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.
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.
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.