Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Working Assumption: Stupidity?

On paying attention to footnotes

Jochen Katz

I have been engaged in discussions with Muslims since 1994, and I have seen quite a bit of nonsense in these fourteen years. But this recent "rebuttal" by Bassam Zawadi is definitely in a category by itself.

On 16 September 2006, I had published an answer to Abdullah Smith, who was propagating the utterly ludicrous claim that, according to the Bible, Jesus has female breasts. My rebuttal had several parts. I provided the evidence that the word "mastos" in Revelation 1:13 is used in Greek for both male and female breasts. On linguistic grounds, Smith's claim was simply wrong. Period. No further discussion necessary. However, since his claim was so ridiculous, I also used a fair measure of sarcasm and wrote a parody of his argument to show that with exactly the same kind of argumentation I can prove that he also has female breats, In fact, using Smith's methodology, one can show that Muhammad had female breasts according to the Islamic sources. On 22 December 2007, Bassam Zawadi published a Rebuttal To Jochen Katz's Article "Abdullah's Breasts: How to concoct a perversion".

To understand this discussion, the reader should first read my earlier article (*), and then Bassam Zawadi's rebuttal (*), before continuing with my evaluation of Zawadi's scholarly refutation.

Regarding the actual content of Zawadi's article, I mostly agree with him, i.e. he is basically correct in his explanation of the word thadee as being used to refer to the breasts of both men and women in classical Arabic, and about the meaning of the expression "expanding the breast" that is used in Sura 20:25 and 94:1. In other words, I endorse his explanation of the Islamic source texts given in his article.

Why then am I writing a response to him?

Zawadi apparently did not understand what I had written, and he "refuted" something that I never claimed. I am responding to Zawadi's article because I question his motivation for writing what he did, and how he did it. And I object to his assumptions.

Every one of the claims that Zawadi responded to came from the section in my paper that was titled "Smitty's boomerang[3]". The arguments in that section are all completely ridiculous, and it does not require a degree in literature studies to recognize that this was mere sarcasm. This section is a parody, exposing the falsity of Smith's argument by mimicking it. But, having seen that Muslims are occasionally not very discerning in this regard, I had added some footnotes. The first one was added to the title of the section, and a second one came immediately after the first argument dealing with Islamic texts. After quoting Sura 20:25 and 94:1 I had stated:

As the reader can see, at least Moses and Muhammad had a breast enlargement according to the Qur'an.[4]

Let me repeat those essential footnotes here:

3. Boomerang: 1. A flat, curved, usually wooden missile configured so that when hurled it returns to the thrower. 2. A statement or course of action that backfires. (The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition, source) Actually, I considered using the alternative section title "Tit for tat", but then decided it may be better to mention this idea only in a footnote. To correctly understand the nature of this whole section, see the next footnote.

4. Don't get all worked up about my "interpretation" of Sura 20:25, 36 and Sura 94:1. It is mere sarcasm. I know that this is not the actual meaning. However, if you think it is fair game for Muslim polemicists to abuse the Bible, you cannot complain if you reap what you have sown. So, don't bother to reply to the boomerang section in this article. It is nothing but a parody of Smith's ridiculous methodology. It is sad that I even have to state that explicitly, but I have actually had Muslims writing rebuttals to some of my earlier parodies.

How could I have been any clearer? I stated explicitly that the interpretation given in that article is wrong, but Zawadi apparently does not consider it necessary to read the full article before responding. Either Zawadi did not bother to read the full text — and that includes the footnotes! — or his level of reading comprehension is so low that he still did not know what he was dealing with, even after it was stated explicitly. Does he know the meaning of the word "parody"? Maybe his next research project should be to familiarize himself with this concept? It could save him some embarassment for future rebuttals.

What point is there in refuting arguments which are already explicitly stated to be wrong?

Actually, there is a way in which Zawadi could have presented the factual content of his article in a meaningful way. He could have expressed his concern that some Muslims lacking critical discernment may take my claims at face value, assuming them to be facts and start doubting their faith. Therefore he wanted to clarify the issue explicitly by giving the correct definition of the word "thadee" and giving the correct interpretation of the two referenced verses from the Qur'an. Because some Muslims may neither read the footnotes, nor recognize the parody and get confused by the claims, he will respond to them despite the fact that they are not serious charges.

He could have done so calmly and friendly, and I would not have had any objections to that approach. It would have shown discernment on his part. And it would have shown compassion for those who lack this discernment. But, as it is, it is Zawadi who is lacking the necessary discernment, and who disqualified himself as a serious researcher and credible voice for Islam.

Despite the fact that Zawadi's rebuttal is entirely irrelevant because he "refuted" a parody, i.e. he refuted claims I never earnestly made,[1] and which I had even explicitly declared to be wrong, let's examine some of Zawadi's statements:

I don't know whom to blame. Jochen's Arabic translator for being ignorant about Arabic and not letting Jochen know that the Arabic word Thadee could be used for both men and women or blame Jochen for not asking several reliable people who know Arabic in order to make sure about what the word Thadee means?

Regardless of who is blame, the issue needs to be sorted out. Let us see what some of the most reliable Arabic dictionaries had the following to say regarding the word Thadee. ... [2]

So as we can see, the Arabic word Thadee is not exclusive to women. Thus, Jochen has failed to muster up an argument against Islam just as Abdullah Smith has done against the Bible. ...

Jochen's translator failed to inform Jochen about the context in which the doctor was speaking in over here. The doctor was speaking about breast implant procedures for women and so on. Thus, clearly the word Thadee being used in that context was referring to the woman. However, that does not mean that it can only refer to the woman.

Thus, Jochen has failed here. ...

However, the ignoramus Jochen is definitely worthy of blame for failing to understand the meaning of Surah 94, Verse 1 since there are a good number of commentaries in English that he could have checked. ...

Again whom should we blame here? Should we only blame professor Stephen or should we blame Jochen as well for not being motivated enough to have an Arabic translator to go to the commentary of Imam Tabari and look at the Arabic and see if Professor Stephen has translated it correctly? ...

Basically, Zawadi's charge against me is that I am ignorant and careless, and that I relied on ignorant translators who misinformed me. His basic assumption appears to be that the people writing for Answering Islam are or must be ignorant (perhaps because infidels who reject the truth of Islam must be ignorant or even stupid by definition?). Looking at everything through the glasses of this prejudice, he can only see what he expects to see: ignorance. But that is a wrong assumption which contributes to his quick demise.

Let me assure Zawadi and the rest of our readership: When I make an argument about Arabic terms or statements in the Qur'an or hadith, I usually have them confirmed by at least two Arab ex-Muslims who are well-trained in classical Arabic. Occasionally, I pass the articles by several more Arabs, of both ex-Muslim and Christian background. Be sure that we have a thorough reviewing process. For illustration, let me quote some excerpts from the correspondence that I had with my Arabic friend who found this quotation from the medical doctor. I had asked him (and some others) to review my rebuttal to Abdullah Smith:

..., here is a newer version of my rebuttal to Abdullah.
Am I going overboard with my interpretation of Sura 20:25,36 and 94:1?
I hope these Muslims can bear a bit of parody.

He responded:

Ok, I finally stopped laughing, its wonderful piece of humor.

If you really want go overboard, here some more info.

Smith might say the word in Arabic for breast (the one used in the quran) is Sader and its used generic for man and woman.

Let us play the game then.

The word for woman breast is "thadee"

This word is identified by Muslims as breast "thadee" is the organ by which Allah almighty differentiate between man and woman, it’s the simple of motherhood, and the simple of femininity.

" الثدي هو العضو الذي ميز الله سبحانه و تعالى به المرأة عن الرجل، و هو رمز الأمومة و رمز الأنوثة،" (Dr Nori al mudars, head of department of Radiological diagnosis, University of Damascus – syria)

where I am going with this?

Well Mohammed said in a Hadith in Sunan al termidhi" (you might need some one to translate the whole hadith better than me) roughly what it means.

Mohammed was late for his followers one day and when he came to them he told them why he was late, he was praying at night and he fall a sleep while he was praying. So allah came to him in looking great. And Allah said to him "O mohammed" "Yes LORD" said mohammed. Do you know why the higher group are arguing? "I know not LORD" and he asked three times and I said I don't know.

Then I sow him (Allah) putting his hand between my shoulders until I felt the coldness of his fingertips between my breasts (Thadee), then I knew every thing …

(the hadith is correct one, and it's not a full translation)

I then sent him the following questions for clarification:

* Are there other texts in which thadee is applied to men, and even if it is rare, it is entirely possible to use it for men?

I.e. it is merely a GAME and parody of what Smith does?

Or is this much stronger? I.e. Muhammad really used the wrong word here?

* What does Lisan al arab say? Other dictionaries? Is Thadee definitely the female breast?

Dictionaries would be a much better basis than some statement by the guy you quoted.

But even if the dictionaries do not yield that, we can definitely use it in parody.

* Does the word thadee occur in the Quran? Is it used there always and exclusively for women?

(That would actually be the strongest basis for making the argument. The Quran clearly shows that this word is used ONLY for women. When breasts in general or of men are referred to, it is always a different word / words that are used. Therefore this hadith shows that Muhammad had female breasts.)

To which he again responded:

1 -- I can't find or confirm al tabari and Job

2 -- there are many references to use thadee for men but very few in modern Arabic, and I am only playing his game.

3 -- lisan al arab and others has thadee definition is "thadhee = well known" i.e. too well known to put in a dictionary.

4 -- the word is not in the quran.

You are playing him; you don't need to make strong argument, you actually need to make it as silly as you can.

In my archives, I have a dozen more emails that were written in preparation of this article: with the brother quoted above, and with some others; for getting good translations of the hadith, for fine-tuning my formulations, etc. But the above should be sufficient.

As Zawadi can see, before publishing my article, I knew every single detail of which he called me ignorant (including the fact that the Qur'an locates thinking in the breast,[1] cf. this note which I published more than ten years ago). But as our Arab brother put it in the last sentence that I quoted from our correspondence: "you need to make it as silly as you can." That is the point of writing a parody!

Zawadi assumed ignorance, a lack of intellectual integrity and poor research on my part, and that was his big mistake. It made him overconfident and careless. He thought he does not even have to read my article (care)fully, that he can refute me "blindly" or "on auto-pilot".

Mr. Zawadi, I do not want to write too many articles like this one which only expose the silliness of Muslim apologists but have no real content otherwise. I prefer to discuss real issues, i.e. issues that are relevant to the truth claims of Islam and Christianity, and which therefore help our readers to discern truth and make informed decisions. Don't assume I am stupid, or you will get hanged by your own rope, again and again. You will do much better if you assume that we are genuine, educated, resourceful, and at times even sophisticated. We have no need to work with tricks. We do all we do to the best of our knowledge, and research everything as best we can. If you assume that, then you may still be able to find occasional errors in our articles (we are humans, after all), but you will not look totally dumb for simply assuming us to be ignorant when it turns out that the only ignorant one in this exchange was you.

Theoretically, there is another possibility. Perhaps Zawadi knows full well what a parody is, and he knows that this section of my article was a parody and did not contain any serious claims. But he assumes that the vast majority of his readers are not able to see this, and thus the false claims that I used to compose the parody are the perfect occasion to score points with his Muslim readership by making me look ignorant in their eyes. Thus, his working assumption would be not so much my ignorance, but the ignorance of the majority of his readership and supporters, on which he is counting in this attempt to tarnish my reputation and belittle my intellectual integrity. In other words, his rebuttal is more like a debate trick. If you are not able to win on the basis of real arguments, use a smoke screen and attack the reputation of the opponent. But frankly, I doubt that Zawadi is sophisticated enough to make this latter interpretation probable. Moreover, we are not in the situation of a live debate, and such tricks always backfire in written debates because they are easily exposed.

In either case, it is never smart to assume that others are ignorant. Despite the fact that suicide missions are quite fashionable among certain groups of Muslims, I doubt that you will reach the status of a martyr by committing intellectual suicide.

Zawadi wrote in his article: "I don't know whom to blame. ... Jochen has failed ... Jochen has failed ... Again whom should we blame here?"

I will leave it to the readers to come to their own conclusions regarding the question of who has failed here, but I am quite convinced, Zawadi will have a hard time if he tries to blame anyone but himself.

Looking ahead, I see four main options for Zawadi:

  • Retract his article and publicly admit that he made a mistake.
  • Remove his article as if it never existed.
  • Leave the article up and pretend my response does not exist.
  • Write a rebuttal to me and defend his article.

Choose wisely!


Update, 1 February 2008

Within about half a day after my above response appeared online, Zawadi reacted. He chose the worst option and tried hard to justify his article, but he is defending a lost cause. I was afraid that he would choose that option, but at least he is consistent, even though consistently wrong, and stubbornly insistent on broadcasting his ignorance. Not surprisingly, his short reaction time did not leave him much of a chance to update his understanding of what a parody is.

Zawadi wants his readers to believe: "I already knew what Jochen's intentions were the whole time", but that is a rather thinly-veiled attempt at saving face. It is mere self-deception and won't convince anyone. Nevertheless, since Zawadi seems to enjoy this exchange, I am going to respond one more time, pointing out the contradictions and silly statements in his new appendix. I am going to respond to his appendix paragraph by paragraph. Zawadi begins:

Jochen, the ignoramus wrote a response here in which he claims that my rebuttal above was not necessary and that this argument was only a parody.

Does this guy believe in "proof by repetition"? Mr. Zawadi, you are boring. You are merely repeating over and over again that I am ignorant / an ignoramus, but you have yet to give even one example to substantiate that claim. Start discussing the issues and forget the name calling.

Moreover, I did not say that it was "only" a parody. That sounds as if I was retracting something, or that it should not be taken seriously. Not at all. A parody is a valid literary genre, which usually takes a lot more skill to write than a straight text. And the purpose and message of that parody was important. The problem is that you did not and still do not understand it. But before you can even begin to understand this particular parody, you need to understand the concept of parody as such. As long as you have not understood what parody is, you are simply not qualified to discuss this particular one, and will only make yourself look more and more silly.

First of all, Jochen's arguments were not portrayed as sarcastic despite the fact that he claimed that this was his intention. He quoted authorities to try and prove a point and those needed to be refuted. He wanted to show that he could vindicate his Bible by launching a similar attack against Islam. Thus, the main intent and purpose behind his 'parody' was a serious one and not a joke.

That particular section of my article was highly sarcastic. It is a problem of your reading comprehension if you could not see it, and still can't see it. A text or statement is sarcastic or it is not. It makes no sense to say that it was "not portrayed as sarcastic". Moreover, I did not only claim that it was sarcasm AFTER you wrote your response, I explicitly stated so in the article itself at the time of its first publication. There was nothing ambiguous about it. You are still avoiding to own up to the fact that you did not understand the article, and probably did not even read the footnotes that stated so explicitly.

How can one explain colors to a blind man? Let's do this the other way around. Since Zawadi pretends to know what sarcasm is, but denies that my argument was sarcastic, maybe Zawadi can explain to us what sarcasm is and how something needs to be written to be "portrayed as sarcastic", and why my statements did not meet the criteria of being sarcastic.

The fact that I quoted others ("authorities") in my parody has nothing to do with the question of it being sarcasm or not. On the contrary, since Abdullah Smith committed the fallacy of "appeal to authority", I purposely included that very fallacy in my parody as well. A claim does not become true because somebody with a title of professor said so.

Furthermore, it is impossible to vindicate person A by attacking person B, or vindicating theory A by attacking theory B, or vindicating the Bible by attacking the Qur'an, or vindicating the Qur'an by attacking the Bible, despite the fact that Muslims are trying to do this constantly. It is called the tu quoque fallacy. A parody, however, is something altogether different. But Zawadi replied to me again without caring to first get a grasp on the concept of parody. That is utter foolishness (Proverbs 26:11).

If somebody raises a problem in one book, and assuming it really is a problem, it cannot ever be vindicated by pointing out a problem in another book. It only means there are problems in both books. Each of the alleged problems has to be solved on its own terms. No, I did not try to vindicate the Bible by attacking Islam. That Zawadi makes this claim in his second round shows very clearly that he has not understood at all what he is talking about. In fact, I did not even attack Islam. But Zawadi will only understand this, after he learns what a parody is.

Finally, his last sentence shows again that he doesn't know what a parody is. He thinks a parody is a joke. Not at all. The purpose of a joke is to make people laugh, and that is the end of it. A parody may be very humorous, even funny, but the purpose is (usually) not simply to make people laugh. Parody seeks to expose things that are wrong, often what is wrong with "ways to handle certain issues" (approach, methodology), and parody has the very serious goal that people should recognize what is wrong and then change their approach, methodology or convictions. Parody uses humor and exaggeration as a means for achieving very serious purposes. Parodies are not jokes. Zawadi realized that my argument was not simply a joke and concludes that it could therefore not be a parody, which is the meaning of putting the word into inverted commas. Again, Zawadi does not know what a parody is, but his ignorance does not hinder him to discuss the matter anyway.

Secondly, THE WHOLE INTENTION of my article was to show that Jochen can't be as successful as Abdullah Smith in leveling the argument. I made this clear above...

Thus, Jochen has failed to muster up an argument against Islam just as Abdullah Smith has done against the Bible.


but this still won't vindicate the Biblical Jesus from having female breasts as the Bible implies unless Jochen would like us to believe that the 'incredible God man' had bodily disorders..

Since Zawadi is so repetitious, I guess I have to be repetitious as well. Let me put it in bold this time: I did not make an argument against Islam in that article. I have written plenty of articles in which I present arguments against Islam, but this was not one of them!

Moreover, it is no surprise that my "argument against Islam" was not successful, because it never was intended to be one. After all, I stated explicitly that this pseudo-argument is ridiculous and wrong. It was my purpose to make it as silly as possible. Again, the very fact that you thought I was trying to make a strong argument against Islam and failed (as you stated three times in your original article), shows that you have not understood my argument.

Perhaps this is the place to explain something about parodies? "Parody" is a broad term that covers many things. I am using it in a specific sense which is related to the terms "satire", "spoof", and "caricature". Wikipedia's long entry on "Parody" is not too helpful for our case, but it does connect it with the related term "Satire" which has a definition that is reasonably close to my understanding:

Satire is strictly a literary genre, although it is found in the graphic and performing arts as well as the printed word. In satire, human or individual vices, follies, abuses, or shortcomings are held up to censure by means of ridicule, derision, burlesque, irony, or other methods, ideally with an intent to bring about improvement.[1] Although satire is usually meant to be funny, the purpose of satire is not primarily humour in itself so much as an often quite angry attack on something the author strongly disapproves, using the weapon of wit.

A very common, almost defining feature of satire is a strong vein of irony or sarcasm, but parody, burlesque, exaggeration, juxtaposition, comparison, analogy, and double entendre are all frequently used in satirical speech and writing. The essential point, however, is that "in satire, irony is militant"[2]. This "militant irony" (or sarcasm) often professes to approve the very things the satirist actually wishes to attack. (Source: Wikipedia, 31 January 2008, underline emphasis mine)

That last sentence is very important. In satire the intended meaning is often the exact opposite of what is literally stated. How does one know that a statement is satirical or sarcastic? The extreme exaggeration contained in it shows that it could not possibly have been intended to be taken seriously. The same with my parody/satire. The argument was so extremely ridiculous that anyone with a sound mind and a little bit of common sense would see that this could not possibly be a serious argument. But just to cover the case that some Muslims were not able to discern this, I added footnotes in which I stated explicitly what the meaning and purpose of that section was. Again, the only problem is that if Zawadi does not read the full text before replying, then I can't do anything to help him. I am not writing for first graders. My articles assume a certain measure of literacy and reading comprehension on the part of the user. I expect that a reader who is interested enough to engage with my argument takes the minimum effort necessary for understanding it: reading the complete article.

For illustration, let me point to a couple of parodies / satires / spoofs written by others on the topic of abuse and misinterpretation of the Bible:

Bible Confirms That God Is A Worm! by Glenn Miller
The Hidden Teachings of the Secret Gospel of Buddha by David Wood

Maybe these texts can help Zawadi to get a grasp on the concept of parody / satire. David Wood's article is allegedly about Buddha and "scholars of Buddhism" but in reality it has nothing to do with Buddhism at all. It is a scathing satire of the Jesus Seminar and their methodology of interpreting the Bible. The fictional gospel of Buddha is only the means; the Jesus Seminar is the target. Similarly, the satirical section of my article only used the means of an alleged (but totally ridiculous) argument against Islam (and the only reason I chose Islam as the means for the satire is that Smith is a Muslim), the target had nothing to do with Islam. I was writing a satire which was a spoof / caricature / parody of Abdullah Smith's argument against the Bible. Harmony of the Gospels: principles from Lincoln biographies by James Patrick Holding is another parody of the Jesus Seminar using a different means. It is not a satire, it is much less sarcastic, but it is still mimicking the methodology of the Jesus Seminar people, applying it to the Lincoln biographies and coming to conclusions that make it obvious that this (i.e. their) methodology cannot possibly be valid. However, J.P. Holding also has a lot of sarcastic parodies which are listed on this page. Reading some of them might help Zawadi to develop an understanding for this literary genre. J.P. recommended these three for starters (1, 2, 3).

Again, in parody or satire one (often) has a specific target but uses an indirect means to attack this target. That is the important point which Zawadi apparently does not understand. I did not launch an attack on Islam. Islam was not the target. I only used certain elements of Islam (a couple of quotes from the Qur'an and the hadith) as means to construct an argument that was mimicking the one by Abdullah Smith. Showing how ridiculous such an argument is (and even explicitly stating that my argument is wrong), I attacked / exposed Smith's argument as fallacious. Nothing more, nothing less.

Side remark: If an article is a parody that does not mean it is therefore exempt from critique. The message of a parody can be wrong. If so, this should be exposed. Therefore, there is a place for rebutting a parody or satire. However, one needs to show that one understood it, i.e. that one is able to discern the literal surface level meaning from the deeper intended meaning, and then respond to the latter one, not to the surface meaning as Zawadi did here. One example is our response to a satirical piece by Hesham Azmy: The Qur'an Cannot Be A Text of Divine Origin, published on 3 November 2007.

I already knew what Jochen's intentions were the whole time. He was trying to show that if Abdullah Smith were to be consistent then he would be shooting himself in the foot. THE WHOLE PURPOSE OF THE ABOVE REBUTTAL WAS TO SHOW THAT THIS WAS NOT THE CASE. I wanted to show that Jochen can't apply the same standard to Islam as Abdullah Smith did to his Bible.

Completely wrong. Apart from the fact that there will hardly be any people who will believe you that you knew my intention(s) — it is obvious that you are simply trying to save face — this paragraph again shows that you did not only not know it the first time, you still do not understand it in your second reply.

We have plenty of articles where we show that various Muslim missionaries / apologists / polemicists are inconsistent. When dealing with wrong assumptions we occasionally turn Muslim arguments around and apply them to the Qur'an or Islam to expose how those (faulty) assumptions used by the Muslims pose the same or even greater problems for Islam than they allegedly pose for the Bible. The classical example is Muslims taking over the conclusions against the Bible which they find atheists or liberal Bible scholars making. Many of them are based on anti-supernaturalist assumptions: miracles do not occur (no virgin births, no healing of people born blind, no raising people from the dead, etc.), therefore the Gospels which contain such stories are not historical, they contain legendary material, therefore they could not have been written by eye-witnesses but must originate much later, etc. etc. Thus, the Muslim polemicist triumphs, "your own scholars say that the Bible is not trustworthy". However, you cannot take the conclusion if you do not endorse the assumptions that were used to derive at these conclusions. However, if you agree to the anti-supernaturalist assumption, then the Qur'an is just as unreliable historically as the Bible, because it contains the claim that Jesus was born from a virgin, that he raised people from the dead, etc. Another example is the issue of substitutionary acts and vicarious suffering. Sam Shamoun took Zawadi's objections to the Christian doctrine and shows that those objections contradict various teachings within Islam, so Zawadi is not consistent when attacking the Christian faith with such objections, cf. this article. One can find many more such examples when browsing through our Rebuttals section, Shabir Ally being a specialist for inconsistent arguments (1, 2, etc.).

We occasionally use that approach when a Muslim argument is serious but misinformed, not fully thought through, and inconsistent with the assumptions that are underlying the Islamic teaching. Then we point out that accepting such objections backfires against Islam, but we do so in a serious discussion, using valid reasoning.

Abdullah Smith's claims, however, were so utterly ridiculous, that they begged for being satirized. Moreover, they had no obvious connection to Islamic teaching. In his argument there was no principle, so it could not contradict any principles. It could not seriously be applied to Islam. Again, my satire was not an attack on Islam. Zawadi did not have to prove that my argument was wrong, I had already stated this explicitly myself.

That is all. Me calling Jochen an ignoramus is not only based on this article of his but also on all the other articles that he has written and I am not going to apologize for calling him an ignoramus since it is not a curse word, but a statement of fact.

So far, it is only your claim. You really have to learn to distinguish between facts and claims. If you had said so after writing a dozen articles exposing my ignorance, that may have been another issue, but this is your very first article in response to me. And in this article you "refuted" nothing else than what I had already declared to be wrong myself, so that you have yet to show me wrong in anything that I proclaim as true. Don't you think that your verdict is a bit premature? So far, it very much sounds like: "if I can't show him to be ignorant, I will at least call him ignorant." Very impressive!

However, if Jochen is going to cry and suck on his pacifier and demands that I admit that I am wrong then fine. Here is my apology to Jochen...

My, my, Zawadi is getting really emotional here. No arguments left? Then let's try the ad hominem approach again!

I had not made any demands on you. I only outlined your options. Moreover, I did certainly not ask for an apology directed at me. What for? You had not fooled me. If there is any apology necessary it has to be an apology to your readers who were misled by your misrepresentation of my argument.

Dear Jochen,

I apologize for stating that you are an ignoramus by falsely accusing you (even though I didn't) of truly believing in the sarcastic arguments that you have put forth. Instead, I should have made it clearer that I only accussed you of being an ignoramus since you thought that you could level an argument against Islam just as Abdullah Smith did against your Bible and for thinking that you can vindicate the Bible by launching a similar, yet unsuccessful attack against Islam.

Happy now Jochen?

Although unnecessary and not asked for, that is probably the most insincere and incoherent apology that I have ever seen. You are only proving to your readers that you are not a man of your word, that you do not mind saying one thing and doing another.

What is the value of saying "I apologize for stating that you are an ignoramus" (in your first article) when you repeat that term several times in your new reply? You started with the words "Jochen, the ignoramus wrote a response ...", continued with "Me calling Jochen an ignoramus is not only based on this article of his but also on all the other articles that he has written" (i.e. it is fully justified) and even stated "I am not going to apologize for calling him an ignoramus since it is not a curse word, but a statement of fact." To summarize, your appendix has these two statements:

  • "I am not going to apologize for calling him an ignoramus since it is ... a statement of fact."
  • "I apologize for stating that you are an ignoramus ..."

Whom do you think you are going to impress by this?

Moreover, it is very interesting — actually, it is pitiful! — how you are now twisting and misrepresenting even your own statements in order to somehow save face in this matter. Let's take your so-called apology sentence by sentence.

I apologize for stating that you are an ignoramus by falsely accusing you (even though I didn't) of truly believing in the sarcastic arguments that you have put forth.

First, the point isn't whether or not I was believing my sarcastic arguments, but that YOU believed these were genuine arguments and called me ignorant for making false statements. Second, in your first reply there was no mentioning of the word "sarcasm". So, you are right, you never accused me of believing in a sarcastic argument for the simple reason that you did not even recognize that it was sarcastic. Third, since you did not realize that my argument was sarcastic, how could you base any accusation (rightly or wrongly) on that fact? Moreover, just a couple of paragraphs ago, you stated that my statements were not recognizable as being sarcastic. Now you suddenly agree that they are. Can you perhaps make a clear decision of what you want to argue instead of contradicting yourself from one sentence to the next?

Fourth, apparently you do not even know the meaning of "sarcasm". Here is one definition:

Sarcasm is stating the opposite of an intended meaning especially in order to sneeringly, slyly, jest or mock a person, situation or thing. (Wikipedia, 1 February 2008)

In other words, if I make a sarcastic statement, then its true meaning is the opposite of its apparent meaning. The whole point of sarcasm is that one does NOT believe what one says. So, to accuse somebody to believe in his own sarcastic argument is nonsense. If he believes it, it was not sarcastic. If he said it sarcastically, then he does, by definition, not believe it. You simply haven't got a clue what you are talking about. You should avoid words which you are not able to use properly.

Furthermore, looking at the clause you put in paretheses, why would you want to apologize for something you did not do? Are you even making sense to yourself?

But most importantly, you are not truthful — whatever you may have meant with this absolutely incoherent statement, because you used the word "ignoramus" or "ignorant" for me and/or my Arabic translator in the following context:

I don't know whom to blame. Jochen's Arabic translator for being ignorant about Arabic and not letting Jochen know that the Arabic word Thadee could be used for both men and women or blame Jochen for not asking several reliable people who know Arabic in order to make sure about what the word Thadee means?

First observation: this statement is again incoherent in itself. A person can either be ignorant about a certain fact, or he can be at fault for not sharing his knowledge about this fact. But it is illogical to connect both statements with the conjunction "and" as Zawadi does. How can he blame the translator for not letting me know something that he is ignorant about?

Apart from the incoherent formulation, it is still clear that the term "ignorant" is introduced here because we allegedly did not know the true meaning of the Arabic word. Similarly, in the second place he uses this term:

However, the ignoramus Jochen is definitely worthy of blame for failing to understand the meaning of Surah 94, Verse 1 since there are a good number of commentaries in English that he could have checked.

Again, Zawadi is not calling me an ignoramus because I am using this verse in order to make a certain argument, sarcastic or not, but because I supposedly failed to understand the meaning of this verse, because I am ignorant of the meaning, because I do not know it.

These are the only two places where Zawadi used the word "ignorant" or "ignoramus", and in both cases it is clearly used in the context of pointing out our supposed ignorance about certain facts. The Arabic translator and myself are called ignorant because we supposedly did not know something. It is very silly to deny this in the appendix when the statements are plainly there to see on the very same page, just some paragraphs earlier.

Let's now add the second sentence to reread Zawadi's full "apology":

I apologize for stating that you are an ignoramus by falsely accusing you (even though I didn't) of truly believing in the sarcastic arguments that you have put forth. Instead, I should have made it clearer that I only accussed you of being an ignoramus since you thought that you could level an argument against Islam just as Abdullah Smith did against your Bible and for thinking that you can vindicate the Bible by launching a similar, yet unsuccessful attack against Islam.

Again, Mr. Zawadi, this is simply a dishonest representation of your own argument. You used the words "ignorant" and "ignoramus" exactly in those paragraphs where you thought you were correcting our lack of knowledge about simple facts. [Incidentally, that was the correct use of the word "ignorant", only at the wrong time, because you did not recognize that you were dealing with satire.]

On the other hand, when you spoke about my alleged attack on Islam, you used these words:

So as we can see, the Arabic word Thadee is not exclusive to women. Thus, Jochen has failed to muster up an argument against Islam just as Abdullah Smith has done against the Bible.

Here Zawadi did not use the word "ignorant", but the word "failed". Just as the word "ignorant" was the correct one to use when talking about a lack of knowledge regarding a certain fact, "failed" is the correct word to use when speaking about an argument or attack. The only problem is that Zawadi did not realize that there was no argument against Islam in this case, and therefore, if I did not even attempt to make an argument against Islam, then I couldn't have failed in it either.

Instead of saying "sorry, you are right, I did not understand what you were saying in your article", and then move on, Zawadi is trying to justify and redefine, and in the process makes a total mess of his formulations.

Let's continue to beat this dead horse:

Instead, I should have made it clearer that I only accussed you of being an ignoramus since you thought that you could level an argument against Islam just as Abdullah Smith did against your Bible and for thinking that you can vindicate the Bible by launching a similar, yet unsuccessful attack against Islam.

Your claim is obviously wrong. It is correct that you thought I was making an argument against Islam, and that you thought I was trying to vindicate the Bible by attacking Islam. But it is wrong that you called me an ignoramus for those reasons. You called me/us ignorant because you thought we did not know the meaning of Thadee and the meaning of Sura 94:1. And since you added the word "only" in your above statement, the misrepresentation of your own argument is even worse than it would have been without that word.

But, for argument's sake, let's assume that this was your only accusation (which it was not). This still doesn't save you since you would still be wrong because I did not level an argument against Islam, and I did not think I was levelling an argument against Islam. As pointed out already, nobody can vindicate one religion by launching an attack against another religion. That is a logical fallacy. And since I am very well aware of this fallacy which is committed by Muslims over and over again, I neither did do this, nor did I think I was doing it, nor did I think I could do it. Understood?

Based on your first reply, your "summary" or "clarification" of what you supposedly did is simply wrong. It has no support in the text of your own rebuttal. You are twisting your own words. And that is quite pitiful.

Moreover, in your attempt of changing your reason as to why you called me ignorant, you are now using the word "ignoramus" incorrectly. But I have said enough, I will leave it to you to figure that out.

Finally, Zawadi asks:

Happy now Jochen?

Absolutely. Thank you! What more could I have asked for than that you voluntarily give up your credibility?


An article like this needs to have some footnotes, right?

1. This footnote brings together three details mentioned in different places during this article. While reading, make sure you have seen both places where this footnote number occurs in the text. First, refuting an argument that has never been made by an opponent, i.e. which is not his true argument, is called a "straw man argument". Second, the argument here is about "breasts". And third, the Qur'an locates the faculty of thinking in the breast. Would it then not be appropriate to call Zawadi's argument a "straw breast" argument?

It should be obvious that this context lends itself to the use of ridicule and scathing sarcasm. I have been toying with the thought of using remarks like "if thinking with your breasts did not work, try using your brain the next time", etc., and even titling the article, "Zawadi's Request For Breast Enlargement Denied!" since "enlarging the breast" means an illumination of the mind, i.e. an improvement of understanding, which so obviously is lacking in Zawadi's article. But since this is Zawadi's first reply to me, I decided to be merciful. Nevertheless, this footnote is an indication of what he has been spared from for now. Mr. Zawadi, take me seriously for our future discussions, and you will fare much better.

2. This Muslim article has at least one completely unexpected side effect. I want to thank Bassam Zawadi for producing the statement: "Let us see what some of the most reliable Arabic dictionaries had the following to say regarding the word Thadee." This formulation is wrong according to the rules of English grammar and syntax.

These kinds of errors are very human. Many people make them. Although it reveals a certain carelessness even in regard to his own writings, and that Zawadi apparently doesn't have anyone to proofread his articles, we still know what he wanted to say. There is only one reason for even mentioning this grammatical mistake: it provides a wonderful illustration for my recent argument regarding Sura 2:97, in which an error of the same kind reveals the very human origin of this verse. This example is now included into my discussion of Sura 2:97, The Stray Say — see the footnotes!