October 12, 2004
Ignorance is No Excuse
Sweet Jesus on Pogo Stick, but I do get sick of ignorant people around here. One just popped up in the comment threads for The Election and Kerry's Shoes and dropped a wide load of ignorance on the proceedings; the item that's currently exercising my irritation is this little gem:
We are the infedels. The Koran instructs Muslims to bring the world to Islam or kill them. Since we will not convert...they will kill us anyway they can.
Yes, this is exactly what the Koran says in 60:8: "God forbids you not, with regards to those who fight you not for [your] faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them; for God loveth those who are just."
And let's get a load of this bloodthirsty passage from the Koran, 29:46: "And dispute ye not with the People of the Book, except with means better (than mere disputation), unless it be with those of them who inflict wrong (and injury): but say, 'We believe in the revelation which has come down to us and in that which came down to you; Our Allah and your Allah is one; and it is to Him we bow (in Islam)."
Hide the children! Clearly Islam wants us all stone dead.
"The People of the Book," incidentally, would be Jews and Christians, whom Islam recognizes as part of the same religious tradition and worshiping the same God. Rather than being forced to convert at the point of a sword, Jew and Christians within Dar-al-Islam are doctrinally protected from being forced to convert, and are supposed to be allowed to practice their faiths. Sadly this is often not the case, but I suppose it's not terribly surprising that people often don't live up to the ideals of their own faith. God knows it happens enough outside Dar-al-Islam as well.
So basically, that's that for the idea that the Koran encourages conversion at the point of the sword. If we want to talk about the history of forced conversion, it'd probably be better to talk about Christianity, whose record on that score is somewhat more colorful. But we don't need to get into that right at the moment.
Here's what offends me about this little bit of ignorance festering on my comment thread. First, that this fellow is ignorant at all; that he apparently uncritically swallowed this load of crap without inquiring whether it might actually be true. After all, it's not difficult to check for one's self: Go to Google, type in "Koran," and you'll find quite a few versions of the book online; here's just one. And here's a fine wikipedia article on Islam, you know, for extra useful context.
If one's feeling ambitious to get out of the house, one may even try one's local library; the tiny library in my little rural town has two English translations of the Koran. The library also has a few books on the history of Islam; heck, it's even got Islam for Dummies. The information is not difficult to find. But clearly this fellow doesn't feel he needs to actually discover things out for himself; someone said it, he believes it and that's that.
I can't remember at what age it was that I discovered that people are indeed willfully ignorant -- that they choose not to know things despite the ease with which knowledge can be acquired -- but I know that even at that young age I was agog at the idea. It still astounds me, even more so because there has never been another era in which so much information was so readily available. This ignoramus sits in front of an Internet-connected computer, the single greatest tool for the acquisition of knowledge in the history of the world, and uses it to show off his lack of knowledge rather than to use it to increase his knowledge. He might as well use his computer to squish bugs for all the good it's doing his brain.
The second offensive thing about this exhibition of ignorance is that this fellow is not content to remain ignorant and silent, which, if one must choose to be ignorant, is the ideal position to maintain. No, clearly he feels it's his duty to spread his ignorance, thus his appearance on my comment thread. It's possible he doesn't know he's ignorant, but I find that hard to believe: Most people know whether or not they've read a book. I'm pretty sure he knew that when he said the Koran said something, he knew he hadn't actually read it himself. So we're left with the conclusion that he knew he didn't know what he was writing about, but that he wasn't going to let a small detail like that get in his way (there's the third possibility that he has read the Koran, and his simply bald-faced lying about it, but in my opinion this is the most unlikely scenario). However you slice it, ignorance loves company, and this fellow was clearly trying to increase the ranks of the ignorant.
Well, you know. I don't want that for my site. I like it when people who have viewpoints that are different than mine come to the site, make their points from an informed position and participate in the give and take that comes out of that with other people in the comment threads. I don't like it when people with no more knowledge on a subject than any random chicken stroll by, vomit up a gout of nonsense, and try to pass it off as a useful contribution to the discussion. My readership deserves better than to be presented by this kind of crap.
Let me note that if this fellow had said something along the lines of "I've heard the Koran tells Muslims to convert or kill Jews and Christians," I would not be whacking on him like I am. We all have our list of received knowledge which may or may not be true; I like to think I'd be welcoming to anyone who knows he or she might not know something. If I can give them an answer, I'd like to think I'd try; if I couldn't, I'd like to think I'd point them in the direction of finding more knowledge on the subject. But this guy is purporting to know something he clearly does not, and trying to pass it off as fact. I bring out the mallets for people like that.
Which bring me to the third reason I find this stuff offensive: this fellow is trying to pass his ignorance to me. The implication here is that in his estimation I'm either ignorant or stupid enough to swallow this crap, and I resent that. Is there anything about this site which suggests I am credulous or dim? Do I appear especially open to the vacuous utterances of the woefully ignorant? Is there a blinking neon sign over the top of my head that says "Shovel Crap Here?" I'd like to think the answer in all three cases is no. But please, someone tell me otherwise if I am incorrect.
As I've said before and undoubtedly will again, I don't believe I'm always right, or that I know everything. I'm always excited to meet people who challenge my opinions and positions and make me think of the world in ways I may not have before. I like diversity of thought; I like to think I encourage it here in the comment threads. And I like to think the people who comment here also enjoy the challenge that comes from a diversity of thought.
But the key word here is thought. Coming to my site to spread ignorance insults me. It offends me. It demeans me. It means you think I'm as ignorant as you are. I'm not.
Posted by john at October 12, 2004 01:13 PM
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