My interaction with new atheist blogger Ali Amjad Rizvi started with this conversation. He had made an outrageous claim, which I called him out on. After dodging and presenting one excuse after another, he finally agreed to debate me on Islam’s stance on apostasy laws. Full debate here.
Tactic #1: “New atheist friends, immediately disengage with Kashif:” Ali sent me a detailed post saying how his ‘Ahmadi friends’ had asked him not to engage with me. He also urged all other new atheist friends who were discussing the issue to disengage immediately. I know. I was equally shocked. This was probably the worst excuse someone could make to avoid dialogue. Here was a guy who claimed his power was free speech and intellectual argument, but was running from it despite agreeing to it himself.
To his credit, he did garner the courage to have the debate when finally pressed by some of his friends. This was the first and last debate we had. He took a different approach to silent me after the intellectual defeat on the apostasy laws.
Tactic #2: “Dear Huffington Post, take down Kashif’s free speech:” In an ironic twist, Ali Rizvi asked Huffington Post to take down parts of my oped on free speech. His claim was that I had misrepresented him. He wrote:
If Mr. Chaudhry is unable to produce evidence that I said exactly what he attributed to me (I have never met him, nor do I know him personally), please have him correct the quote to my actual words, or retract that section of the piece altogether.
He probably thought the world’s #1 online news portal would accept his demand for censorship without any investigation. The team considered his complaint and decided in favor of free speech. This was double victory for my free speech article.
However, I still reached out to Ali and promised to take down the whole piece if he was able to prove I had misrepresented the two views I attributed to him. He refused to comment and despite my repeated requests to deny those two were his views, he chose not to. Here’s my challenge.
This is the one time I know he wrote to a forum to take down my free speech. God knows how many more times he has tried to censor my work. Regardless, this tactic was condemned by all neutral observers and only back-fired.
Tactic # 3: “I will troll on your page, urge others to not engage with you:” When censorship did not work, Ali reverted to tactic #1, only this time it was large scale and he got help from fellow new atheist blogger Faisal Saeed Al Mutar. Whereas my emphasis has always been on free speech, civil dialogue and intellectual criticism, the duo forbade others from dialogue and intellectual discourse. Here is an example from last night alone:
Apparently intellectual criticism and dialogue was felt like a trap. I bet it did. I would probably have felt “trapped” too if someone demolished my arguments in public, but I’d not disengage, rather learn and change if needed.
Tactic #4: “We will ridicule you and your leadership/elders. Brace for attacks:” When this tactic also back-fired and new atheists kept engaging me, Faisal started a campaign to ridicule the moderate/reformist Muslims who fight religious bigotry in the Muslim world. I have detailed this here. It is always sad when someone has to run from facing difficult ideas, and attack the people behind those ideas instead. While Faisal (and Alishba – Ali’s girlfriend – is also known for attacking the persecuted Ahmadi Muslims on social media and equating them with the Taliban) attacked and ridiculed Ahmadi scholars, he was deeply offended himself when someone on his page ridiculed his father. I copied the conversation here to point out his glaring double standards. He wanted the “troll” who mocked his father to be tracked down, called for a house warrant and disabling him from ever using Facebook again.
Tactic #5: “We will just block you:” It is just so long that one can feel “trapped,” and frustrated at intellectual defeat. When I posted the article on Faisal’s double standards and attack on persons, not ideas on a thread that Ali had created to highlight this very point, I was blocked.
Apparently, someone had offended Ali, Alishba and Faisal by shaming them and attacking them on an ex-Muslim forum. He was talking of why it was bad to attack people, and the need to stick to attacking ideas. I agreed with him. All I added was that Alishba and Faisal (the two people he tagged) should also self-reflect and not attack and slander Ahmadi people, and stick to criticizing our ideas instead. I agreed with him that this was a frustrating issue and he was rightfully offended.
Ali asked me not to promote my personal blog posts. This is what I had posted to make my point. As weird as the call was, I deleted the link to my personal blog post. However, Ali had made up his mind. He blocked me immediately, as if he was waiting for an excuse for quite a while.
Other new atheists have also recently blocked/unfriended me following this move. I have no problem being blocked. I understand why some would consider my arguments a threat. In a fair world, free speech always favors the one with the strongest arguments. I hope evangelical ant-theists understand this and work on brushing their arguments, not calling for boycotts, censorship, ending dialogue and open slander. Amen.