Jan 11 2015

Lies, Lies, and Damnable Lies


by Craig Dawkins
M4L Guest Contributor, January 2015

I have grown weary of the constant assertion by Islamophobes who insist that Muslims have a duty to mislead non-Muslims as a practice to destroy them. This is not only untrue, but is often an intentional lie which only leaves one option for non-Muslims in the minds of those who promote this concept. If a Muslim can never be trusted by their agreements or deeds, then as Dax Ewbank stated, “It’s kind of the perfect thing to say your enemy believes, that way it makes reconciliation impossible and conflict inevitable…” In other words, it’s a way of manipulation. But if enough people believe a lie, the one’s who refute such things are considered heretics.

Below is an explanation and response to this lie about Muslims. I would like to add that some people genuinely believe this lie because they have been purposely misled by people they trust. Often supposed ministers of the gospel have shamefully chosen to spread lies to people who trust them and I have to wonder if it’s in order to profit from the fear it invokes, through membership growth and offering plate contributions. Nothing sells like fear and demagogic ministers have exploited that loophole for thousands of years. If you are one of those who truly believe Muslims have license to lie to non-Muslims, the passage below is for you. If you have determined that you don’t want to be educated on the issue, I’d kindly ask you to stop spreading this lie about Muslims. Additionally, I’d like to offer that it’s important to confront those who spread such lies. Silence is often misconstrued as agreement. In confronting those who spread such nonsense, people can be educated as to the truth. The truth DOES matter after all.

Intolerance and hatred, based on lies and completely without merit, are a horrible perversion and does real harm to innocent, peaceful people.

[On taqiyyah (dissimulation)]

October 14, 2013 5:09 pm

Does Islamic law encourage Muslims to lie? New York Times columnist Roger Cohen seems to think so. In his September 26, 2013 article, “Between Martyrdom and Diplomacy,” he wrote:

As the Iranians say, “Not everything round is a walnut” — and not every form of “heroic flexibility” is an olive branch. Iran always operates on at least two tracks; to do otherwise would be simplistic. Its Shiite religion permits, in some circumstances, the embroidering of the truth for the protection of the faith, a divinely sanctioned dissimulation. This is a land where straight talk and virtue are not widely seen to overlap.

It is unclear if Cohen’s comments were limited to Iranians specifically or to Shīʿī Muslims more generally. So we asked islawmix expert Lena Salaymeh to explain “divinely sanctioned dissimulation.” Here’s what she had to say:

Regardless of how much Cohen’s argument depends upon it, his reference to “divinely sanctioned dissimulation” introduces an important, but routinely misunderstood practice. Cohen is likely referring to taqiyyah (تقية), which is often misrepresented as a license for Muslims to lie about their true beliefs. In fact, taqiyyah is quite simply the Arabic word for dissimulation. Dissimulation is generally and commonly defined as the (legally valid) option of hiding or denying one’s affiliation or beliefs in order to avoid persecution. In the specific context of Islamic law, dissimulation is permitted as an option only in situations where admitting or acknowledging one’s beliefs could lead to loss of, or severe damage to, life or property. But dissimulation is by no means specific to Muslims because it is implemented by many people and in many different contexts. It is found in other faiths, including Judaism and Christianity, with similar justifications (survival and avoiding suffering) within each tradition.[1] By way of example, Church Father Saint Jerome (died 420 ce) permitted dissimulation when necessary.[2] Moreover, dissimulation is not limited to “religious” contexts, since political actors regularly practice dissimulation (in the broad sense of concealing one’s true ideas or beliefs) in various international contexts.[3] As an example of dissimulation in an international political context, some U.S. diplomats pretended to be Canadian citizens during the Iran hostage crisis in order to flee Iran in 1980.

Moreover, while taqiyyah is frequently associated with Shīʿīsm (the second largest Islamic sect and the majority religion in Iran), this is a politically-motivated oversimplification that ignores a significant historical fact: for much of their history, Shīʿīs have been minorities and have repeatedly encountered persecution that could only be avoided through dissimulation. The varied historical and social circumstances of Shīʿīs have resulted in differing opinions on the practice and those who do feel compelled to dissimulate, do so to defend against potential maltreatment.[4] The erroneous assumption that dissimulation is integral to Shīʿīsm (especially its majority branch, Imāmī Shīʿīsm) fails to recognize that persecuted minorities (such as Shīʿīs or Jews) typically take refuge in the practice of dissimulation to avoid oppression. More important than the actual evidence of dissimulation is why certain groups are portrayed as dissimulating more than other groups. Not surprisingly, the stereotype of Jews as practicing dissimulation was integral to nineteenth-century anti-Semitism in Europe.[5] Similarly, the notion that Shīʿīs are prone to lying because of taqiyyah is a manifestation of bigotry against Shīʿīs (in particular) and Muslims (in general). This bias reflects a prevalent and illogical tendency to equate all acts of Muslims as being “caused” by belief in Islam despite the fact that those same acts are practiced by non-Muslims and/or for entirely non-religious reasons.

[1] Michael Wechsler, “Dissimulation,” in Encyclopedia of the Bible and its reception, ed. Dale C. Allison and Hans-Josef Klauck (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2013). These similarities were explored in a 2011 academic conference at the University of Chicago; seehttp://lucian.uchicago.edu/blogs/ccjs/events-and-performances/archive-of-conferences/2010-11/hypocrisy-and-dissimulation-in-judaism-christianity-and-islam/
[2] Ibid., 947.
[3] On religious and political dissimulation, see Perez Zagorin, “The Historical Significance of Lying and Dissimulation,” Social Research 63, no. 3 (1996): 866.
[4] For a thorough treatment of the topic, see Etan Kohlberg, “Some Imāmī-Shīʿī Views on Taqiyya,” Journal of the American Oriental Society 95, no. 3 (1975).
[5] On the relationship between accusations of Jewish dissimulation and nineteenth century anti-Semitism, see Omer Bartov, “Defining Enemies, Making Victims: Germans, Jews, and the Holocaust,” The American Historical Review 103, no. 3 (1998): 779.

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