Why the taqiyya accusation is dumb

By SETH J. FRANTZMAN

“Deception directed at non-Muslims, generally known in Arabic as taqiyya, also has Qur’anic support and falls within the legal category of things that are permissible for Muslims,” writes Raymond Ibrahim in Middle East Forum.  According to him it is a form of “deceit, which is doctrinally grounded in Islam.”  According to this narrative the notion is of fundamental importance. Sami Mukaram, a former Islamic studies professor at the American University of Beirut is quoted as saying “Taqiyya is of fundamental importance in Islam. Practically every Islamic sect agrees to it and practices it.”

The accusation of taqiyya takes many forms but mostly boils down to the idea that Muslims cannot be trusted and that most of what is disseminated about Islam in the West is part of a well orchestrated propaganda campaign, or at the very least disinformation grounded in religious practice.  An article at The Clarion Project website notes “Islamists interpret their scripture to say that they are allowed to lie about the nature of Islam in order to further their political goals.”

The issue of taqiyya seems to come up quite often in some circles and it is presented in an interesting way. Two examples: A writer who runs a Muslim-Jewish Facebook group asks Muslim members to stop practicing taqiyya.  Another interfaith group has a post banned by a Muslim member because she asked why people accuse her of taqiyya.  One member responded “most of my Muslim friends didn’t even know what taqiyya was until some Americans started bringing it up.”

What is particularly interesting is that the allegation is so convoluted and contradictory as to create a catch-22 that one cannot escape from.  Say one’s operating paradigm is that all Muslims use “taqiyya” when dealing with non-Muslims.  Given that view, that the normative nature of Muslims is to lie in order to achieve goals, whether in politics, business or friendship, then how could one even have a discussion or friendship in the first place? Consider the illogic of being part of an inter-faith Facebook group and saying “don’t use taqiyya”, and when the Muslims says “we don’t” or “I’ve never heard of it”, then isn’t the logic that this is still part of the overall ploy?  So why ask in the first place?

A video posted online notes “Unlike other religions, Islam allows and sometimes encourages followers to lie in certain circumstances.”  The person narrating it notes that “The Prophet told his followers to lie.”  In order to “prove” that Muslims are involved in this charade the authors take examples from Hadith, and Quran and other Islamic religious teachings.  It all seems very convincing, except it isn’t.

Consider the reverse example applied to Christians or Jews.  Take an obscure verse from the Bible, a quote from Talmud and then ascribe all Jewish and Christian actions to it.  For instance a reverend “Ted Pike” has an article where he notes that “the Talmud encourages Jews to deceive.”  He notes “A new Halachic study ruled that seducing an enemy for the sake of national security is an important mitzvah…It is, in fact, an “utmost mitzvah” (legal command).”  The logical fallacy is first in the non-Jew interpreting Talmud without asking how religious Jews interpret it today, and second with ascribing all Jewish actions to a verse that it isn’t clear how many are familiar with or hold to.

Judah and Tamar; do all Westerners follow the Bible?

Judah and Tamar; do all Westerners follow the Bible?

Anyone mentioning taqiyya should have to show that large numbers of Muslims are familiar with the word, that they adhere to it, and that they adhere to it in the way they are accused of.  For instance some people will say “I heard about taqiyya as a young man growing up in Iraq, that if my life is threatened I can say I am Sunni or Shia to save my life.”  That doesn’t sound like a grand conspiracy to spread false notions about Islam in the West, or some conspiracy of Muslims conspiring in business.

Those who use accusations of taqiyya as an easy excuse to impugn all Muslims do so because they don’t want to look at individual facts, they prefer wide-ranging mass conspiracies and easy answers over analysis and logic.  When a religious Muslim scholar preaches some sort of false liberalism on a US college campus, is it “taqiyya”; some convoluted religious conspiracy, or is it just deception.  Certainly all the “interfaith” and “tolerance” studies funded by Saudi Arabia are aimed at deceiving and taking the most radical fascistic values and inserting them into a “liberal-left” context so that somehow a monarchy living in the 8th century seems like it is a great champion of women’s rights.  But why tag this idiocy “taqiyya,” which excuses the Westerner for betraying her values and embracing Saudi.

Jewish rabbis meet with Ayatollahs

Jewish rabbis meet with Ayatollahs

Was Michel Foucault deceived by taqiyya when he supported the Ayatollahs in Iran?  Was George Bernard Shaw deceived by taqiyya when he supported Stalinism?  Were the supporters of Nazism at Western universities taken in by Hitler’s taqiyya?  In a sense yes, but not because in the fundamental teachings of Nazism, Communism or the Ayatollahs was it that the faith must be spread by propaganda and lying; rather it was because of propaganda and lying mixed with Western naivete.  By ascribing it all the taqiyya, the actual lies are obscured, those who accept them are excused, and the masses who are not involved in propaganda are impugned for no reason.

2 responses to “Why the taqiyya accusation is dumb

  1. I think the basic problem is that people living in open societies, where flagrant lying tends to be not only frowned upon but counterproductive in the long term, simply have no conception of living in a closed society where bald lies are not only commonplace, but actually a constant requirement for survival. A particular vivid example, I thought, was the case of Saddam Hussein regime spokesperson Mohammed Al-Sahhaf, colloquially known as “Baghdad Bob”, who was repeatedly seen on Western television during the last days of the Iraq war, loudly proclaiming the Iraqi forces’ imminent victory against the American invaders, who were in some cases mere blocks away. To Americans, “Baghdad Bob” seemed like a risible buffoon spouting ridiculous falsehoods. But to Iraqis, he was no doubt a fearsome sight, implicitly telling them, “our forces are still active and declaring victory, and if we catch you even hinting otherwise–whatever you or I think the truth might be–you know what will happen to you. Are you really so confident of our defeat that you’re willing to take that risk?”

    Obviously, this kind of flagrant lying has nothing to do with taqiyya or even Islam–it’s simply what goes on all the time in places where words are chosen first and foremost with the goal of preserving their speaker’s safety and well-being, the goal of adherence to the truth coming a distant second or third. But Westerners completely unfamiliar with such places lack this context, and therefore go searching for plausible explanations for this otherwise baffling behavior pattern. Taqiyya seems like a plausible explanation not because it’s accurate, but rather because it fits the experience of sheltered Westerners, who can only imagine a sane person telling repeated, flagrant lies for some believed higher purpose.

  2. The problem is not that taquiyya impugns all Muslims. The problem is that it impugns Islam, all five schools of which prescribe death to apostates and blasphemers and which advocate world conquest, by violence if necessary. Granted, the vast majority of Muslims in the West do not practice their religion literally (nor do most Christians theirs: turn the other cheek, resist not evil) but this is beside the point: the minority that do take Islam literally, including a not insignificant number of imams in Saudi financed mosques and the leaders of Muslim organizations in the West, feel themselves justified to dissemble. In effect they are engaged in a conspiracy against the republic, being committed like Bolsheviks to a violent political ideology. Islam does not deserve constitutional protection for the reason that it is not a religion as that word was understood by the founders.

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