A Philosopher's Blog

Tea Partiers and Muslims

Posted in Ethics, Philosophy, Politics, Reasoning/Logic by Michael LaBossiere on August 23, 2011
Description: A Ku Klux Klan meeting in Gainesv...

A racist group.

I recently had an interesting discussion about the Tea Party and Muslims. It began with a Tea Party person being upset about the accusations of racism against the Tea Party. I think I surprised him a bit when I agreed that the Tea Party folks are often accused of being racist on the basis of a very visible fringe element-the sort of folks who carry signs depicting Obama as witch doctor. I also made the point that a group should not be defined by its fringe element or by the worst of those who claim to belong to the group. Rather, a group should be assessed on its actual values and the general behavior of its core. So, for example, the various Tea Party groups are not racist groups. In contrast, something like the KKK would be a paradigm of a racist group. That said, there are some grounds for being concerned about what seem to be racist elements in individual Tea Partiers. Of course, the same can be said about Democrats.

The conversation then switched to the matter of Muslims and how they pose a threat to the United States. I did the obvious move and pointed out that he had just agreed that a group should not be judged by its fringe or worst elements. To be consistent, what applies to the Tea Party should also apply to Muslims. After all, just as the fact that there are racists in the Tea Party does not make the Tea Party a racist movement, the fact that there are Muslim terrorists does not make Islam a terrorist faith.

As I expected, the counter was that Islam is inherently a religion of terror while the Tea Party is about taxes and not about race. This is a reasonable counter in the sense that it is based on the principle of relevant difference: if being a terrorist is part of being a Muslim and being a racist is not part of being a Tea Partier, then all Muslims would be terrorists while Tea Party members need not be racists.

While I do agree that most Tea Party folks are not racists, I do not agree that all Muslims are terrorists. While people do point to quotes from the Koran, people also point to some rather bad stuff in the bible. Just as I would not infer that all Christians are pro-slavery based on what the bible says, I would not infer that all Muslims are pro-terror based on what the Koran says about jihad.  Fortunately enough, most people do not follow their holy books to the letter.

My considered view is that labeling the entire Tea Party as racist is just as unfair and unjust as labeling all Muslims as terrorists. As such, the Tea Party folks who resent being called racists should extend the same courtesy to Muslims and refrain from labeling them all as terrorists. Sure, there are Muslims who are terrorists-just as there are Tea Partiers who are racists.

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23 Responses

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  1. T. J. Babson said, on August 23, 2011 at 7:03 am

    “While I do agree that most Tea Party folks are not racists, I do not agree that all Muslims are terrorists.”

    Straw man. No one holds that all Muslims are terrorists. The claim is that Islamic doctrine contains elements that can reasonably be interpreted as justifying violence against nonbelievers. This is a far cry from claiming all Muslims are terrorists.

    • Asur said, on August 23, 2011 at 10:02 am


      Here, I’ll clarify the link for you:

      1. “Islamic doctrine contains elements that can reasonably be interpreted as justifying violence against nonbelievers.”

      2. Therefore, the Islamic faith can reasonably be seen as a faith advocating violence against nonbelievers.

      3. Therefore, those who hold the Islamic faith can reasonably be seen as advocating violence against nonbelievers.

      What do you think comes next in Step 4? The error is introduced at step 2, however it is correct to say that this is how many people think and act, regardless of whether they’re verbally willing to commit to the implied conclusion.

      • T. J. Babson said, on August 23, 2011 at 12:54 pm


        1) Catholic doctrine holds that birth control should not be used.

        2) Therefore, the Catholic faith can be reasonably seen as a faith advocating the non-use of birth control.

        3) Therefore, those who hold the Catholic faith can be reasonably seen as advocating the non use of birth control.

        4) Therefore, all Catholics refrain from using birth control.

        It is definitely not “correct to say that this is how many people think and act, regardless of whether they’re verbally willing to commit to the implied conclusion.”

        • Asur said, on August 24, 2011 at 11:45 am

          You miss the point, even in your own rebuttal; it is quite true that many people think and act as if all Catholics refrain from using birth control. That is one of the–if not the most–widespread stereotypes about Catholics.

          Magus, unsurprisingly, has chimed in his agreement with your nonsensical reply.

          Congratulations to you both.

          • WTP said, on August 24, 2011 at 12:29 pm

            Yes, Asur…But would the Pope agree with your conclusion? I wouldn’t know for sure, but are there not those “more Catholic than the Pope”?

          • T. J. Babson said, on August 24, 2011 at 2:31 pm


            “..it is quite true that many people think and act as if all Catholics refrain from using birth control…”

            Asur, you really need to get out more. You pull these statements out of your nether region & provide no evidence to back them up. It is common, public knowledge that most Catholics use birth control (even in Ireland), and no sizable group of people believes otherwise.

            Here is my evidence.. Where is yours?

            (Reuters) — Some 98 percent of sexually active Catholic women have used contraceptive methods banned by the church, research published on Wednesday showed.

            A new report from the Guttmacher Institute, the nonprofit sexual health research organization, shows that only 2 percent of Catholic women, even those who regularly attend church, rely on natural family planning.


          • magus71 said, on August 24, 2011 at 3:08 pm

            Have a beer.

            • T. J. Babson said, on August 24, 2011 at 8:28 pm


              Can this be true?

              Marine Corps Times is a family newspaper and we only rarely have offensive language in our stories.

              But this week the word “fart” appears in a story I wrote about the importance of trust between Marines and the Afghan national army soldiers they work with.

              I didn’t want to write this little blog entry about farts. It’s not even on my beat. But my colleague Dan Lamothe, whose byline you have seen here quite often, shamed me into it.

              “You owe it to all Marines,” he told me.

              So here’s the news: audible farting has been banned for some Marines downrange because it offends the Afghans.


            • Michael LaBossiere said, on August 25, 2011 at 7:23 pm

              Um, what?

            • magus71 said, on August 30, 2011 at 12:02 pm


              In response to the Marine/fart episode. I doubt it’s true, The Marines are one of the last warlike entities in our military. But it’s pretty damn bad, let me tell you. I’d have to say that the Army is the most politically correct place I’ve ever worked and the last thing we ever talk about in garrison is how to win wars. It’s truly sad. Many people left the military when they saw the pc wave coming 10 years ago. Some that are still in say that their branch of the military is unrecognizable from what it was 10 years ago.

              America’s geography protects her more than her military capabilities. It is truly sad. But I will prepare myself for fart harassment training….

            • dhammett said, on August 30, 2011 at 12:35 pm

              Magus, you may want to postpone those preparations. I’ve heard from those who should know that military researchers are developing an effective fart-silencer for the Afghan theater. My guess is that it’s a highly secret part of the program described below:

              “The U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command’s Army Research Laboratory is taking a look at battlefield atmospheres to possibly equip the Defense Department with additional tools to find out exactly what, if anything, is in the dirty, dusty, dark and by all accounts, bad air that could affect the breathing of Soldiers returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

              The development would not only protect Afghan sensibilities but could , possibly, eventually guarantee cleaner air for our soldiers in the field.

    • magus71 said, on August 23, 2011 at 1:26 pm

      I was just about to comment on that exact line before I read TJ’s response, which, as many things that TJ says, took the words out of my mouth and probably said them better.

      TJ, you should read Mark Steyn’s book, America Alone.


      • T. J. Babson said, on August 23, 2011 at 2:48 pm

        Great minds think alike, Magus 🙂

    • dhammett said, on August 23, 2011 at 1:35 pm

      tjb: I’d be willing to wager that, if you and I would look hard enough, we’d find someone–perhaps even more than one– who “holds that all Muslims are terrorists”. And I’d also wager that such a person could be a Tea Party member. The search might be a long one. It’s difficult to find racists of the sort who, publicly, hold that all Blacks are inferior to whites, but to claim that no one holds such a view is nonsense.

      • magus71 said, on August 23, 2011 at 2:23 pm


        Seems the burden of proof is in your court. Produce that person. And Mike uses that argument against all people that state that Islam is a major problem. Speak against Islam, and you’re saying all Muslims are terrorists. Were all Germans Nazis in WWII? Was Nazism a big problem?

        Don’t you resort to sophistry, too.

        In any event, The actions that take place around the world speak for themselves.

        • dhammett said, on August 23, 2011 at 3:51 pm

          magus71: I’d say the burden of proof is in tjb’s court. He made the claim that “NO ONE holds that all Muslims are terrorists.” That’s a very rash generalization presented as a statement of fact. I’d say he should round up the world’s population and eliminate the possibility that each and every one of them does NOT hold that all Muslims are terrorists.” Good luck with that, tjb.

          And I’m not so certain tjb wasn’t creating a straw man to attack what wasn’t a straw man. The professor wrote “I do not agree that all Muslims are terrorists.” This statement seems to be a rejection –in the form of an opinion– of a viewpoint that, whether it exists or not, he considers objectionable. What he said is not much different, in my opinion than saying that “If everyone in the world were homosexual the human race would die out.” This statement presupposes for the sake of the argument that EVERYONE in the world could ever become homosexual. Where does the burden of proof lie in that instance? TJB’s, on the other hand, seems to be a making simple statement of what he considers to be a fact. I doubt his “fact”. It sounds like an opinion to me couched as a fact (NO ONE) There’s nothing, I believe, for tjb to attack here unless he can prove his “fact”, He should prove that “NO ONE holds that all Musilms are terrorists” first for Mike’s statement to be a straw man. I’ll defer to Mike’s explanation (forthcoming, I hope) on this one.

          The words “each”, “every”, “some”, “all”, none”, “everybody”, ” nobody”, “no one”, “few”, and “many”, “most”, “nothing”, “everything” exist for a reason. I tend to suspect the validity of statements that contain the words “all”, “none”, “everybody”, “nobody”, “everything”, “no one” and “nothing”. That doesn’t mean all statements that contain such words are invalid. But for me, in a discussion, I tend to be much more wary of the context when I see or hear one of them.

  2. T. J. Babson said, on August 23, 2011 at 7:38 am

    On the other hand, top Democrats have called the Tea Party members terrorists:

  3. WTP said, on August 23, 2011 at 8:24 am

    Mike has a problem with proportionality. His thinking is riddled with this sort of fallacy, TJ. Sophistry is saturated with this sort of “logic”.

  4. magus71 said, on August 23, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    Ok–You’re making progress, Mike. I want to give credit.

    But the world’s terrorism problem is primarily Muslim in origin. Are there thousands of Christians cheering in the streets when Israel bombs Gaza? Now check out what happened after 9-11.

    As far as you saying that based on what the Bible says, Christians could be considered pro-slavery (Or saying that COULD be an argument), you’re referring to Paul saying “Slaves, obey your master.”

    He didn’t say slavery was good or right. Entire portions of the Old Testament are dedicated to a race escaping slavery.

    Good post.

  5. ajmacdonaldjr said, on August 24, 2011 at 4:10 am

    I both agree and disagree with Michael’s position. On the one hand he is correct that an entire group should not be judged by the groups most extreme members. On the other hand I think it’s important to note the fact that the great thing about extremists, which I love, is that they take the groups philosophical position to it’s logical, often absurd, conclusion, which is something most members of the group will never do.

    By paying close attention to what the extremist is saying and doing we are able to cut through the crap, so to speak, given to us by more moderate group members, crap which never seem to address our real questions or concerns about the groups position, because the more moderate members haven’t thought about the groups philosophy all that deeply, as the extremist has.

    I actually believe the extremists give us our best and most succinct look at a group’s philosophy. Most group members are nominal, especially religious groups. Muslims, Catholics, and Tea Party Protestants too. The extremist understands what his faith requires of him and he is committed to doing it, whereas nominal members don’t really understand their faith and aren’t really all that committed to it.

    I am curious to know whether Michael neglected to capitalize the word “Bible” as he did with “Koran” or if he is used to not capitalizing “Bible” for some other reason, perhaps a liberal academia writing habit he’s picked up over the years?

    I also think Tea Partiers are racist: toward Muslims, as you pointed out, although your point, I think, had more to do with President Obama’s being black and the Tea-Partier-as-Racist epithet sprung up at that time. As your friend said, he thinks all Muslims are terrorists, or should be, like the extremist is, who actually practices what he preaches.

    Islam is no religion of peace. If anything, I think it better described as a religion of war and conquest, this based on both actions and the holy book.

    To be fair, I think Michael should cut Christian Bible believers some slack, because what he said about the bad things in the Bible doesn’t apply to Christians who have a New Testament in their Bibles, with the teachings and life-example of Jesus, who clarifies and fulfills the Old Testament. I’m not certain what the bad things in the Bible are to which he is referring but I am assuming it has to do with God commanding Israel to slaughter innocent women and children or something like that, which Israel is still doing today, even though God sent Jesus only to the house of Israel, to clarify and fulfill what we call the Old Testament. Since Israel as a nation rejected Jesus and all the prophets before him, and since Jesus was not just any prophet but the last and final prophet, God’s own Son, Jesus rejected Israel, which is something most “Christian” Tea Partiers won’t do. Those co-called and self-professed Christians who support Israel are contrary to Christ, not followers of him and his teachings.

    I realize, too, that Christians, and not just Jews or Muslims, have a history of slaughtering innocent women and children and of conquest, but the key here is to discover whether or not these extremely violent action are in accord with the holy book and the life example of the religion’s founder. With Israel and Moses and their holy book such actions can be justified as logical, if brutal. With Islam and Muhammed, and their holy book such actions can be justified as logical as well. But with Christians, Jesus, and their holy book such actions cannot be justified as logical but are, rather, are departure from the true faith as expressed by the life example of Jesus and the New Testament, where you will find no commands to kill or conquer anyone, quite the opposite.

    An excellent example of an extremist Christian was St Francis of Assisi who reflected the life and teachings of Christ taken to heart and put into action by a true believer. I myself, like St Francis, am a religious (and political) extremist of the worst kind: half liberal half conservative, all American, and a consistently prolife Catholic. An important point to consider regarding extremists: I am certain temperament has everything to do with it, which is why the extremists are never the whole or the majority of the group. It takes a certain type of temperament to study a belief, truly take it to heart, and act upon those beliefs even when such actions land you in jail or prison.

    Rather than scorning the extremists the groups should pay attention to them, because the extremist can teach then a lot about their faith. But the extremist must remember too that due to temperament, most people will never see things as clearly as he does and he is wasting his time trying to get everyone to be as extreme as him. This is what happened to St Francis and it caused quite a controversy at the time. The followers of Francis said they were doing what all Christians should be doing and that the Church was not following Christ because they were not as extreme as the followers of Francis and Francis himself were. Jesus too was an extremist, an extremist who called his followers, which he said would be very few, to an extreme life as well.

    A scary thought, for most: what if the extremists are right?

    Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
    Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
    where there is injury,pardon;
    where there is doubt, faith;
    where there is despair, hope;
    where there is darkness, light;
    and where there is sadness, joy.

    O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
    to be consoled as to console;
    to be understood as to understand;
    to be loved as to love.
    For it is in giving that we receive;
    it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
    and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

  6. T. J. Babson said, on August 24, 2011 at 8:41 am

    Tea Party Terrorist training camp in Waco:

  7. T. J. Babson said, on August 24, 2011 at 10:12 pm

    Off topic, but video gold…

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