It’s a long time since I’ve had the ability to post comments on the DeenPort forum. I deleted my account over five years ago and though I sometimes feel compelled to join again in order to respond to a particular thread, it appears that MAMA (the automated moderation system) is set to immediately auto-ban me. So instead I look on from afar, checking in now and then to see what people are talking about these days.
I would say that the majority of the discussions are of little interest to me — pseudo-intellectual theological dialectics have a tendency to send me running for the hills, while talk of Traditionalism tends to provoke a nasty allergic reaction. But still there are topics which occasionally piqué my interest. Mention Turkey, Turkish politics, Armenians, Kurds, religious and ethnic minorities, and so forth, and I will be there wishing I could contribute my own perspective to the discussion.
Of course having family links to a region or ethnic group does not automatically make one an authority, but it does provide insights that a reading of the incoherent ramblings of a once great journalist writing in the press might not. Given that my in-laws are ethnically Turkish Armenian, mostly self-identifying as Socialists, spread out across many regions of Turkey, from CHP strongholds, to AKP centres and ODP heartlands, I find myself in a position to counter some seriously ill-informed comment by journalists and forum contributors alike. Unfortunately MAMA does not agree, so those sentiments remain unsaid.
Over the past few weeks, a few such discussions have emerged on DeenPort, centring on what the recent Turkish election results mean for President Erdogan and whether the Kurds have been made a political scapegoat as a consequence on those results. Of course these are complicated questions and I doubt I have anything to add to the debate that has not already been said. Some contributors provided nuanced responses to the question, while others offered their own uniquely brutal answers to the problems they identified. Some of the better, more balanced and informed comments were later deleted.
Which really brings me onto the purpose of this post — somewhat belatedly: why do people delete comments, threads or even their entire profile from DeenPort so often? If I had to hazard a guess, it would be the appalling lack of manners we witness on many a forum nowadays and the prevalence of extreme views therein. A dwindling few of us still hold a place for Islamic adab or good old English manners. Just as we would expect a professional to treat his colleagues or clients in a respectful manner, so we come to expect it of the faithful when they interact with others whether online or in the street.
When I deleted my profile five years or so ago, it was for a number of reasons. There was the fear of time-wasting, conscious of the addictive nature of posting small words on a small screen. There was also the desire to head for the hills, disappear and be forgotten. But a part of it was also escaping the peculiar battles that took place with strange regularity, often over the most meaningless and insignificant point. Most of those conflicts have dried up now, or moved elsewhere to be fought out on Facebook and Twitter, where we technological luddites can no longer reach them.
Good robust discussions, difference of opinion, considered argument; I’m all for them — in fact the more the better. I agree with some of the unpopular arguments put forward on the forum, and disagree with others. This is the world we reside in. But there’s a difference between making a considered argument and just being plain insulting or dismissive, belittling your opponents for no clear reason other than for the mere thrill of it.
Of course we all self-censor for all kinds of reasons; I do it all the time. A change of heart. New information. Regret. Fear. Depression. Boredom. Still, I think that if MAMA ever found it in her algorithmic heart to let me join the club again, I’d quickly get riled by the kinds of comments I’ve witnessed online in recent months. Call it being thin skinned — undoubtedly — but there are certain kinds of behaviour you don’t expect from adults, some in their middle age and in respected careers. How can those who follow a path that places such emphasis on good manners and perfecting our character behave in such an odious manner?
Soft talk, you say: don’t be such a feeble wimp. Sure, that’s often said. In modern times that’s what people say about ‘speak good or remain silent’. In these days of barbarism, it’s what people say to ‘show mercy to whatever is on the earth’.
‘Facilitate things for people. And do not make it hard for them. And give them glad tidings. And do not make them run away.’ Our Prophet said these words too — peace be upon him. But you would never have thought it by the way we behave. I don’t expect anything to change, so go ahead MAMA: carry on auto-banning me for good. It’s definitely for the best.