By Roy Oksnevad
I got an e-mail the other day from a distraught Christian trying to respond to the barrage of negative press against Muslims. Here is what he wrote:
I have seen a tremendous amount of prejudice and hate speech displayed against Muslims through online chatter. I have taken issue with some of it, especially in a Facebook group that is supposed to be for Christians. One thing that is being propagated is that every Muslim, no matter how nice or peaceful they seem is a killer in wait [sic] for the right opportunity to strike, and that every Muslim has a religious duty to kill all Christians and non-Muslims that refuse to convert to Islam. I have had several Muslim friends in my life. I do not believe for a second that any of them would ever kill me under any circumstance.
I try pointing things like that out. Something called Al Taqiyaa is pointed to and used as justification for this mass stereotype of all Muslims as killers. It is being propagated that any Muslim who appears peaceful is merely engaging in Al Taqiyaa, or deception for the purpose of advancing their true agenda, which is jihad, or killing any non-Muslim.
I believe that there are many different interpretations of jihad among different Muslim groups and I do not believe they all believe they have a duty to convert or kill. I also don’t buy into this mass stereotype supported by “Al taqiyaa.”
I am hoping you can give me your perspective on the anti-Muslim sentiment in which there are many people, even some claiming to be Christians, that would like to see every Muslim shipped out from America or even eradicated. And what do you think about the notion that every Muslim, because of their religion, is a killer deceptively making themself [sic] appear to be peaceful?
Since the source of this request originated from on-line chatter, I thought I would do a quick search of on-line sources to see if anyone was really doing their homework on-line to support their paranoid perception of Muslims.
Definitions of Taqiyya
Wikipedia1 is number one on the search engine. Google defines the Arabic word Al-Taqiyya as “dissimulation.” It states that this practice was emphasized in Shi’a Islam whereby adherents may conceal their religion when they are under threat, persecution, or compulsion. It also recognizes that Sunni also practice it and Ibn Kathir has specific teaching on this doctrine.
An Islamic on-line site (www.al-islam.org) also offers a definition of “al-taqiyya” as being “diplomacy” because it encompasses a comprehensive spectrum of behaviors that serve to further the vested interests of all parties involved. He also recognizes that “al-taqiyya” is an integral part of Islam, and that it is not a Shi’ite concoction. He recognizes that some Sunnis assert that al-taqiyya is an act of pure hypocrisy that serves to conceal the truth and reveal that which is the exact opposite (of the truth). He calls such a person a coward.2
A cautionary website is found with Middle East Forum which defines al-taqiyya as “deception directed at non-Muslims.”3 Raymond Ibrahim gives two uses of taqiyya: 1) dissembling over one’s religious identity when in fear of persecution; 2) Sunni Muslims, whenever capability allowed, waged jihad against the realm of unbelief using taqiyya—not as dissimulation but as active deceit.4
From these definitions we see the most common definition is dissimulation when under threat, persecution, or compulsion. A more nuanced definition calls it diplomacy. The last definition brings another dimension involving jihad against unbelief.
Assumptions about Muslims
It seems that the number one assumption of those who think every Muslim is a killer in waiting, is that every Muslim is knowledgeable about this doctrine and is actively practicing deception with non-Muslims. The quick on-line search reveals that al-taqiyya is a doctrine found in Islam and its application is specific and limited. What fear-mongers do is to create an argument based on a very narrow understanding of Islamic doctrine and apply it to all Muslims. The reality is this:
1. There are many types of “true” Muslims.5
2. Most Muslims are cultural Muslims.
3. Most Muslims have only a shallow understanding of Islam and its doctrines.
Muslims acting badly
If we take a step back and look at Middle Eastern society in general we will see that lying, the compulsion to beat the system in the name of freedom, and the insecurity that comes from not knowing when the state might intrude into a private space all create anger. Falsehood is said to be embedded into the Middle Eastern fabric of society with the Islamic influence of taqiyya. Lying is part of the survival mentality. Lying, cheating, and taking advantage of others is even considered intelligent. The result is that trust is broken. Interestingly, Middle Easterners tend to trust Westerners more than they do their own people. Does this mean that the religious doctrine of taqiyya can explain lying? To do so would be an oversimplification of human nature.
Which Muslims use Taqiyya?
The vast amount of knowledgeable writers who warn of Muslims using active deceit taqiyya direct their writing to Islamists/Fundamentalists with an Islamic socio-political agenda. They are leaders of groups such as Al-Qaida, Islamic State/ISISL, Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab, Salafi, and a myriad of other socio-political entities involved in a jihad agenda. These are the ones who are out to kill and will hide their agenda. On a more popular level, Muslim leaders in the West used diplomacy taqiyya in saying triumphal things to their community and are much more guarded when speaking to those outside the Islamic community. This is not dissimilar to Western politicians using double-speak when talking to party leaders and talking with the media.
What do we make of this?
1. Both Sunni and Shi’a sources have a doctrine of Taqiyya. It is part of the teaching of Islam.
2. On a moral level, this doctrine does influence Muslim perception of the gravity of lying. It is understood to be a part of normal life. Caution: lying to get an advantage is found in every society. Wall Street moguls do this all the time.
3. Just because Islamic teaching has a doctrine of Taqiyya, doesn’t mean that every Muslim cannot be trusted.
4. The great concern is over Islamist, not Traditional Muslims, Folk Muslims, Sufi Muslims, Ijtihad Muslims, Secular Muslims, or Modern Muslims. Only the Islamist and those seduced by their utopian rhetoric should be feared.
The questions that I would like to ask the Facebook Christians touting this anti-Muslim discourse: What role do Christians have in presenting Christ to Muslims? Don’t they need to hear the good news of salvation found in Jesus Christ? If we eradicate them from North America, where will they see an authentic community of followers of Christ living out this message of the love of God?
4 For further reading go to: http://www.raymondibrahim.com/islam/taqiyya-about-taqiyya/.