Is Mehdi Hasan a True Scotsman?

March 10, 2015 at 7:18 am (apologists and collaborators, crap, Islam, islamism, Jim D, New Statesman, wankers)

Cover Story: “How Islamic is Islamic State?”
Mehdi Hasan argues that the Quran cannot be blamed for violent political extremism

From Wikipedia:
No true Scotsman is an informal fallacy, an ad hoc attempt to retain an unreasoned assertion. When faced with a counterexample to a universal claim (“no Scotsman would do such a thing”), rather than denying the counterexample or rejecting the original universal claim, this fallacy modifies the subject of the assertion to exclude the specific case or others like it by rhetoric, without reference to any specific objective rule (“no true Scotsman would do such a thing”


A simple rendition of the fallacy:

Person A: “No Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge.”
Person B: “But my uncle Angus likes sugar with his porridge.”
Person A: “Ah yes, but no true Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge.”

Mehdi’s article is here … so you can judge for yourself


  1. janny11 said,

    Reblogged this on Bowen Island Report and commented:
    always entertaining; Mehdi Hasan

  2. Andrew Coates said,

    I have actually read it (it’s not on line but the library has a copy), and Jim is absolutely right.

    It’s full of No True Scotsmen….

    When he gets to the point of dealing with the fact that the Caliphate/Daesh says it is Muslim and how critics argue that nobody is competent enough to dismiss this out of hand, Hasan gets really shirty.

  3. damon said,

    So what did he say then? I can probably guess maybe.
    What I’d like to see him do is refute that long article in The Atlantic magazine this month titled ”What Isis really wants.”
    That states things like this:

    ”The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.”

  4. Jim Denham said,

    It’s a pity that Hasan’s piece isn’t available online. he does, in fact, take up the Atlantic article, though not very convincingly. When I have time, I’ll post a few quotes. Or you could always buy a copy of the present NS,

  5. Jim Denham said,

    Yeah! it must have just appeared. I’ve been looking for it for days. Thanks, John

  6. Sue R said,

    I read this article last week and immediately thought, ‘he would say that, wouldn’t he’. Firstly, Hasan is a fanboy of Iran, the same Iran who is backing the Iraqi militias to fight ISIS. In order for Muslim on Muslim fighting to take place and to be within the strictures of the religion, they have to prove that the other party is not a Muslim. Otherwise, it’s a Bad Thing. Secondly, who wants to admit that they are a subscriber to a Thugee cult? No-one, except for the most lumpen. Tom Holland is writing a reply this week, but, I expect it will be long on history and short on politics. Isolated things stick in my mind. He claims that American soldiers had Biblical verses written on their weapons during the Gulf Wars. There may have been individual soldiers who wrote Biblical verses on their weapons, I can’t way there wasn’t, but to say that the American Army as an official policy did such is to show the guy is a liar. If he knew anything about the modern world, he would know that America is fanatical about the separtion of Church and State; it is enshrined in their Constitution which is another thing they are fanatical about. Is he a deliberate liar or just stupid?

    • Glesga Keeping Scotland Free From Loonies said,

      I like sugar in my porrige as this stems from my grannie having the audacity for being English. I also like a wee dram in my porrige and no doubt this would go down well with the nutter’s.

    • Paul Canning (@pauloCanning) said,

      Actually, violation of the church/state division in the US military is pretty common > But recall the backlash/refutation when Bush used the word ‘crusade’?

      Hasan is obviously cherry picking.

      • Paul Canning (@pauloCanning) said,

        There is a strand of right-wing Christianity (predominantly American, I believe) called Dominionism which is evident in many of these incidents in the US military. These people want an explicitly Christian, and their version of Christian, America, including its laws being ‘bible based’.

        They do have influence, see

        If Hasan knew what he was talking about he’d make specious comparisons between them and Daesh!

    • Shachtmanite (@Shachtmanite) said,

      And when I was last in israel in 1990s the teenage IDF girl soldiers all seemed to have Take That stickers on the stocks of their Uzis or whatever they were…

      His point about Christianism in the US military is however not a completely stupid one.

      Since they became all-volunteer force the US armed services have been recruited disproportionately from the Godliest segments of US society (particularly from amongst white Southerners who heavily dominate many units officer and senior NCO ranks) and you can find multiple cases of training camps and officer academies being run by fanatical evangelicals in left/liberal media & blogs.


      And the separation of church and state in US Constitution is not about enforcing militant secularism as we understand it (or rather used to understand it…) on the European left but simply about preventing any one sect from becoming an established church in the sense that Anglicans and RCs were established at that time.

      As for fanaticism one branch of US government is now seemingly permanently controlled by a party which is utterly in thrall to the religious right, another is a literal couple of supreme court deaths/retirements from joining them and I wouldn’t bet that much money on the Democrats holding presidency in 2016 (and if they do like Obama since 2010 their President will be engaged in a perpetual struggle to continue the basic work of government).

      While Jim may be right to invoke No True Scotsman here (although actually there is a strong argument that the radicalism of ISIS does not mesh at all well with either traditional Sunni Islam or even – and especially – mainstream Salafism…) at some fundamental level Hasan does have a better understanding of how powerful religion still is as a force in the world than any of us faithless secularist leftists.

  7. redkorat☭ (@red_korat) said,

    The Trijicon ACOG gunsight had a reference to John8-12 engraved in it.

    When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life”

    When they found out about it a few years ago, US forces stipulated that this was to cease.

    • Glesga Keeping Scotland Free From Loonies said,

      Seems a decent enough comment if indeed the originator was Jesus. Unlike the Islamists who are dedicated to blowing peoples lights oot.

  8. jamesldavis said,

    Vietnam war zone. north Vietnam regulars you didn’t have time for religion. thatss reason for ” the Soldiers Prayer, “in this battle if I seemly forget thee ,do not forget Me! selah! see movie Enemy at the Gates where the soviets ended all efforts at ending trade unionism by the plutocrats! paty discipline triumphs shanghai and Athens ,Caracas is Red- the soviets held afgan for decade + until us congressman get to medding james L mandingo dc

    • Glesga Keeping Scotland Free From Loonies said,

      Could you put that in simple terms fur uz plebs.

  9. Shachtmanite (@Shachtmanite) said,

    Plus No True Scotsman-ing is pretty much the default modus operandi of the left and particularly of the far left – indeed I am pretty sure that when right-wing philosopher Antony Flew formulated it was very much with his left-wing academic colleagues in mind…

  10. Jim Denham said,

    This is from Jamie Palmer (of the excellent ‘Jacobinism’ blog):

    Some quick thoughts on Mehdi Hasan’s article on the Islamic State.

    The article is worth a read and contains a lot of stuff that bears discussion.

    For instance, the distinction made between religion as a marker of identity and as a matter of theological belief. This has a direct bearing on the different reasons people join IS – it is certainly true that not everyone will be well-versed or even that interested in the theological/ideological arguments. This is the same for all mass movements, which will have their foot-soldiers and cannon fodder, their philosophers and intellectuals, their pragmatic tacticians, their demagogues, and their true believers.

    But a lot of the claims Hasan makes are simply arguments from popularity and appeals to authority. That IS represents a minority or unpopular view does nothing, by itself, to invalidate it as a legitimate interpretation of Islam. Nor does condemnation by a majority of scholars. Protestantism was a reaction to the corruption of the Vatican. Like Qutb and al Banna, Luther rejected scholarship and clerical authority and enjoined the faithful to return to the texts themselves. Protestants viewed themselves as true Catholics. That they were a minority sect and that their insubordination was denounced as heresy by clerical elites is neither here nor there. The theological arguments must be made on their own terms. Only Hasan must realise that to do so is to engage in a dispute about different interpretations of Islam which is precisely what he wishes to avoid. *

    The fact that IS has entered into a pragmatic alliance of covenience with Ba’athists is also not dispositive of anything much. Khomeinists entered into similar alliances in order to seize power in Iran in 1979. Once they had consolidated that power, they purged and murdered their more secular allies with ruthless prejudice. The same fate certainly awaits those IS allies whose idelogical purity is found wanting if and when they outlive their usefulness.

    Hasan closes with the observation that “To claim that Isis is Islamic…is dangerous and self-defeating, as it provides Baghdadi and his minions with the propaganda prize and recruiting tool that they most crave”. But this is a tactical approach – one currently favoured by the Obama admin – and irrelvant to the question of whether or not such a claim is objectively true. And it is with this question that analysts ought to be preoccupied.

    A discussion about the *degree* to which piety informs IS beliefs and actions and membership is one worth having. But that is not the aim of Hasan’s article. As Hasan remarks in the 5th para: “The rise of Isis in Iraq and Syria has been a disaster for the public image of Islam – and a boon for the Islamophobia industry.” Hasan wishes to exonerate Islam entirely and to lay the blame for the Islamic State’s ideas and even its very existence at the feet of the West.

    This is not analysis, but apologetics. 5000 words with which to advance a No True Scotsman fallacy. And, if the comments below the line are any indication, people aren’t buying it.

    * I’ve since realised that Tom Holland made the Luther analogy in a ‘tweet off’ on the subject with H. A. Hellyer of Brookings, organised by al Jazeera. It can be seen here:…/tweetoff-is-isil-islamic.html

    Holland’s reply to Mehdi Hasan’s article will be published in tomorrow’s NS…/mehdi-hasan-how-islamic-islam…

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