Monday, September 08, 2014

Online arguments on religion and right-wing twitter trolls' strategy: From secularism and democracy in Islamic countries to sweeping statements about Muslims

By Indscribe

Before I start writing about my understanding of trolls and their 'strategy', just let me tell you a bit of background. On this blog, I have often criticised certain Arab countries that have monarchies, and don't grant proper rights to women.

There are many issues in each and every country in this world that are condemnable--from corruption to communalism, age-old practices to mistreatment with women and other sections of society.

If there are issues in my country, I can write about them as per my interest or understanding. I do pen down my concerns with regard to my own country, more freely, as I have first-hand experience.

But if there are issues in other nations, should (and how much) I defend or criticise them? I may or may not, it is purely my personal decision. Individuals writing something can't change anything, still....


1. A section of people on internet, have a 'belief', that if you are a Muslim, you should be asked and made to explain 'things that are wrong in Muslim countries'.

One is expected to criticise them. Yes I've no problem in doing that. Anyone would condemn flogging or execution though those who expect it from us, may support death penalty for certain people in India.

Anyway, the issue begins when these trolls show that their mental horizon is limited to 'a Muslim world' which begins from Pakistan and Afghanistan, goes past all Arab countries in a sweeping statement, and then they end up claiming that 'everywhere there is something wrong with Muslims and the Muslim world.

Over the years, I have seen this typical troll strategy:

2. It begins with a normal and gentle conversation. Then, you are asked about a particular practice in a Muslim country, if you counter it and give a proper argument, then comes a second question--may be about faraway Iraq or Iran--countries alien to me and with whom I have no relation.

What's the objective? They keep throwing selected charges [repeated by most of them, copy-pasted from certain sites], to keep you on defensive? Does it gives them a high? Do they really enjoy, because the conversation leads to no where.

An intelligent person with patience would give examples to explain something. He will talk about different factors--local issues, involvement of America in Middle East over the Great Game, sincerely accept problems that exist in Muslim countries, even if he is not responsible.

3. But the troll steadily keeps moving towards an objective--that 'it happened at place X, person Y does this, and see country Z', now this is enough for him to 'conclusively' say that ' your religion has a certain problem' or 'you guys are mostly bad, with a few exceptions'.

So there is no scope for RATIONALISM. No point is any argument or debate, which gets clearer over the course of minutes or hours. Either side may get abusive and their friends too jump in the conversation.

4. If the person had tried to be patient till now and didn't resort to abuse, he still gets bitter feeling in the experience. Realises that there is tremendous hate and communalism in this world. What the 'Troll ji' gets out of it? Is he paid by someone or he sincerely believes it. No easy answers.

Does he enjoys spreading such messages and feels he is doing something good to society by creating awareness regarding the 'truth' of a particular religion and its believers, as per his {troll ji's} interpretation and views? Whatever.

The classic troll strategy: Online and Offline

5. Hundreds or thousands or may be even more people are having this experience on internet on a daily basis. This is not limited to internet. I have some off-line experience too.

"Why X killed Hindus?", you answer and counter. "Ok, why then you guys do this in country Y". "I have no great interest in Y. Bad practices should be condemned, no justification. Doesn't untouchability, khap killings, dowry, rapes, so many things exist here too".

"That's different, why there is always trouble in these countries?". "Is it? How many Muslim countries you know? Let's talk about Indonesia--the most populated Muslim country, to small neighbours like Maldives or Brunei also...

6. Many of these trolls have an obsession for Pakistan or Afghanistan. But why not talk about Albania, Sierra Leone, Mauritania, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, Tajikistan...and so many nations across the world?

Tell him and Troll ji gets angry, says, "These are countries with European influence, commie culture or monarchies". You may tell a troll that there is no need for you to justify anything or else he should also see civil wars, issues in African, South American, South East Asian countries, many of which are Christian or Buddhist majority.

7. But then, from everything that happened in last millennium, from Ghaznavi to Babar, the troll wants you to be held responsible. The 'Muslim obsession' and sweeping generalization that an entire sea of humanity is bad, comes from him. And it keeps going on.

8. Troll ji, is not listening to you. He thought Rwanda, Ethiopia, Uganda or Zambia were all Muslim countries. He then goes to a 'percentage theory' that if minorities [Muslims] go past this number, they create trouble, but even if they are 7%, they can create trouble (he has checked wikipedia by then).

9. Our troll ji, wants that the person would change his mind and accept what he (troll) believes in. But a normal person falls in the trap. Because he wants a civilised debate, he keeps on 'answering' (to) the same set of questions, without realising that the 'troll ji' wants him to land in this situation.

Frustrated in real life! Net, perhaps only place where Troll gets attention
The troll wants you to be replying, replying and replying--a grilling session, it becomes. You aren't allowed to question him.

10. The moment he has no answer left, he will get abusive--giving you a jolt as you were probably hoping to calm down a person and  had tried your best to make him see reason, so that he could stop being irrational and hateful. Alas...

Nothing, just nothing can make the 'troll' understand

11. My friend was dealing with a similar situation. So it was back to 'problems with Muslim countries' argument by the other person. Once again, he had his views based on just a few countries, especially, Pakistan.

Patiently, my friend kept answering and informing:

*Yes, so many countries have secular constitutions-- Indonesia, Turkmenistan, Jordan, Gambia, Djbouti, Comoros, Niger, Tajikistan, Burkina Faso, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan...Albania (even has nudist beaches), Tunisia has secular constitution.

*Kosovo, Uzbekistan, Kazakhistan had even had atheist Presidents. Morocco recently had a Gay pride march

*Lebanon--only country in the world where constitution mandates that only a minority should be president.

12. But nothing worked. A proper debate is where the other person is ready to appreciate if he is told a valid point. He or she should be ready to accept if he didn't know something, and has just been informed about it.

On Facebook, and all social networking sites, it happens. So what you should do? Good question. It depends on you. When you see graffiti in the toilet or obscene writings in train lavatories, do you scribble back on the walls and write a reply? I don't think you do. So Best of Luck.

The sad aspect is that nothing WORTHWHILE comes out of such interactions. Troll is firm about his ideas. The other person gets dejected too. Can't they talk like normal humans, and discuss other things, a while later. So what's the solution? Just keep your sanity. Make the trolls work hard to find their next prey to have their daily 'fun'.

See more posts on this issue here:

4. Playing flute to a buffalo: How to deal with Islamophobes 

[Illustration 1. Courtesy LINK] [Illustration 2. Courtesy LINK]

[In the above post, I may have been repetitive, Apologies for bearing the long piece, if you really read it]