Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
Attempts to whitewash the Islamic doctrine of taqiyya are becoming redundantly desperate.
Consider BuzzFeed’s recent, “‘Taqiyya’: How An Obscure Islamic Concept Became An Obsession Of Anti-Muslim Activists.” It offers the same claims and defenses that have been repeatedly discredited.
After quoting Ezra Levant, founder of The Rebel Media, saying that taqiyya “means deliberate deception of infidels, to promote an Islamic goal,” BuzzFeed proceeds: “Levant was referencing a false interpretation of an obscure Islamic doctrine that has become a bedrock belief among anti-Muslim writers and activists, alt-right trolls, and even by current Trump cabinet member and former presidential candidate Ben Carson.”
Next comes the ad nauseam defense:
Mohammad Fadel, an expert on Islamic law at the University of Toronto, described taqiyya (and its many alternative spellings) as “a doctrine of prudential dissimulation” that arose from a time when Muslims were minorities in hostile societies. … “The Qur’an permitted Muslims in that situation, who were fleeing death or torture or other bad treatment, to dissemble about their true beliefs. And as long as they were faithful in their hearts, they would not be considered sinful,” Fadel told BuzzFeed News. But this idea has mushroomed, Fadel said, into a false claim that Muslims are permitted, or even commanded, to lie to non-Muslims as part of a larger project to take over Western countries and impose Sharia, or Islamic law. He said taqiyya does not allow for broad deceptions and has no connection to Sharia.
The irony here is that well over four years ago, I was involved with Ezra Levant and Mohammad Fadel in a Canadian court case revolving around the meaning of taqiyya. Then, Khurrum Awan, a lawyer, was suing Levant for defamation and $100,000, after the latter had accused him of engaging in taqiyya. (Last heard, Awan was suing his 77-year-old neighbor, a Catholic grandma, for having a “large Christian cross” in her backyard.)
During the court case, Mohammad Fadel, BuzzFeed’s go-to expert, had provided an expert report on behalf of Awan on the nature of taqiyya, making every conceivable apologia for the Muslim doctrine. He concluded his report as follows:
In no case, as far as I know, have Muslim theologians taken the position that it is generally permissible, much less obligatory, for Muslims to lie to non-Muslims, whether in matters regarding religious belief or secular practices… Although it has become a staple of right-wing Islamophobia in North America, there is no doctrinal basis in authentic Islamic teachings to support the claim, made by Ezra Levant and others … that taqiyya is anything other than an exceptional doctrine justified under circumstances of extreme duress that are simply inapplicable to Muslims living in Canada and the United States.
In response, Levant had asked me (back in 2013) to write an expert report on taqiyya, including by responding to Fadel’s claims. I did, including by closely parsing and responding to every point made by Fadel, and reached the following conclusion:
Deception—known under the broad term taqiyya—is permissible in Islam, above and beyond the limited issue of self-preservation. This assertion is not “Islamophobic”; it is true. From a legalistic point of view, and as seen especially via the concept of tawriya, as long as deceptions are technically true (“I don’t have a penny in my pocket,” only dollars), they are not even considered lies. The prophet of Islam, Muhammad—the example that Sunni Muslims especially pattern their lives after—regularly made use of deceit. In order to assassinate a poet (Ka‘b ibn Ashraf) who offended him, Muhammad permitted a Muslim to lie to the poet. Muhammad is further on record giving license to breaking oaths (“if something better” comes along) and openly lying (without even employing tawriya) to one’s wife and in war. As for the latter, which assumes a perpetual nature in the guise of the jihad against the non-Muslim in order to make Islam (and Muslims) supreme (e.g., Qur’an 8:39), deception and lies are certainly permissible.
My response apparently had the desired effect; as Levant put it in an email to me, “after receiving the report, he [Awan/plaintiff] decided to cancel calling his own expert witness [Fadel]—who happens to be a Muslim Brotherhood sympathizer. After reading your rebuttal, he decided he would rather not engage in that debate.”
And yet here again is Fadel making and BuzzFeed citing the same indefensible claims about taqiyya.
Which leads to the ultimate point of this post: to expose all the claims taqiyya’s apologists make—Fadel left no stone unturned in his attempt to whitewash the term—and how to respond them: Click on my April 12, 2014 article, “Taqiyya about Taqiyya,” where I methodically address, including by citing sources, every one of Fadel’s apologias.