September 18, 2012

Notice a correlation?

"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right -- there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them... These are people who pay no income tax."
—Mitt Romney, at a fundraiser earlier this year

Notice a correlation?

HT: WTF Is It Now?!?

September 6, 2012

Camel Tracks

I had a recent discussion with an atheist, which has led to a new insight about the differences between atheists and Muslims (presumably this distinction could apply to a follower of any "Western" religion, but I'll approach this only from the perspective of Islam).

The difference is that an atheist is a literalist. They expect there to be proof of God's existence in such a way that there is no doubt in the atheist's mind. Ideally for them that proof would be tangible in nature and directly linked to God (as opposed to an indirect link, which would sow more confusion in their minds).

Muslims, on the other hand, tend to be more "metaphoralists," if there is such a word. The Qur'an, in and of itself, is a tangible, direct link to Allah (swt), which is proof enough for Muslims of His existence. But the Qur'an also has numerous verses that provide tangible evidence of His existence that are indirect; still, if one were to think more deeply upon these tangible proofs one might become convinced of His existence. The verses in question I refer to as the "nature verses," of which here are some:

It is He who sends down rain from the sky: from it ye drink, and out of it (grows) the vegetation on which ye feed your cattle. With it He produces for you corn, olives, date-palms, grapes and every kind of fruit: verily in this is a sign for those who give thought. He has made subject to you the Night and the Day; the sun and the moon; and the stars are in subjection by His Command: verily in this are Signs for men who are wise. And the things on this earth which He has multiplied in varying colors (and qualities): verily in this is a sign for men who celebrate the praises of Allah (in gratitude). It is He Who has made the sea subject, that ye may eat thereof flesh that is fresh and tender, and that ye may extract therefrom ornaments to wear; and thou seest the ships therein that plough the waves, that ye may seek (thus) of the bounty of Allah and that ye may be grateful. And He has set up on the earth mountains standing firm, lest it should shake with you; and rivers and roads; that ye may guide yourselves; And marks and sign-posts; and by the stars (men) guide themselves. Is then He Who creates like one that creates not? Will ye not receive admonition?

Behold! in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of night and day,- there are indeed Signs for men of understanding,- Men who celebrate the praises of Allah, standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides, and contemplate the (wonders of) creation in the heavens and the earth, (With the thought): "Our Lord! not for naught Hast Thou created (all) this! Glory to Thee! Give us salvation from the penalty of the Fire."

The key points to take away are that:

1) Natural phenomena are signs of Allah (swt). They are indirect evidence, but evidence nonetheless, for the existence of God. They are more than just the natural world that we see every day and take for granted.

2) It takes a person with a flexible mind, a person who can think deeply, to make the connection between the natural world and God. Notice what the Qur'an says in several of the verses above, that these are signs "...for those who give thought," "...for men who are wise," "...for men of understanding." Rather than being a religion of blind faith, Islam is a religion that asks its followers to think and contemplate. This is where I think atheists stumble. They have lost the ability to reason for themselves. They expect proofs from others instead of thinking for themselves.

To put the matter another way, the signs of God are like camel tracks in the sand. It is enough for the Muslim to see the tracks to know of the camel's existence. The atheist expects to see the camel in order to be satisfied of the proof, and blames the believer when the camel is never seen. But the tracks are proof enough, if only the atheist could recognize the tracks for what they really are.

3) Finally, the Qur'an points out to men of understanding who recognize that natural phenomena are signs of God's existence, that they would (or at least should) be grateful to Allah (swt) for what He has provided. Everything, and I mean everything, comes from Him, including our lives. But are most people grateful? Do they give Him the praise He deserves?

August 17, 2012

Who is a Professional?

Who is a professional? Someone who has a precise understanding of his current knowledge and capabilities, and yet always remains highly motivated when performing his duties. That's a professional.

Taken from an NHK (Japan) TV program about professional occupations; in this case, an airline pilot.

July 1, 2012

We Won't Bury You; Americans Have Buried Themselves

Below is a comment I wrote on the Street Prophets' diary, Christ, Nessie, and teaching children to love lies.

We need to figure a way to educate our children to function in a crowded and challenging world.

I really wanted to write a facetious answer at first, but I'll play this one straight. A friend recently wrote on Facebook:

Outsourcing is outsourcing, Mitt Rmoney, not 'Offshoring'. 'Offshoring' implies the paychecks are made out to Americans. They aren't. In fact outsourcing is taking a paycheck that once went to an American, and giving away to someone else in another country.

To which I originally responded:

To which we all in Asia say "Thank you!" ;)

Naturally, he was a little miffed at that answer, so I responded:

I'm not a fan of outsourcing in general and I do sympathize with American workers, but... Outsourcing is not simply due to lower wages in other countries. In fact if I were to list all the factors that I thought contributed to the reasons why American companies outsourced jobs overseas, I'd rank lower wages compared to American wages down near the bottom of my list, especially with respect to Asian countries.

One of the factors that has helped spur on the growth of outsourcing is the fact that educational systems outside of the US are frequently superior to that of the American system. These jobs don't just go to people in other countries simply because of lower wages, they go because these other people are qualified to perform that work. They have the education, the skills, the experience to get the job done. In fact, because of the large numbers of qualified applicants, competition for jobs can be quite intense and not very easy to succeed in getting if you don't have the requisite qualifications, no matter what they are. (Here's a LinkedIn discussion in which I had to tell a younger guy how he was going to need to upgrade his language skills because, otherwise, he was going to lose out on job opportunities in which a second language is vital for getting jobs in Singapore.)

The world is crowded and challenging, and other countries are benefiting from stupid American attitudes with respect to the educational system because /we/ don't make those same mistakes. We don't have an attitude of "let's break the public school system because it offends our sensibilities." No one homeschools here. And what we do do is send our kids to enrichment classes during the evenings and weekends so that our kids can compete better, whether it's with other Asian children or American children. (I, a white American man, have a three-year-old daughter who's learning her third language - Chinese - and my wife suggested this morning that we get her into a second weekly class in that language so that she can improve faster. On a program about India that aired the same day I wrote the above comments to my friend on Facebook, there was a segment where the host interviewed some street girl, about 13 years old, in Calcutta - who spoke perfect English. He asked her what her favorite subject was, and she said physics. Why? Because it's her easiest subject. She wants to be a physicist. How many American kids would say that?)

The fault for outsourcing and a declining economic situation in America is not the rest of the world's. It is America's fault, for its backwards attitudes and lack of competitive drive in its people. I almost feel like Nikita Khrushchev now, except it's not "We will bury you!" but that Americans have buried themselves.

Good luck with that.

Sour Grapes

"Just because a couple of people on the Supreme Court declare something to be 'constitutional' does not make it so."
— Rand Paul

And this guy's a Senator? Back to civics class for him!

"It's well known that Roberts, unfortunately for him, has suffered from epileptic seizures. Therefore he has been on medication. Neurologists will tell you that medication used for seizure disorders, such as epilepsy, can introduce mental slowing, forgetfulness and other cognitive problems. And if you look at Roberts' writings you can see the cognitive disassociation in what he is saying."
— radio host Michael Savage

Gee, that condition never seemed to worry the reds when Roberts voted in their favor.

HT: Doonesbury

April 3, 2012

Chomsky on Climate Change and Nixonian Environmentalism

Noam Chomsky interview, on Slate:

"Sticking with social and political change, what is going on with climate-change denial in the United States?"

"The Republican party now has its catechism of things you have to repeat in lockstep, kind of like the old Communist party. One of them is denying climate change."

"Why is it happening?"

"It happens that there's a huge propaganda offensive carried out by the major business lobbies, the energy associations, and so on. It's no secret, they're trying to convince people that the science is unreliable, that it's a liberal hoax. Those who want to be funded by business and energy associations and so on might be led into repeating this catechism. Or maybe they actually believe it.

"The Republican-dominated House of Representatives is now dismantling measures of control over environmental destruction that were instituted by Richard Nixon. That shows you how far to the right they have gone. Today Nixon would be a flaming radical and Dwight D. Eisenhower would be off the spectrum. Even Ronald Reagan would be on the left somewhere. These are interesting, important things happening in the richest and most powerful country in the world that we should be very much concerned about."

Climate change denial is simply greed writ large. Acknowledging that the climate is changing - and it is (that proof is incontrovertible) - means that business models will need to be changed and profits will almost certainly go down (at least in the short run). But these changes will need to be made anyway, if only because of the dwindling reserves of non-renewable energy sources, like oil, so it would be best to make the changes now. Companies would rather be reactionary, though, instead of obtaining the first mover advantages they could get for the future.

Read the full interview here: Everything Was a Problem and We Did Not Understand a Thing

March 28, 2012

Star Wars: The Backstroke of the West

Oh, this is funny! Someone had given subtitles (in English for an English-language film!) for Star Wars III (Revenge of the Sith). It's almost as if someone got more and more stoned as they wrote out the "subtitles." The last few lines are almost complete gibberish.

Long time ago in the faraway galaxy
Star war
The third gathers
The backstroke of the west
The war came! The republic encountered
Two squares fight the vehemence
The improbity fills the world
The space general of the alliance is skillful
Kidnap the D the speaker the conduct
The proper abruption alliance troops tries
ratio prosperous drive with the

HT: Topless Robot

February 21, 2012

NYT: Uncle Sam is No Imam

The following comes from the New York Times article, Uncle Sam is No Imam:

From a national security point of view, challenging ideas that underpin radical Islam makes sense. Counterterrorism is ultimately about ideas; why shouldn’t officials try to marginalize the theological teachings cited by violent terrorists?

The problem is that when American officials intervene in Islamic teachings — interpreting them to believers in a national-security context and saying which are or are not acceptable — they create tensions, both legal and strategic.

The strategic problem is easier to see: Is the government a credible authority on Islamic interpretation? Based on the results of comparable efforts in Britain, the answer is a resounding no. Simply put, young Muslim men in the thrall of radical teachings will not embrace a more pacific theology because the F.B.I. tells them to, any more than Catholic bishops would have yielded to Mr. Obama’s plan to mandate coverage of contraceptives at Catholic hospitals if he had invoked canon law to defend his position.


If I am right that the government is increasingly in danger of establishing an “official Islam,” a project that is at best ill-fated if not illegal...

For the most part I am in agreement with this article, but these two sections really stood out for me. Any attempt to create an "official Islam" as defined by a government is bound for failure. It's not just the idea of trying to soften the more radical teachings of Islam for young Muslims, Muslims of all ages will resist any attempt by non-Muslims, whether they are individuals or organizations, to reinterpret any aspect of Islam that is solely for the benefit of non-Muslim society.

The fact of the matter is that the vast majority of non-Muslims have little understanding about Islam and the Muslim world to begin with. Orthodox Muslims would look at these "interpretations" then ignore them. There are several key factors at play here. One, of course, is the interpretation itself; the interpretation must be grounded by the Qur'an and Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh). The more an interpretation diverges from the general understanding of the Qur'an and Sunnah, the less likely that interpretation will be accepted. Extremes in interpretation, both "liberal" and "conservative," are ignored by the mainstream Muslim community (although fringe individuals or groups may accept these interpretations at the risk of being considered outside of pale of Islam; for example, the Nation of Islam and the Ahmadiyyah). As a result, minority interpretations in Islam count for very little within the Muslim world.

Another key factor is the credibility of the person or group issuing the interpretation. As the author pointed out, young Muslims will not accept the FBI's interpretation of Islam; the FBI has no credibility in Islam. Muslims, by and large, never accept a non-Muslim's interpretation of Islam; non-Muslims have no credibility.* Muslims, by and large, will also not accept the interpretations of other Muslims who present minority positions and have no evidence of being a Muslim scholar (this also applies to scholars in academia who happen to be Muslim). In essence, the only interpretations Muslims as a whole will accept are those made by Muslim scholars whose work is more-or-less orthodox in interpretation. This system may not be to the liking of non-Muslims and those Muslims who wish for rapid change, but the system works well for mainstream orthodox Muslims. As the Prophet (pbuh) said, My ummah will not agree upon an error." (Sunan At-Tirmidhi, #2320; see also Sunan Abu Dawud, #4255 and Sunan Ibn Majah, #4085)

So, what is to be done? The author had some good ideas:

Countering radical religious ideology is on much more solid constitutional — and strategic — footing if the heavy lifting is done not by the government but by grass-roots organizations that are grounded in civil society or in religious communities. The government must not be heavily and directly involved.

The relationship between the national security imperative and a great religious civilization is inevitably fraught. Reconciling the two won’t be achieved by allowing officials to become more active in espousing theological alternatives to radical Islam — or in training law-enforcement and intelligence professionals with hateful caricatures of Islam. The government’s efforts ought to be guided instead by the wisdom of the First Amendment and the values that it enshrines.

The real key, in my opinion, is that non-Muslim society must listen to orthodox Muslims. Really, it's gotten to the point where, if authorities want the help of the Muslim community, they must be willing to listen and respect what the orthodox Muslim community has to say. A good first step would be to reject what non-Muslims think about Islam and Muslim society. There are far too many shysters who prey upon the gullible non-Muslim public (including leaders) for information and advice about Islam and Muslims. If you want the backing of orthodox Muslims, you must listen to credible orthodox Muslims, even if this means not liking what those people have to say. That may be a bitter pill for some non-Muslims to take, but it's the best way to understand Islam and the Muslim community and to reduce tensions between the two sides.

* Having said that, I have come across the works of a few non-Muslims whose understanding of Islam is very good; they do have some credibility among Muslims, although not enough to be able to present divergent interpretations that would be acceptable to Muslim society.

Watts - Africa Cup of Nations 2012

A special Watts for the recently concluded Africa Cup of Nations. Amusing. :)

February 4, 2012


This is a very short but interesting video of the Moon setting against the Earth; the video was taken by Expedition 30 on board the International Space Station.

January 31, 2012

NASA | Temperature Data: 1880-2011

Global temperatures have warmed significantly since 1880, the beginning of what scientists call the "modern record." At this time, the coverage provided by weather stations allowed for essentially global temperature data. As greenhouse gas emissions from energy production, industry and vehicles have increased, temperatures have climbed, most notably since the late 1970s. In this animation of temperature data from 1880-2011, reds indicate temperatures higher than the average during a baseline period of 1951-1980, while blues indicate lower temperatures than the baseline average.

Data source: NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Visualization credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio

Note: For more information, see NASA Finds 2011 Ninth-Warmest Year on Record.

January 17, 2012

President Obama Asks to See Betty White's Long Form Birth Certificate

President Obama at least has a sense of humor. ;)

Dear Betty,

You look so fantastic and full of energy. I can't believe you're 90 years old. In fact, I don't believe it. That's why I'm writing to ask if you will be willing to produce a copy of your long form birth certificate. Thanks, and Happy Birthday, no matter how old you are.

The Joy of Books

Let's see your silly e-readers do this! :)

January 16, 2012

James Balog: Time-lapse Proof of Global Warming

Let the global warming deniers refute the evidence!

This first video is a TED talk by nature photographer James Balog, who has set up a project called the Extreme Ice Survey to record, through time-lapse photography, just how much (and fast) glaciers are retreating in various parts of the world.

This second video is a promotional video EIS created showing how the project is being done.

January 8, 2012

The Water

This is a rather beautiful and peaceful video to watch of land and water in western Norway.  The music is Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata.  Enjoy!

The Water from TSO Photography on Vimeo.

January 3, 2012

Debunking Myths About Islam and the Muslim World (Part 6)

This is the sixth and last post in a series commenting about The Debunking Handbook from the perspective of debunking the myths about Islam and the Muslim world.

Anatomy of an Effective Debunking

This last section of the Debunking Handbook is a summary of how an essay or article exposing a myth should be written, section by section. The graphic below is the example given in the handbook, using a myth regarding global warming.

Bringing all the different threads together, an effective debunking requires:
• Core facts—a refutation should emphasize the facts, not the myth. Present only key facts to avoid an Overkill Backfire Effect;
• Explicit warnings—before any mention of a myth, text or visual cues should warn that the upcoming information is false;
• Alternative explanation—any gaps left by the debunking need to be filled. This may be achieved by providing an alternative causal explanation for why the myth is wrong and, optionally, why the misinformers promoted the myth in the first place;
• Graphics – core facts should be displayed graphically if possible.

January 2, 2012

Debunking Myths About Islam and the Muslim World (Part 5)

This is the fifth post in a series commenting about The Debunking Handbook from the perspective of debunking the myths about Islam and the Muslim world.

Filling the Gap with an Alternative Explanation

The previous three posts focused on various backfire effects that may occur when trying to debunk misinformation. In this post, we look at how to provide the correct information to the misinformed.

When people hear misinformation, they build a mental model, with the myth providing an explanation. When the myth is debunked, a gap is left in their mental model. To deal with this dilemma, people prefer an incorrect model over an incomplete model. In the absence of a better explanation, they opt for the wrong explanation.

For many non-Muslims, this situation, opting for the wrong explanation, is not only all too commonplace, but is very frequently the preferred situation. Many non-Muslims want to believe the misinformation because to believe the correct information is too threatening, especially to their worldview.

The most effective way to reduce the effect of misinformation is to provide an alternative explanation for the events covered by the misinformation.

For the alternative to be accepted, it must be plausible and explain all observed features of the event. When you debunk a myth, you create a gap in the person’s mind. To be effective, your debunking must fill that gap.

From an Islamic perspective, what we must do is provide a new orientation to non-Muslims when discussing Islam and the Muslim world. We must cast a new light on these topics. With respect to discussions about the Qur’an and ahadith, we must explain this information with respect to the contexts that are most applicable, whether they be theological, historical or linguistic (in my experience, these are the three most important contexts to understanding Islam). With respect to the Islamic world, we must explain as best we can the cultural contexts that shape the Muslim world and the non-Muslim’s interpretation of our world. For example, back in December 2007, I wrote a post about a picture of an Afghan wedding.

At the time of this picture, the girl was eleven-years-old and the man was forty. Here’s what I wrote about this photo:

The problem I have with this photo in that, without context, the image may lead to wild conjecture. What is the man's motive for marrying this young girl? We don't know. I'm sure most Westerners would focus on the sexual aspect. I think this is what most Western men would first think of if they were given the chance to marry someone as young as this girl. That being what they would do, they ascribe this motive to the Afghan man.

But we don't know what's really in this man's heart, and his having sex with her may be years away. In a country where the average life expectancy (for both men and women) is less than 44 years (CIA World Factbook), the chances of him surviving much longer are not too good. Is she an orphan and he's providing a stable home for her? Does she come from a poor family and marrying her is a way for him to help provide for her now and later, after death, through an inheritance? Allahu alim.

Unfortunately, people often judge other cultures through their own cultural biases and, all too often, find the other culture wanting, even though they rarely have enough information to make an informed judgment. This is culture shock, no different than if a person went to Afghanistan and witnessed this scene him or herself.

We Muslims know there are alternative explanations that are perfectly logical and feasible to explain this type of situation; the thing we must do is make the explanation, to fill the “gap” in the non-Muslims’ minds.

One gap that may require filling is explaining why the myth is wrong. This can be achieved by exposing the rhetorical techniques used to misinform. … The techniques include cherry picking, conspiracy theories and fake experts.

We Muslim writers do this to a degree, especially when pointing out that various verses in the Qur’an either have been taken out of context or that they are only a partial answer provided by the Qur’an (meaning only part of the verse has been shown, or the following verse or verses have been conveniently ignored because they show the proper way in which the verses are to be understood; for example, verse 9:5, in which the second half of the verse is often ignored (…but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practice regular charity, then open the way for them: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.)

Another alternative narrative might be to explain why the misinformer promoted the myth. Arousing suspicion of the source of misinformation has been shown to further reduce the influence of misinformation.

What we Muslims should work harder at is to expose the conspiracies and the fake experts (the two go hand-in-hand). Fortunately, much of the dirt on the fake experts has been gathered by others, such as the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Center for American Progress. Frauds like Brigitte Gabriel, Pam Geller and Robert Spencer need to be exposed to the general public again and again, showing that for them, Islamophobia is a get-rich-quick scheme. (Follow the money.)

Another key element to effective rebuttal is using an explicit warning (“watch out, you might be misled”) before mentioning the myth. Experimentation with different rebuttal structures found the most effective combination included an alternative explanation and an explicit warning.

Now this is something that I had not considered before, but I think the use of an “explicit warning” is great advice.

Graphics are also an important part of the debunker’s toolbox and are significantly more effective than text in reducing misconceptions. When people read a refutation that conflicts with their beliefs, they seize on ambiguities to construct an alternative interpretation. Graphics provide more clarity and less opportunity for misinterpretation. … If your content can be expressed visually, always opt for a graphic in your debunking.

I am not sure just how relevant this suggestion will be for Muslim writers. When we discuss Islam we are dealing primarily with concepts that may or may not be well-presented graphically. This may be easier to do with respect to the Muslim world, where we can deal with people and different aspects of culture, such as food or clothing. Once again, however, if you incorporate the technique into your writing, go for it.

Next: Anatomy of an Effective Debunking

January 1, 2012

Debunking Myths About Islam and the Muslim World (Part 4)

This is the fourth post in a series commenting about The Debunking Handbook from the perspective of debunking the myths about Islam and the Muslim world.

The Worldview Backfire Effect

The third and arguably most potent backfire effect occurs with topics that tie in with people’s worldviews and sense of cultural identity.

Of the three backfire effects mentioned in this handbook, I would consider the worldview backfire effect to be the most difficult for Muslims to overcome. Many non-Muslims treat Islam as a threat to their worldview on a number of different fronts: religiously, culturally, racially, linguistically, and so on.

One cognitive process that contributes to this effect is Confirmation Bias, where people selectively seek out information that bolsters their view. … The study found that even when people are presented with a balanced set of facts, they reinforce their pre-existing views by gravitating towards information they already agree with. The polarization was greatest among those with strongly held views.

This should not be surprising. We Muslims frequently see this reaction from non-Muslims, and Americans see this from a political perspective as well (liberals vs. conservative). It is the extremely rare – and brave – non-Muslim who is willing to research Islam from genuine Islamic resources and not just regurgitating the lies and half-truths presented by the Islamophobes.

What happens when you remove that element of choice and present someone with arguments that run counter to their worldview? In this case, the cognitive process that comes to the fore is Disconfirmation Bias, the flipside of Confirmation Bias. This is where people spend significantly more time and thought actively arguing against opposing arguments.

For non-Muslims this is par for the course. But I say this from the perspective that virtually all non-Muslims go through this stage at some point. The key difference is in the attitude they have toward Islam and the Muslim world. At one extreme are those people who hate Islam and argue constantly against Islam. Their minds are not open and they have no interest in learning about Islam; they argue for the sake of arguing. They are ignorant time-wasters and they are best left alone. (I have dealt with more than enough of these people myself.) At the other extreme are those people who have an open mind toward Islam and are willing to learn. They may never become a Muslim, but they tend to be respectful and ask questions in a positive way.

If facts cannot dissuade a person from their preexisting beliefs - and can sometimes make things worse - how can we possibly reduce the effect of misinformation? There are two sources of hope.

First, the Worldview Backfire Effect is strongest among those already fixed in their views. You therefore stand a greater chance of correcting misinformation among those not as firmly decided about hot-button issues. This suggests that outreaches should be directed towards the undecided majority rather than the unswayable minority.

It is keeping in mind these potential reverts to Islam, those who are genuinely interested in learning about Islam and the Muslim world that we Muslim writers need to focus our efforts on. The haters will continue to hate, and there is little if anything we can do about them. But we can present our message to everyone else, those whose minds are more open. So if you are not responding to a specific person (or people) in mind, make your target reader those people who are potential reverts. Make your essays dawah-oriented. In this way we will also be following the Qur’an’s advice:

Invite (all) to the Way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: for thy Lord knoweth best, who have strayed from His Path, and who receive guidance. (16:125)

Second, messages can be presented in ways that reduce the usual psychological resistance. For example, when worldview-threatening messages are coupled with so-called self-affirmation, people become more balanced in considering pro and con information.
Self-affirmation can be achieved by asking people to write a few sentences about a time when they felt good about themselves because they acted on a value that was important to them. People then become more receptive to messages that otherwise might threaten their worldviews, compared to people who received no self-affirmation. Interestingly, the “self-affirmation effect” is strongest among those whose ideology was central to their sense of self-worth.

We Muslim writers are not going to be able to ask our readers to go through the self-affirmation exercise the authors of this handbook mention above. But what we can do is to focus our writings, when possible, on the common values we Muslims share with non-Muslims. Remember, we’re not focusing on countering the myths about Islam, but to present the facts. Non-Muslims share many of the same values Muslims have, but perhaps the non-Muslims don’t understand this as well as we would like them to. So stress the commonalities we have with other non-Muslims, regardless of whether they are of the People of the Book or not.

Another way in which information can be made more acceptable is by “framing” it in a way that is less threatening to a person’s worldview. For example, Republicans are far more likely to accept an otherwise identical charge as a “carbon offset” than as a “tax”, whereas the wording has little effect on Democrats or Independents—because their values are not challenged by the word “tax.”

This goes back to the idea of how we choose to write our essays, what terminology we use. In the simplified form, we may benefit from not using our terminology so as to increase understanding. The preconceived notions non-Muslims have about various words of ours (e.g., jihad, shari’ah, etc.) may distract the non-Muslims from understanding and accepting the message we wish to share with them.

Next: Filling the Gap with an Alternative Explanation