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This morning I spent a solid two hours clearing out a whole mess of flags, comments, and suspending users for inflammatory and nonconstructive remarks.

Four days after ashes999 posted his plea for tolerance, this is just getting worse: we are seeing intolerant and outright rude and incendiary comments all over the site. In the last two days, over 150 of these have been purged outright from Islam.SE. Is this really the site you want to show your friends, family, and colleagues? Is this the type of site you want to show imams, Islamic scholars, and students of the Quran?

Frankly, I am disappointed by this community's actions. Not only have you succeeded in confirming negative stereotypes of Muslims, but you have also completely disregarded the lessons learned from other sites in our network by engaging in fighting in answers, comments, chat, and meta.

I am not saying you should all take a moderate stance. We have plenty of people deeply passionate about their subject on the various Stack Exchange sites. Our other religious sites include people whose religious observance runs the gamut from casual practitioner to the most conservative and fundamentalist of participants. However, they do not devolve into endless flame-wars on the front pages of their sites. The conflicts we see here are reflections of disagreements that stretch back to the seventh century. 1400 years of conflict is not going to be solved on a Stack Exchange site. There are a handful of hard rules for every Stack Exchange site, and among the most important is that you treat others with the same respect you’d want them to treat you.

Islam.SE is not a game show. We are not here to play an elimination round of "Are these beliefs true in real Islam?" For the purpose of this site, assume that each sect's hadith are valid, and that each sect's accepted imams are reliable. This is the only way a group with such diverse cultures and beliefs can get along and do something productive. If you must, choose to focus on the fact that you all follow the teachings of your Prophet. You share that in common.

All posts asking for the site to pass judgement on some person or group, or which seek to "invalidate" some sect of Islam (as opposed to describing a belief system, examining an idea, explaining history, and so on) are off-topic and will be closed/deleted on sight. We will not tolerate any more of the rude and abusive behavior we have seen on the main site. Not only do your actions reflect poorly on the network of sites to which you belong, but your actions also reflect poorly on the Muslim community at large.

If you see an inflammatory question posted, edit it, vote to close it, or flag it for moderator attention if it cannot be salvaged.

If you see an inflammatory answer posted, edit it, or flag it for moderator attention if the tone cannot be corrected. Leave only constructive comments intended to educate the author.

If you see an inflammatory comment posted, flag it for moderator attention and walk away. Do not engage in flame-wars in the comment threads. Comment threads will be deleted wholesale and participants suspended if this behavior continues.

And if it is not possible to ask and answer questions on this topic in a polite, peaceful fashion, then it has no place on Stack Exchange.

  • Why is this an event in the Community Bulletin? – Dynamic Jul 2 '12 at 23:58
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    please define rude clearly. history is part of Islam. we do not want to solve problems of 1400 years ago. but many parts of Islam is made by persons of 1400 years ago. we should know what part are real and what part lies. when a person is known as a liar and there are many parts of Islam based on his sayings this should not be mentioned? Quran in many cases refers to history. for without history Islam wil not be known. – Battle of Karbala Jul 10 '12 at 3:58
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    @Ahmadi I see you still have doubts about how SE system works.The problem is every person has a reason/right to call the opposing view as lie or fabrication and believe their version of history is the truth. If that is done, it will be really messy debate and SE is not a place for that. So what we do is we express our view backed up with classical texts/opinions of scholars or hadith/verses of Qur'an as evidence. If the questioner finds your answer useful, he will accept it/upvote it. If you attack the opposing view in comment, the debate will never get over and will lead to shutdown of Is.SE. – Abdullah Jul 10 '12 at 7:59
  • @Ershad if each one provide evidences from Quran and accepted history it will not be messy. I try always answer in form of compare only and not attack. even if some users view it in form of attack. if you feel one is rude let men know to edit it. also knowing real Islam is more important than shut down of SE. at Judgement day no one ask you about shut down of SE. but remember what prophet said about 73 sects and 1 of them. – Battle of Karbala Jul 10 '12 at 10:41
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I'm a complete outsider here, but I'm very interested in learning about Islam. If this site is at all successful, it's likely that thousands of people just like me will find this site via Google. In a small way, you might become the face of Islam to someone you will never meet. It is a solemn responsibility.

Like Christianity, Islam seems to be a hugely diverse cultural/religious/intellectual movement. That creates complications when it comes to building a Q&A site where, by implication, there are right answers and wrong ones. If one believes that X is the correct answer to a question, it's obviously frustrating to see someone else answer Y or even not X. That frustration intensifies when the question is on a topic that you hold deep beliefs about, such as religion.

So I thought it might help if I shared a few things I picked up while participating on Christianity.SE, Philosophy.SE, and (to a lesser extent) Biblical Hermeneutics:

  1. Try to think of answering questions as an exercise in persuasive writing.

    Every question is a bit like a debate tournament in which you are fortunate enough to always be able to take whichever side you like. The way Stack Exchange ought to work, the answer that is most persuasive is the one that collects the highest score. Sometimes the most persuasive answer is wrong! And that's ok because at any time anyone can provide a new, better answer that will rise to the top.

  2. Encourage questions that ask about a specific point of view.

    If I ask, "Should I drive on the left- or right-hand side of the road?", I'll get a mess of answers. Half of them will be wrong and, paradoxically, that same half will also be right. It depends entirely on what context they are answering from. Instead I should ask, "Should I drive on the left- or right-hand side of the road in Australia?" Within the framework of Australia's vehicle code, there is a clear right answer. (FYI: left.)

  3. Vote on quality of answers and questions, not on whether you agree.

    Voting is really critical feedback on Stack Exchange and it's anonymous. So you are free to make your vote mean anything you like. While there's nothing stopping you from using your vote to discourage things you disagree with and encourage (regardless of other factors) things you affirm, it works best to encourage posts you want to see more of and discourage posts that are of poor quality. Downvotes, in particular, are very powerful.

  4. Close boring, trivial, mindless, uninteresting, etc. questions.

    It's taken me a long time to get here, but I'm convinced that you really need to shut down any question that wastes your top-users time and energy. Flag these questions. Vote to close when you get the privilege. Comment. Vote down as appropriate. Don't forget that you can always edit and reopen a question, but you can't refund the time and energy users spend answering unfocused questions or arguing about unsupported answers.

  5. Require answers to back up any opinions.

    This loops back to item #1. If I write an answer that's just my own opinion, the only people who will agree with me are those who already share my opinion. I'm just a random guy on the internet. But if I write an answer that draws on the opinions of experts, careful logical arguments, personal experience, and so on, I might persuade people who disagree with me a priori. That's powerful stuff. It's even more powerful when you consider that you might even persuade the anonymous Google visitors I mentioned earlier.

I wish y'all the best of luck in forming a healthy community and making the internet just a little bit better.

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If you have read this post by Aarthi, you've been enlightened on what this site is all about.

Islam.SE has the potential of becoming an amazingly active online community. Think about it. Islam is the 2nd largest religion in the world, and at it's rate of growth, it may be the worlds largest in the next decade. That means that we might be getting a lot of questions, from Muslims and non-Muslims alike. The question is, how is this site going to represent it's users as people, because in my mind, there are only two things that could happen:

  1. Users continue to do what is happening now and argue and fight about who's sect is correct. The site gets engulfed in these arguments and we become just another Islamic forum. The worst part of this is, we aren't even supposed to be a forum!
  2. We change our habits, as outlined by Aarthi, and start using the site the way it should be used.

What does that mean?

Well, first of all, we have to stop giving people the benefit of the doubt. I have seen way to many discussions in chat saying how a question, which obviously looks like it is going to start a debate, is given the "Well maybe he is just curious" thing, and is let go. We can't do that. That is a major source of our problems. We allow the debatable questions, and that starts a nonconstructive debate.

The second thing we need to address, as was said in the question above, is posts that are asking for judgement to be passed. Let me just make one thing clear, we are not checking credentials at the door. You cannot guarantee that the person who is answering your question has any idea what the heck he's talking about. We are not here to say that somebody's interpretation is right or wrong, because we have no authority to do so. We need to close and delete these questions as soon as possible.

Third on the agenda, we cannot allow posts that are trying to promote a certain point of view or sect. There was a discussion about this before. If you see a question that is specifically promoting a certain sect or view-point, close it. For more info, join that discussion (the link I gave).

Next thing is commenting. Let me quote a post from Meta Stack Overflow:

When should comments be deleted?

Generally, there is very little reason to delete existing comments from a question or an answer. There are a few possible scenarios where comments ought to be deleted, but it is worth noting that these should be few and far between, due to their permanent effect on the flow of the comment section.

  • Spam: Though it's hard to categorize what's spam and what is simply a verbose commenter, it's a bit like pornography. We'll know it when we see it.
  • Noise: Comments like "+1 .." or "belongs on" can be flagged for automatic removal without the commenter being punished.
  • Thread Cleanup: If edits have been made to a question, it could be feasible for a moderator to delete all comments relating to that edit once they're accepted. A comment should be added by the deleter stating what was deleted and more importantly, why. For example:

@all : Comments 1-16 detailing editing discussion were deleted when consensus was reached, to clean up the thread.

If a comment doesn't meet either of the criteria above, then it shouldn't be deleted.

Now, a lot of the +1 comments are not enforced, because they really aren't bothering anybody. But, I see a bunch of comments that, as was stated in the above question, are not educating the author. If you see comments that are trying to start a "comment-war", flag it and walk away.

Why did you just post all of that?

Because that is the source of all of our problems. We are having a tough time getting rid of nonconstructive remarks and posts, because of all of the things I have mentioned above, along with what Aarthi said. If we just use the site the way it was meant to be used, we would be fine. We wouldn't have any troubles.

To end this post, let me give you something to ponder: If you could do one thing, without ruining the fact that this is a Stack Exchange community, that you think would help get rid of sectarianism on this site (just on this site, not in the world), what would it be? Now use that thought, and go make Islam.SE a better place.

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    sorry, but I think Aarthi's post was clearer and less confusing without this answer. I think it is better to start a new meta-thread about how to encourage constructive behavior on the site and post this as an answer there. – Kaveh Jul 3 '12 at 0:48
  • @Kaveh But this isn't encouraging users as much as enforcing it. We can't keep encouraging until things get right. We have to enforce. And posting this as an answer to this question is showing that we have to enforce instead of it being just another discussion. – Dynamic Jul 3 '12 at 1:02
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    "We can't keep encouraging until things get right" is a bad way of thinking. In experience encouraging is quite effective in changing users behavior. I have dealt with a number of cases over the time I have been a moderator and in my experience when such users understand that the general community disapprove the behavior they change it. We seem to have one or two users who are not here to learn, but the general community is good in my opinion. – Kaveh Jul 3 '12 at 1:14
  • @Kaveh I see where your coming from, but so far, that hasn't worked... – Dynamic Jul 3 '12 at 1:22
  • When it doesn't work on a particular user as in this case then it should be dealt with firmly with enforcing, but that should only come after the encouragement phase. Using one particular user's behavior to act harshly on the mistakes of other users in not a good practice, it alienates the users of the site that usually are just not aware of the norms of the community in the first place. A repeated offender who has been warned a number of times and is aware of the community's opinion is not the same as a new user unfamiliar with them. – Kaveh Jul 3 '12 at 1:25
  • @Kaveh OK. I understand. – Dynamic Jul 3 '12 at 1:36
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    Spam: Though it's hard to categorize -- No, it's not. Spam is unsolicited commercial advertisement or promotion. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spam_%28electronic%29. I'll fix the meta post. – Robert Harvey Jul 3 '12 at 17:47
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    Vote on quality of answers and questions, not on whether you agree. – Battle of Karbala Jul 10 '12 at 4:01
  • @Ahmadi That is true on Meta for sure. On the main site, I downvote wrong answers, very low quality questions/answers, rants, and questions/answers trying to promote a certain sect. – Dynamic Jul 10 '12 at 11:40
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I think its simple, if you feel that a particular answer does not cover the topic correctly/completely, you should write up your own answer with your own sources and details to back it up. It is the community's job to determine what is more complete answer than another.

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    That might work if you're dealing with reasonable people. – Robert Harvey Jul 3 '12 at 17:46

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