Islam, Science and the Problems at Wikipedia

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This article discusses the problems faced by Wikipedia with its Islam-related articles.

Introduction[edit]

At Wikipedia, Islam-related articles are often compromised by pro-Islamic editors. An example of this is a 2010 incident where an editor with over 67,000 edits was caught intentionally inserting false information into articles. Jagged 85 had been editing there for five years, and his/her inaccurate edits and articles have been reproduced all over the net by other websites which use Wikipedia as a source.

Wikipedia Report[edit]

Cause of Concern[edit]

The following is a quote from the report that was filed on him:

A summary of the above is that, despite repeated requests from other editors, this editor has continued over several years to:
  1. Misrepresent a source by quoting material utterly out of context; for example, see [1] or [2].
  2. Report that a source supports a claim that it simply does not and sometimes explicitly does not; for example, see [3], [4] or [5].
  3. Claim that a certain figure invented something or was the first to do something, when the cited source simply says that they made or did that thing, without any suggestion that they were the first to do so; for example, see [6], [7], [8], [9], or [10].
  4. Take a passing comment about some connection to a modern theory and claim that the Islamic thinker being discussed invented that theory or is an important forefather of that theory; for example, see [11] or [12].
  5. Report only one point from a source, even if a minor one, and ignore the contrary position it reports, even if that is the majority position; for example, see [13].
  6. Rather than withdraw a claim, if it is pointed out that the cited source does not support the claim, find a source of any quality to use instead, even when that may be of much lower quality than the original source, which made the opposite claim; for example, see [14].
  7. Invent claims and cite sources connected with the issue but which simply do not support those claims; for example, see [15]

In addition to such misuse of sources, this editor has also continued to:

  1. Use questionable, inappropriate and unreliable sources; for example, see [16] or [17].
  2. Use exceptionally poor sources for exceptional claims; for example, see [18].

The links above are just a selection of the problematic edits collected at Wikipedia:Requests for comment/Jagged 85/Evidence, which contains more material gathered by myself and other editors. There are yet more examples collected by another editor at User:Spacepotato/Examples of original research in Wikipedia and User:Spacepotato/Misuse of sources.

Most of the material gathered is from the history of science and technology, as that is the area in which we have tended to work but I have also collected four problematic edits from just the seven days after 11 April 2010, and mostly from current affairs and general history articles, at Wikipedia:Requests for comment/Jagged 85/Recent evidence.

The Islamic Golden Age[edit]

Jagged 85 concentrated most of his efforts on the history of science and technology, but more specifically, his efforts were focused on the Islamic Golden Age:

as I started perusing more history of science articles, I noticed that articles such as Astronomy in Medieval Islam, Science in medieval Islam, Islamic Golden Age, and many others were utter POV-fests, essentially claiming that all modern scientific discoveries were anticipated by medieval Muslim philosophers. Articles about these philosophers (e.g. Abu Rayhan Biruni, Avicenna) read like extended hagiographies. I also noticed that the main contributor to these articles was Jagged 85.
I first came into detailed contact with Jagged's edits when I looked at Timeline of historic inventions in the fall of 2009 and noticed that many of the entries in the list were facially absurd; for example, the p-n junction was said to be invented by Isamu Akasaki in 1989, and the funnel was said to be invented between the 8th and 10th centuries CE by medieval alchemists. I then noticed that over 20% of the list had been contributed by Jagged, and that although his edits were well-supplied with footnotes, the sources he gave did not verify many of the claims made in the list. This was a problem with the rest of his work as well, which has been extensive (he has over 60,000 mainspace edits on en.wikipedia at this time, as alluded to above.) I would like to emphasize that, although this problem is very noticeable in the medieval Islamic period (as this is an area which Jagged has concentrated on), it's present elsewhere as well and has afflicted e.g. List of Japanese inventions.

Non-Muslim Achievements[edit]

This users edits were not limited to only the Islamic portions of articles. A lot of his efforts were also concentrated on downplaying the achievements of non-Muslims (mainly Europeans) in various topics, and once again, focused primarily on science:

Jagged first came to my attention through edits such as these [19], where he sought to play up scientific contributions of non-European cultures while at the same time downplaying European, and especially ancient Greek contributions [20]. At the time, I was new to wikipedia, and moreover assumed good faith [...] Following his latest burst of activity on these articles beginning in December 2009, I scrutinized his track record more carefully and came to the following conclusion: This user is on a two-fold mission on wikipedia, the first of which is to promote scientific achievements on non-European cultures while downplaying and hedging those of European cultures, and the second of which is to promote a positive image of Islam, whether through scientific achievements or social reforms. In addition to competent editing, the following problematic methods are employed:
  1. Misusing a source by either completely falsifying it or else extending it completely beyond what it says.
  2. Using low quality POV sources.
  3. Not giving page numbers when citing a source .
  4. Tendentiously re-inserting material removed by consensus long ago without discussion using misleadingly bland edit-summaries, and then edit-warring over it.
  5. Pasting the same text all over wikipedia, including articles where it is not really relevant.
  6. Presenting minority views as majority views.

Jagged 85 Returns[edit]

Following the original report, the user had apologized (claiming the inaccuracies were unintentional) and had agreed to adhere to Wikipedia rules, only to return without his old user-name to continue his vandalism:

Athenean, I'm afraid that the person behind Jagged_85 is actually still editing, albeit no longer with that account. It doesn't look like he is planning to clean his mess up. Like: Can I leave this with you to touch base with the other users from the RfC/U to do the required follow-ups, and coordinate how this can be cleaned up?
FWIW, there is a tool used by the copyright violation cleanup people, the Contribution surveyor, that might be helpful here to create a list of articles and diffs that need to be looked at (like e.g. this). You could ask one of the regulars there to create it for you.
Amalthea 08:30, 11 June 2010 (UTC)

Other problems at Wikipedia[edit]

Besides Jagged 85, other problems at Wikipedia include the use of some very suspect and pro-Islamic secondary sources, such as Paul Vallely's "How Islamic inventors changed the world", which is used as a source to validate false (and often absurd)[1] claims of Islamic inventions in over twenty separate articles,[2] and the use of a fraudulent translation of Muhammad's 'Farewell Sermon', along with a second version, without a primary source. Attempts to add the authentic version taken from al-Tabari, Vol IX, next to the other two at Wikipedia, were met with resistance and was ultimately unsuccessful.

Conclusion[edit]

From this incident it has been learned that Jagged 85 is the main contributor to the many inaccurate Islam/Science/Golden Age articles which are still being copied and pasted all over the internet by apologists, and that more than 20% of Wikipedia's "Timeline of historic inventions" was provided by him.

With contributions to over 8,100 separate articles, it is unlikely that all of Jagged 85's edits will ever be fixed. And even if they were, these Wikipedia articles have already been reproduced all over the net by other sites which use Wikipedia as a source.

While Wikipedia can be a great resource for general knowledge and a decent starting point in the research of Islam, this and the other examples cited above, highlight the constant problems that Wikipedia faces for Islam related articles.

This page is featured in the core article, Islam and Propaganda which serves as a starting point for anyone wishing to learn more about this topic Core part.png

See Also[edit]

  • Lying - A hub page that leads to other articles related to Lying
  • Golden Age - A hub page that leads to other articles related to the "Golden Age"

External Links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. For example; Paul Vallely claims a Muslim gentleman named Mahomed introduced Shampoo to England. What he neglects to mention is that Sake Dean Mahomed converted to Christianity decades before bringing "Mahomed's Indian Vapour Baths" to the UK. In fact his children were also baptised into the Anglican faith. For further details, see: How Islamic Inventors Did Not Change The World
  2. Wikipedia search term: "How Islamic inventors changed the world" - Results: Inventions in medieval Islam, Timeline of historic inventions, Al-Jazari, Combination lock, Cheque, Islamic Golden Age, Al-Andalus, Science in medieval Islam, Medicine in medieval Islam, Alchemy and chemistry in medieval Islam, List of Muslim scientists, Paul Vallely, Pinhole camera, Timeline of science and engineering in the Islamic world, Inoculation, Ink, Timeline of medicine and medical technology, Science in the Middle Ages, History of medicine, History of technology, List of persons considered father or mother of a field, Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/Arab contributions to science. Retrieved December 24, 2009