he incurs no sin or earthly repercussions) in fiqh and what recommendations exist in the texts. The accepted answer to "Why does a man's witness count as two women's witness in Islam?" on the other hand is apologetics starting at "Now, most non-Muslims might think of this as a backward view."; at that point it stops being about Islam's teachings and becomes (anti-scientific) rationalization to make the Islamic position more palatable.

The accepted answer to "Does Islam oppress women" is the worst offender among your examples I'd say; it's nothing but apologetics about something that isn't even the question. Apart from the question not being about Islamic teachings (but about an evaluation of those teachings by moral standards) and being closed for good reason, the answer ignores basically all salient issues that could be brought up there and replaces a discussion of that with something that's just supposed to make Islam look palatable. That kind of thing should have no place on a site dedicated to (academic) knowledge about an issue.

As for apologetics on christianity.se, I'd like to point out that quite critical answers explaining the flaws of the presented apologetics by Non-Christians are highly welcome and upvoted, see e.g. the second answer to the highest voted apologetics question; that at least makes it possible to have a critique of apologetics alongside it, which makes it somewhat less bad, but still isn't ideal. I'm not sure the community here would tolerate that well (in my perception there is still a strong problem that the user base often does not vote based on quality and instead sometimes votes mostly based on how agreeable they find a position here), which would mean apologetics questions and answers will bring unreflected pro-Islamic bias to the site, something a site for knowledge about Islam should also not tolerate. This is a site about Islam after all, not an Islamic one (see We are not Christians on meta.christianity.se).


The problem I see with apologetics is that its purpose has nothing to do with what this site is about. Its goal is to ingratiate the religion to the audience, not to inform them about it, and in all cases where I've seen apologetics involved, salient facts were ignored or outright denied in favor of loosely related rhetoric painting the religion in a positive light. Tolerating bias-generating posts like this actively works against the kind of site this is supposed to be.

Obviously we don't have access to the motivation behind a post, but there are some rule of thumb signs of apologetics that should filter out a lot of it. Among them: attempts to justify Islamic history or teachings that are immoral to many Non-Muslims, venturing on pseudo- or anti-scientific explanations of claims of miracles or claims about reality as we can observe it, ruminations on how the West is a debased civilization, ignoring issues pertinent to the question in favor of cherrypicked points or strawmen. All of these make for non-answers and actively work against building an accurate knowledge base. We aren't here to praise or denigrate Islam, we are here to gather accurate information about it, and the best way to get accurate information is to do so dispassionately.

  • You and I have such different opinions as to what apologetics actually is, which makes me think that the community as a whole will have many disparate opinions. This suggests it's worthwhile thinking more carefully before taking action against apologetics. – Rebecca J. Stones Mar 30 '17 at 9:45
  • @RebeccaJ.Stones That's possible; would you agree that the gist of the last two paragraphs describes posts that don't fit the SE model? Maybe it'd also be useful to point out which assessment of the examples you would see differently, and why. – G. Bach Mar 30 '17 at 10:34
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I think we can come down to a simple agreement and that is to be

Factual.

I think this should solve the problem whether the contents are apologetic or not.

If someone is factual then s/he does have a valid point and also he is objective in his answer or reply (to be objective is also a main spirit of SE).

In that case we should accept that case and not think that he is apologetic. Because s/he is putting forward a reality. And from what ground should we deny a reality?

So as far as anyone is factual s/he is not apologetic.


For instance, take an example (though it may sound harsh)


To many people The Prophet PBUH was a blood hungry, sex hungry, power monger pedophile. Or Islam is a blood thirsty religion.

If any such questions come to Islam.SE... then what would we do?

  • Do we answer?
  • or Do we close the question as off topic?

I think everyone should agree to the fact that these are not off-topic questions. These questions are present there and as a QA site related to Islamic topics, the site should have a congenial setup to adopt these questions.

If we agree to that, then we cannot regard these types of questions as off-topics.

There comes the first option that is we answer these questions.

There comes my point which I said earlier.

To be factual.

As long as anyone is factual, he is presenting the reality. And when you have reality in front of you, then I think you/we should accept it.

This idea should wash away from our mind (I think) that being apologetic is a bad thing.

Because the scale to measure apologetic clauses is not the same for all (what that is apologetic to me is not apologetic to you). And I guess it would be more than hard to concise on a specific definition of apologetic.

That's why I think we should ask everyone to be factual if we doubt someone is apologetic.

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    <comments deleted> Comments are intended for constructive criticism and seeking clarification, not for argument and debate. – goldPseudo Apr 8 '17 at 21:16
  • Thanks a lot for your effort. – Ahmad Afif Khan Apr 9 '17 at 1:52
  • My answer has been purposefully down voted. Even the downvoter confessed it. I'd like to draw in moderator attention into this. – Ahmad Afif Khan Apr 9 '17 at 1:54
  • If you expect direct moderator intervention every time someone downvotes one of your posts, you are so on the wrong site. Meta is for gauging community opinion, including those members of the community who chose not to agree with whatever you say for whatever reason: Someone disagrees with you, just accept it and move on. – goldPseudo Apr 9 '17 at 2:15
  • This is the only case when I've asked for moderator intervention for down-voting. The down-voter down-voted not for the cause that my answer was inappropriate. Rather he confessed that the point I had put forward in my answer is acceptable to him but sadly though he engaged in a quarrel and out of that he down-voted. – Ahmad Afif Khan Apr 9 '17 at 2:21
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    Someone disagrees with you, just accept it and move on. – goldPseudo Apr 9 '17 at 2:23

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