A Muslim apologist was debating two Atheists on DW channel in Arabic, the host asked him whether he agrees with "executing atheist apostates".

The Muslim apologist knows that apostates are to be executed, according to his religious belief, but he also knows that answering "yes" would put him at a disadvantage.

So, his answer was something like : "The Atheist should be stopped if he starts preaching atheism".

The host asked him to be specific, what does he mean by "stopped", but the Muslim apologist responded without even mentioning the words "kill" or "execute".. he just used words like : "punish" , "stop", "the atheist is a treat to our society"...etc.

And the host said that he did not answer his question.

At first, I thought this fallacy is a Red Herring , but it seems like some kind of appeal to ambiguity.

Is there a name for this fallacy?


A friend suggested Ignoratio Elenchi, but I think it can be considered another name for the Red Herring, or at least a form of it.

  • Wouldn’t this be deviation? Or are you searching for a word seen from the person who deviates, so intentionally not answering the queation with in the back of the mind an agenda or a reason to not get into a discussion while a dialogue is wanted?
    – Ajagar
    Feb 7, 2019 at 11:02
  • @Ajagar , Thank you , but is there a name for this "fallacy" of deviation? if you ask me how old are you? and I answer : I am still young , what kind of fallacy is that?
    – SmootQ
    Feb 7, 2019 at 11:06
  • I think maybe Equivocation - exploiting vagueness in language to confuse or shift ground.
    – Bread
    Feb 7, 2019 at 11:17
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    I wanted to opt being evasive but I see you have an answer about that 👍🏼
    – Ajagar
    Feb 7, 2019 at 11:32
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    Dissembling.. is another technique which might manifest in this way.
    – Richard
    Feb 7, 2019 at 13:35

2 Answers 2


This answer will attempt to identify possible fallacies or false fallacies that might be applied to either the Muslim apologist or the atheists although the OP is mainly interested in identifying a fallacy committed by the Muslim.

Bo Bennett's description of "Weasel Wording" may fit the description of what the Muslim apologist is attempting to do in the argument:

Weasel Wording: Using ambiguous words in order to mislead or conceal a truth: “Save up to 50% or more!” This is more of a marketing gimmick than a fallacy.

However, Bennett also labels this as a "pseudo-logical fallacy", that is, an argumentation pattern that has been identified as fallacious by some, but is not fallacious according to Bennett's three criteria:

  1. It must be an error in reasoning, not a factual error.
  2. It must be commonly applied to an argument either in the form of the argument or the interpretation of the argument.
  3. It must be deceptive in that it often fools the average adult.

Bennett also describes a pseudo-logical fallacy that might apply to the atheists countering the Muslim apologist:

Argument by Rhetorical Question: Setting up questions in such a way to get the answers you want. This is a name for an argumentation strategy covered by both the loaded question and leading question fallacies.

This illustrates that both sides in this argument could accuse the other of being fallacious if the context is appropriate.

Simply questioning whether the other side has committed a logical fallacy may be an example of the Complex Question Fallacy, which Bennet considers to be a legitimate fallacy:

A question that has a presupposition built in, which implies something but protects the one asking the question from accusations of false claims. It is a form of misleading discourse, and it is a fallacy when the audience does not detect the assumed information implicit in the question and accepts it as a fact.

Bennett gives the following illustrations of these kinds of these questions with built-in presuppositions:

  • How many times per day do you beat your wife?
  • How many school shootings should we tolerate before we change the gun laws?

Just asking questions such as these may involve deception by prejudicing the audience against the opposing side.

Contrast these with questions seeking factual information which would not be logically fallacious, such as, "How long can one survive without water?"

One should be careful when questioning and perhaps accept whatever the opponent offers as an answer. Later questioning might make evident a contradiction with an earlier answer.

Bennett, B. "Complex Question Fallacy" Logically Fallacious https://www.logicallyfallacious.com/tools/lp/Bo/LogicalFallacies/69/Complex-Question-Fallacy

Bennett, B. "Pseudo-Logical Fallacies" Logically Fallacious https://www.logicallyfallacious.com/tools/lp/Bo/LogicalFallacies/6/Pseudo-Logical-Fallacies

  • Thank you so much Frank, so both sides committed these (pseudo?)-fallacies. the Muslim apologist already said in a post on Facebook that "a bullet in the head of an atheist is more useful than a thousand debate". So, the host and the atheists know his point already. Best +1
    – SmootQ
    Feb 8, 2019 at 8:40
  • I am not sure the host committed a "Complex Question Fallacy", the host's question was quite straightforward, and he gave him more than 10 min to answer : "Do you agree or disagree with executing apostates". The question was from the host, and he is talking about execution, and not prison or fine.
    – SmootQ
    Feb 8, 2019 at 8:53
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    @SmootQ He may not have and such questions perhaps need to be asked to clarify what one side is advocating. What I find interesting about the complex question fallacy is the "built-in presuppositions" that such questions bring with them. Just asking such a question can be damaging. But maybe it needs to be asked. Feb 8, 2019 at 11:25
  • Thank you for highlighting the fact that not everything is a "fallacy"! Feb 8, 2019 at 20:01
  • @ChrisSunami nevertheless avoiding a question seems just wrong
    – SmootQ
    Feb 8, 2019 at 21:18

You are talking about Evasion, which is an act that deceives by stating a true statement that is irrelevant or leads to a false conclusion.

Now we may wonder: is avoiding the question a logical fallacy ?

Well, yes, it is an informal fallacy of presenting an argument that may or may not be logically valid, but whose result fails to address the question.

The Latin name for this fallacy is ignoratio elenchi.

  • But, Ignoratio Elenchi is the latin name for the Red Herring fallacy.. or maybe there is another name for this one? - Thank you. +1
    – SmootQ
    Feb 7, 2019 at 11:03
  • In ignoratio elenchi you can completely change the subject and refuse answering the question, but the fallacy I am asking about is not that, it is just not being , or refusing to be, specific while answering the question
    – SmootQ
    Feb 7, 2019 at 11:04
  • For example : if you ask me how old are you? and I answer : I am still young , what kind of fallacy is that? That is not an ignoratio elenchi.
    – SmootQ
    Feb 7, 2019 at 11:07
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    It's still evasion and still based on counting on the fact that the result is not logically valid or accurate enough. So yes, the 2 (IE and RH) are similar forms of the same thing.
    – Overmind
    Feb 7, 2019 at 11:47
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    All examples related here are forms of evasion, no matter how you name them.
    – Overmind
    Feb 7, 2019 at 12:00

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