How to avoid offending people?

Please watch the last three minutes of:

How to avoid very unexpectedly offending people when we don’t want to? How to have dialogue with people, ask them questions and get feedback from others without suddenly massively angering them?

This has nothing to do with Saira Roa’s actual opinions or high resolution fully integrated philosophy of philosophies. She seems to be a sweet loving person. Her perspective is unique and I would have loved to better understand it.

I have met many people from childhood who are suddenly and very unexpectedly massively triggered and angered. Often they will start accusing others of nazism, fascism, racism, bigotry, prejudice, sectarianism or some other related charge. In many cases immediately walk away. Many junior high school, high school, undergraduate and graduate level teachers at institutions I attended were this way. Some students were also this way, but truth be told teachers were far more likely to exhibit these symptoms than students. And a lot of the time, I and many others didn’t understand why this happened. Saira Roa is very middle of the road representative of very large numbers of people I have met (teachers and non teacher adults), (in the west or in India) and I am not picking on her. Rather I am asking how to avoid causing a massive firestorm when we don’t want to create one. In this case, Sargon didn’t want to anger her, but rather was very curious to better understand what she believes and why she believes what she believes.

This particular unexpected firestorm was set off when Sargon says to Saira Roa that some blacks were complicit in the slavery of other blacks. My questions about this is two fold:

  • Is there some way Sargon could have made a similar point without massively angering Saira Roa and causing her to end the interview?
  • Why did this statement elicit this reaction in the first place?

Saira Roa has a Hindu name. When the east (and large parts of Europe for that matter) was (were) conquered by Islamists (note that most muslims are not Islamists and today’s muslims are in no way responsible for the actions of their great ancestors), almost all eastern universities, libraries, temples, spiritual centers, scientific institutions etc. were destroyed. Much of the non muslim population was converted into slaves. Because of this, many Asian nonmuslims get emotional when the subject of slavery is mentioned. Could this be where part of Saira Roa’s feelings come from?

Most Asians (Indians included) and Africans initially welcomed Europeans as a way to drive Islamists out. Europeans as a quid pro quo of sorts banned slavery across Asia and Africa. This was deeply popular among nonmuslims and seen as sectarian Islamaphobia by many Islamists. [Obviously after this initial period, Africans and Asians wanted European colonizers to let them to be independent.] Perhaps Saira Rao thinks that the people who owned slaves on the African continent and sold them to South America, Central America, Mexico, Caribbean, North America, North Africa, East Africa, Europe, Asia were not really Africans but Islamist occupiers? Perhaps her definition of “African” or “black” is only nonmuslims with substantial sub-saharan African DNA haploid admixture? Therefore, “blacks” by her definition were not complicit in the slavery of other blacks and the exporting of black slaves around the world? I am not saying this is true. But rather could this be what she believes?

[Obviously some historians might posit the hypothesis that even if the large majority or vast majority of people who owned African slaves were muslim, at least some African slaves were owned by nonmuslims with substantial sub-saharan African DNA haploid admixture too. But perhaps Saira Roa disagrees with this.]

Are there other possible reasons for why she was so offended?

Can everyone reading please explain this to me in the comment section below? What advise does everyone have for how to avoid deeply angering or offending people in general? Thanks to everyone in advance.



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30 thoughts on “How to avoid offending people?”

  1. Razib are you seriously allowing this nonsense to be posted. I’ll probably stop commenting here if what was once a serious appearing blog is turning into an alt-right neckbeard circlejerk.

    “When the world was conquered by Islamists everything was destroyed”

    The opposite is closer to being true. Many of the areas conquered by Muslims (North-Africa, Levant, Iraq, Persia, and yes India) were in the midst of a period of stagnation, and had been for a while. The vigor of Islamic civilization dramatically increased development and prosperity in virtually every region it enveloped. The Arab conquests are particularly noted for being astonishingly non-destructive given their scope.

    “People welcomed European colonization to drive Muslims out”

    Again, the opposite is closer to being true. As Richard Bulliet, Professor at Colombia, one of the world’s top authorities on the subject argues, the arrival of Europeans dramatically increased the rate of conversion to Islam. Europeans were hated so much, and so widely, that Islam soon became associated globally as a symbol of resistance to their imperialism, specifically in South-East Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

    North Indian Hindus joined their Muslim compatriots in rebelling against the British to reinstall the Mughal Emperor as ruler of India, to give a relevant example for this blog.

    “Some historians posit that most African slaves were owned by Muslims”

    No historian posits this. The most widely accepted figures say in 1400 years Muslims enslaved about 8 million Africans. In under 300 years Europeans enslaved about 13 million.

    I wonder what the next article on Brown Pundits is going to be. Muslims are behind AIDS? The Nazis were actually converts to Islam? Stay tuned, apparently.

    1. Some commenters on BP have an anti-Islam bias. Ironically, an article about how to avoid offending people makes huge generalizations about Islam and Muslims. As you point out, statements such as “Islamists destroyed everything” are so broad-brush they are practically meaningless. Not to mention the problems with applying a 20th century concept like “Islamism” backwards into history.

      Your example of the Mutiny of 1857 is spot on. The Hindu soldiers saw Bahadur Shah Zafar as the legitimate ruler of India, despite the fact that he was a Muslim. If they had preferred the Europeans to Muslim rule, they would not have made the Mughal emperor their symbolic leader.

      Regarding not offending people in general, I think the wisest thing to do is not to make huge generalizations about those whom one disagrees with, whether they are “Islamists” or “cultural marxists” (another problematic term). It would be nice if assertions were backed up by facts as much as possible.

  2. Many of the areas conquered by Muslims (North-Africa, Levant, Iraq, Persia, and yes India) were in the midst of a period of stagnation, and had been for a while. The vigor of Islamic civilization dramatically increased development and prosperity in virtually every region it enveloped.

    what’s your citation for this? i know the east roman world was pretty prosperous before 600 AD but the roman-persian wars caused serious issues. but i haven don’t recall the chris wickham book on this specific issue. the poverty of the east roman world in the 7th and 8th century is often given as a function of the detachment of the near east except anatolia, but did they get WEALTHIER or not?

    it seems defensible to say that the first abbassid century brought the near east to the same prosperty as during the late east roman period or greater. but i don’t see we know enuf about the ummayyads.

    “The vigor of Islamic civilization dramatically increased development and prosperity in virtually every region it enveloped” frankly sounds kabir-dumb. turan? no way. eventually, it bounced back as it shifted from an eastward focus with tang china to a westward focus with the near east. the record of islam is spotty, though ‘islamic civilization’ is probably incidental to some endogenous processes.

    anyway, i get that you find some of the posts here stupid. to be frank, i obviously do too. some of the commenters are so dumb that they offend my being. but this is not my blog. i have a blog where i keep much tighter rein on things and where i read everything. this is not that blog.

    1. Do you think Arabaziation and Islamization lifted Egypt? (Not the people who chose to remain Copts, of course.) But overall, Egypt seems to have become prosperous and known as a center of learning by the Middle Ages. Before that, I guess the Greeks and Romans treated it as a colony, more or less.

      1. alexandria remained a major intellectual center up until the arab conquest. there were almost certainly a few pagan philospohers left at the time of the conquest in fact.

        Before that, I guess the Greeks and Romans treated it as a colony, more or less.

        the world colony has weird connotations. but please note that really for all the period up until the 20th century egypt was ruled by foreigners in some way. the mamelukes were generally circassian, and even after the ottoman conquest they remained the ruling class. they assimilated egyptians over time. but their remained distinct. muhammad ali in the 19th century was an albanian who never learned arabic.

        1. I agree with this. I don’t want to elaborate now, but the Roman (technically the Roman Empire ended 1453 AD) system worked differently from how many now understand it.

          Alexandria and a related Egyptian ecosystem were a major global scientific, religious, spiritual, university, library, financial, insurance, business center pre 632 AD. Think Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, or Mumbai today; or pre 1947 Karachi. Roman law, Roman citizenship, Roman legitimacy was not location dependent within the Roman sphere of influence. Roman financial and communication institutions operated in Egypt.

          I would also add that pre 632 AD was during a globalized era. Many Indians and Chinese use to travel to Egypt and Egyptians travel to the east.

          1. I would also add that pre 632 AD was during a globalized era.

            so was post 632. the silk road went from xian to baghdad. the writ of the umayyads went from the indus to the pyrenees.

            the main ‘deglobalization’ was the breaking of a unified mediterranean cultural zone, as islam and christian polities had a viscous frontier.

    2. Apologies for pinning this blog’s low standards on you Razib. I found it through your work originally and have gotten progressively more irritated that virtually none of the posts are above grade-level quality (your excellent posts excepted obviously).

      Remembering from Why the West Rules for Now, the “West” (everything West of western-Iran), declined significantly after the fall of Rome, though the Byzantines and Persians less so. The decline steepened after the continual wars between the above actors. Islamic civilization increased development not necessarily due to “Islamic” doctrine, but uniting this vast territory (especially Mesopotamia and Levant) into a coherent, peaceful unit. When I mention the vigor of Islamic civilization, I mean the kind of civilizational momentum (economic, intellectual, military) that accompanied the rise of Islam (which has occurred in other empires).

      The impact was different on different areas. I would say Egypt and the Levant were marginally improved if at all. North-Africa, Iraq, and Iran were significantly improved. Islamic Iberia far surpassed anything that had been seen previously in Iberia. Central-Asia was improved (unsure about Afghanistan). India had stagnated prior to the Sultanate period, which kick-started its economy, with India reaching its zenith under the Mughals.

      I could be slightly over/under estimating the increased development that accompanied Islamic civilization, but I wanted to make it clear that the debate among the educated is “how much Islam improved these areas”, not “Islam destroyed everything”.

      1. The impact was different on different areas. I would say Egypt and the Levant were marginally improved if at all. North-Africa, Iraq, and Iran were significantly improved. Islamic Iberia far surpassed anything that had been seen previously in Iberia. Central-Asia was improved (unsure about Afghanistan). India had stagnated prior to the Sultanate period, which kick-started its economy, with India reaching its zenith under the Mughals.

        this is defensible, though really i was focusing on the period in the two centuries after the collapse of the old order. basically i think you can say there was a rewinding up until the period of harun al-rashid. though the umayyad state was richer than byzantium, it seems plausible that it did not leverage its territorial integrity because it was still a war-state with a coalescing elite so much of tis time.

  3. AnAnji

    At the end of the day, taking offense or not, is an internal reaction. Consider the following example:
    A young vigorous male in early 20s, works out 4-5 days a week. He can, during the holiday season, get away by being the “trash compactor” at home, like eating extra servings, double desserts, alcohol, puts on 15 pounds in 10 days. He knows he’ll be fine when he gets back into routine.
    On the other hand, a mid 40s prediabetic guy is not capable of throwing caution to the wind, and will have to excuse himself from over indulgence.

    Similarly, this offense taking or not taking is ultimately a reflection of one’s own capacities. Also there is absolutely nothing wrong in having lower tolerance threshold than other people. We wouldn’t shame the prediabetic for being cognizant of his own limits and walking away when he feels he’s done. Also on that note, it is also completely fine that for one person excess sugar is intolerable but excess spice is okay, and for another vice versa or both or none. So understand everyone is on their own journey mentally/spiritually/intellectually, and people have their individual thresholds on different topics.

  4. Re: “…were not really Africans but Islamist occupiers…”, I don’t think her thoughts were that deep. I expect that she assumed it was Brits/Anglos/Americans running around Africa rounding up folks to be slaves in North America…and that is the only slavery meaningfull slavery that has existed. She has no idea of what really happened. She has no idea of the African involvement in the slave trade (as gatherers and sellerers of slaves). She has no knowledge of the Arab/Islamic slave trade and slavery. She has no idea of the transfer of black slaves to South America. Her historical views didn’t lead to her leftist ideology. It was her leftist ideology that produced her historical view.

    1. Sarah Rao–who is running for Congress–is unusually intelligent, intelligent and informed. Her critiques and views are quite different from what leftists usually say. Please note I am not endorsing her or anything. Among the things I liked about Sarah:
      —the racism of far left caucasians such as Elizabeth Warren (she focused on critiquing far left caucasians more than conservatives although she also critiqued conservatives)
      —Indian worshiping and celebration of fair skin and fetishing the greatness of Europeans.
      —from this interview it appeared she visits India frequently and that her views are greatly influenced by her global perspective
      —Asian privilege and Indian privilege and fair skin privilege

      I disagreed with her marxist understanding of “power” since I think power comes from Shakti (which I don’t want to elaborate on now) and to a lesser degree Buddhi (intelligence broadly defined) and Chitta Shuddhi (mental health broadly defined) and Sharira Siddhi (physical health.)

      This said, given her global perspective and understanding of the east, it is very unlikely that she isn’t familiar with the Islamist role in global slavery. And how Islamists intersected with Papal Bulls that provided the legal framework for non muslim and non Christian Africans to be purchased from their “legal” African owners [I do not agree that the “legal African owners” had legal claim to their slaves] and deployed in Africa, South America, Central America, the Carribean, Mexico or North America. Note that Popes on occasions also authorized the seizing of muslim slaves, but these were exceptions as I understand it. [Please feel free to correct me.]

      Note that Islamists are different from muslims. Most muslims are not Islamists, oppose Islamists and are scared of Islamists. I think a strong Islamic case can and often is made against Islamism and slavery. Many muslims played a major role in ending global slavery. However these good decent moderate muslims were demonized by Islamists and nonmuslims alike as sectarian anti muslim Islamaphobes.

      However I am deeply reluctant to start quoting the holy Koran, Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Muslim and other Hadiths on slavery on this thread. I don’t know how to do it without offending large numbers of nonmuslims and without many nonmuslims accusing me of intra-Islamic “sectarianism” or trying to accentuate and further worsen an existing Islamic Fitna and civil war (nonmuslims frequently make this charge). A civil war that has already seen Islamists kill over 100 million decent honorable authentic muslims since 632 AD.

      Europe in the 1500s, 1600s and 1700s (UK banned slave trade in 1807, US similarly banned importation of slaves in 1807) was highly litigious. International trade was funded by global financial institutions (what we now call investment banks, venture capital, private equity, insurance and derivative companies, forward what if markets) To get insurance it was necessary to limit the risk of litigation. Which meant that slave traders likely were careful to study and abide by the law. Which in practice meant that Europeans would possibly prefer to buying slaves from owners recognized by the European legal system who could furnish them legal documentation of ownership. In practice Islamist slave-owners (whether Arab or African) might have had an easier time furnishing legal documents proving their ownership of slaves. Islamists had a deep, rich and recognized legal, judicial and legal document based systems. As well as close long standing economic and legal relations with the Vatican, financial institutions, insurance companies, European trading institutions.

      Having said this, might there might be examples of some non muslims with sub-Saharan African DNA gene haploid admixture who also sold slaves to Europeans? I am deathly afraid to even ask this question because many caucasian post modernists blame all African slavery on Islamists and Europeans and get extremely angry if any questions are asked..

      If anyone is interested in studying slavery, they might read several Papal Bulls starting with Dum Diversas and go from there. I am extremely afraid to discuss this subject because I really like Roman Catholics and don’t want to be seen as demonizing Catholics or various Popes. No doubt the Popes are far more religious and spiritual than I have any understanding of. And I deeply respect, honor and love them. I wouldn’t mind them blessing me either! I don’t want to be seen as engaging in a polemic against Christians or being perceived as supporting some Christian sects against other Christian sects (I love all of them!). I don’t know how to discuss slavery without carefully analyzing various Papal bulls, which can only lead to trouble.

      I am deathly afraid of offending people. I am scared of the zeitgeist. Is it simply impossible to discuss slavery with anyone any time under any circumstances without risking complete fireworks? Maybe it is.

    2. PurplesLog
      Robert Knox was held captive in Kandyan Kingdom (Sri Lanka) for 20 years. After he escaped he became a slave trader.
      I just downloaded the book with his autobiography after captivity. Read his account of the 20years in captivity many times. If his autobiography is as good as his account of 20 years in captivity its going to be good.

      Download PDF with text 84.2M

  5. “People welcomed European colonization to drive Muslims out”

    I’ll have to agree with INDTHINGS on this. I see no evidence for anything like this happening, in Indian history at least. In Hyderabad, the Nizam tended to ally with the British against the Marathas, eventually causing the latter’s complete defeat. In 1857, Hindus and Muslims seemed to have made an (informal) anti-Christian pact in much of northern India. And the British, during their Raj, displayed a (sometimes not so) subtle bias in favor of Muslims, ostensibly because of the lower religious distance they perceived.

    All messy facts, don’t fit any single clean narrative.

    1. Numinous, you are right that it was very messy in SAARC. However, isn’t this what happened to Tipu Sultan? Didn’t many Bengali nonmuslims welcome the English to Bengal originally? Didn’t the English play the anti muslim card against the Nawab of Audh? Why did Marthanda Varma and his successors; why did the Marathas ally with the English?

      Yes the Nizam allied with the English. However, the Nizam was a Sufi tilted enlightened muslim who had good relations with nonmuslims. He would be considered a raving liberal compared to today’s Pakistan or Saudi Arabia.

      After the English took over all of SAARC, attitudes towards the English shifted. The Sepoy Mutiny of 1856 reflected the gradual shifting of nonmuslim attitudes towards the English. [Even though most Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists, Christians tilted or were neutral towards the English during the sepoy mutiny. And many non Islamist muslims too for that matter.]

      SAARC has for thousands of years had great fluidity of faith with people choosing to be part of many faiths simultaneously. A tradition that lives on among many Sufis, twelvers, sixers, Ahmedis, other minority muslims and liberal Sunnis today. Which is why I would argue that the English were initially welcomed against the Islamists by nonmuslims and moderate muslims alike. [The honeymoon welcome was short-lived.]

      If there are any typos above please let me know. “Islamists” was used versus “muslims” on purpose in the above blog post.

      Numinous, thank you for the many things I continually learn from you. 🙂

  6. I think that this is a good topic which so far diverted in one direction. I may make more general statement (racism, bigotry, prejudice, sectarianism or some other related charge) but for now I will join the other commentators on Islam in Europe.

    The legacy of Islam in Europe is very negative. Serbia was probably the strongest and among the most developed countries in Europe before Turks came to Balkan. Western countries (former crusaders) did not want to help Serbia when Turks attacked expecting that it will get much weaker after fighting Turks. In a decisive Kosovo battle, where the number of Serbs were one third of the number of Turks, Serbs won but lost their king and almost all their nobility. Turks retreated to Asia Minor and returned about 50 years later to defenceless Serbia. Because, people’s perception was that Kosovo battle was a defeat which decided their destiny in the following 3-400 years.

    Unfortunately, Turks were very primitive occupier. Their civilisation level was very low and could not leave any positive legacy in occupied countries. They were technologically very low, did not know and did not want to build anything, infrastructure was non-existent so as education, judiciary, culture, economy. People were almost in a position of slaves. Western parts (today’s Slovenia, Croatia) were under Germans and Venetians who were technologically advanced, built roads and ports, developed literacy, culture, churches. When Turks were expelled from Balkan they left legacy – converted muslim people in Bosnia who were at very low level of civilisation and Albanians, who came to Kosovo in the 17th century and terrorised Christians for hundreds of years, as the most primitive group in Europe. Yugoslavian communist regime hided these differences and tried unsuccessfully to use positive discrimination and intensive investments to civilise these areas. Now, when they are separated from their neighbours, it is very visible that they are failed states which cannot sustain own development with almost non-existent economy, culture, arts, bad education, etc, in a word – the civilisation level at its minimum, currently financed by US to execute their politics in the region and to be used in a future war with Russians.

    1. Excellent, we have the ultra-nationalist Serbian mythology here too. With AnAn’s Hinduvata nonsense, all we need now is the right-wing Zionist to complete the trifecta of anti-Muslim bigotry and historical revisionism.

      1. I already wrote in last Open Thread about relationships between Serbia and Arab and Islamic countries and Islam & Orthodox Christianity. I already realized that you are not very smart, otherwise you would read firstly what is the topic (see above) and after write own comment.

        The fact is that when Turks came to Balkan there was the same number of English and Serbs. When they left the number of Serbs was only one fifth of the number of English (in England, not counting those in US). They have kidnapped hundreds of thousand of Serbian boys to train them to be their elite army, yanichars. Is this historical revisionism? You can tell us the truth. For 400 years Turks haven’t built one building but they have stolen Aya Sophia and converted it to the mosque. So, as in Silva’s case, just plain irrational anti-Serbian sentiment without any supporting evidence. You should explain your hatred and use facts for your unfounded statements which are very similar to anti-semitic. The only difference is that Jews have mechanisms, US power, media, finance, entertainment, judiciary, etc to punish such behavior.

  7. People of every political sect other than Hindutva can find something to correct in the post. However, regarding Muslims destroying stuff, consider:

    “One of al-Kashgari’s most historically significant poems, tells of the Turko-Islamic conquest of the last of the renowned Central Asian Buddhist kingdoms, the Kingdom of Khotan of the Iranian Sakas:

    We came down on them like a flood!
    We went out among their cities!
    We tore down the idol-temples,
    We shat on the Buddha’s head!”

    1. S. T. Silva, I would greatly appreciate your feedback. How would you improve the blog post?

      I have read a lot of material on slavery and listened to many discussions. In these discussions the question of who owned slaves in Africa is often brought up. And who sold these slaves to South America, North America, Europe, North and East Africa, Arab World and Asia. Many ethnic African black scholars emphasize how African slaves on the African continent were owned by Islamist or Arab traders and sold by them. This is where the meme comes from that it is unfair to blame blacks for the slavery of other blacks. Saira Roa was so offended by the very question of whether some blacks were responsible for the slavery of other blacks that she immediately ended the interview and walked out. She does not strike me as dumb or uninformed.

      Perhaps she felt offended that blacks were being blamed for Islamist and Arab slave owners?

      Perhaps she was afraid that discussing this subject could result in her being called racist? I don’t think this second option is true, because she seems a courageous and authentic person.

      In any case the primary point of the article is how to avoid setting off emotional fireworks around us when we don’t want to do it? Any advise on this?

  8. You cannot argue with conspiracy theorists using facts, nor are all conspiracy theorists stupid people, deluded for sure, but not always stupid. What this woman is doing is dangerous and the question I have is who benefits from this kind of divisiveness. The United States is the third most populated nation on earth and it is comprised of people from every culture and every race on earth, how does a nation with so many different peoples and races get along with each other? I don’t know but I do know forcing people into racial categories is stupid and inaccurate. Here in South Texas whites make up maybe 7% of the population in my town but who cares? Most of them have hispanic spouses, are their kids hispanic or white? Who gives a shit? What was amusing is that many people consider “Beto” O’Rourke to be a hispanic dude while Ted Cruz, son of Cuban immigrants is considered white.

    The one fact that everybody seems to ignore is that white Northern European peoples are the only peoples who recognized slavery as a moral evil and despite the economic costs of ending slavery ended it. They ignored the financial costs of ending slavery and fought it on principal alone. At least in Western hemisphere it was ended, black chattel slavery is alive and well in Africa (Libya specifically) and I believe those slaves are going to the Middle East.

    Saira Roa’s is a disgusting racist who, like white racists (I don’t know any but understand there are some somewhere) will be marginalized by a society who is long past lumping people into categories based on the color of their skin.

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