Muslim Deceit and the Burden of Proof
If Islam permits deceit, why should non-Muslims let their guard down?
January 21, 2020
Raymond Ibrahim, author most recently of Sword and Scimitar, is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
In his recent defense of the Islamic doctrine of taqiyya (dismantled here), Usama Hasan, of the UK think tank Quilliam, made the following admission:
It is true that hardened Islamist terrorists, such as the Al-Qaeda & ISIS supporter Usman Khan who murdered two people at Fishmongers’ Hall [after pretending to have been “rehabilitated”], do misuse the principle of taqiyyah (see *** below) in order to further their cause. However, the charge that all Muslims are generally religiously obligated to lie, and do so routinely, is both dangerous and untrue.
While this may be true, it is also inevitable. After all, how is the infidel to know which Muslim is and isn’t “misusing the principle of taqiyyah”? Moreover, why should the burden of proof be on the non-Muslim—who stands to (and often does) suffer and even gets killed from ignoring the role of deceit in Islam—and not on the Muslim, whose religion allows deception in the first place? This is particularly so since more than a few “hardened Islamist terrorists” are convinced that their creed allows them to dissimulate to their heart’s content—so long as doing so can be seen as helping further the cause of Islam.
In this, as in virtually all things Islamic, Muslims have their prophet’s example—two that are especially poignant—to turn to.
First is the assassination of Ka‘b ibn Ashraf (d. 624), an elderly Jew. Because he dared mock Muhammad, the latter exclaimed, “Who will kill this man who has hurt Allah and his messenger?” A young Muslim named Ibn Maslama volunteered on condition that to get close enough to Ka‘b to murder him, he needed permission to lie to the Jew.
Allah’s messenger agreed. So Ibn Maslama traveled to Ka‘b and began to complain about Muhammad until his disaffection became so convincing that Ka‘b eventually dropped his guard and befriended him.
After behaving as his friend for some time, Ibn Maslama eventually appeared with another Muslim, also pretending to have apostatized. Then, while a trusting Ka‘b’s guard was done, they attacked and slaughtered him, bringing his head to Muhammad to the usual triumphant cries of “Allahu Akbar!”
In another account, after Muhammad and his followers had attacked, plundered, and massacred a number of non-Muslim Arabs and Jews, the latter assembled and were poised to defeat the Muslims (at the Battle of the Trench, 627). But then Naim bin Mas‘ud, one of the leaders of these non-Muslim “confederates,” as they came to be known in history, secretly went to Muhammad and converted to Islam. The prophet asked him to return to his tribesmen and allies—without revealing that he had joined the Muslim camp—and to try to get them to abandon the siege. “For,” Muhammad assured him, “war is deceit.”
Mas‘ud returned, pretending to be loyal to his former kinsmen and allies, all while giving them bad advice. He also subtly instigated quarrels between the various tribes until, no longer trusting each other, they disbanded—thereby making Mas‘ud a celebrated hero in Islamic tradition.
In the two well-known examples above, Muslims deceived non-Muslims not because they were being persecuted for being Muslim but as a tactic to empower Islam. (Even the Battle of the Trench was precipitated precisely because Muhammad and his followers had first attacked the confederates at the Battle of Badr and massacred hundreds of them on other occasions.)
Despite these stories being part of the Sunna to which Sunnis adhere, UCLA’s Abou El Fadl—the primary expert the Washington Post once quoted to show that Islam does not promote deceit—claims that “there is no concept that would encourage a Muslim to lie to pursue a goal. That is a complete invention.”
Tell that to Ka‘b ibn Ashraf, whose head was cut off for believing Muslim lies. The prophet of Islam allowed his followers to deceive the Jew to slaughter him—even though Ka‘b posed no threat to any Muslim’s life.
Especially revealing is that, in Dr. Sami Makerem’s seminal book on the topic, Al-Taqiyya fi’l Islam (Taqiyya in Islam), he cites the two aforementioned examples from the prophet’s biography as prime examples of taqiyya.
It comes to this: even if one were to accept the limited definition of taqiyya as permitting deception only under life threatening circumstances (as Usama Hasan and any number of apologists insist), the fact remains: Islam also permits lies and deception in order to empower itself. Accordingly, and considering that Islam considers itself in a constant state of war with non-Islam (typified by the classical formulation of Dar al-Islam vs. Dar al-Harb) any Muslim who feels this or that piece of deception over the infidel is somehow benefiting Islam will believe that he has a blank check to lie.
That’s the inconvenient fact—passingly admitted to by Usama Hasan—that needs addressing; and that’s why the burden of proof concerning sincerity belongs on Muslims, not non-Muslims.
***Taqiyya Sunset: Exposing the Darkness Shrouding Islamic Deceit
01/01/2020 by Raymond Ibrahim 11 Comments
In “Taqiyyah Sunrise: Shining Light on Contemporary Deception,” published by the Jewish Chronicle on December 19, 2019, Usama Hasan, a board member of the British think tank Quilliam, declares that
This article seeks to clarify the origins, meaning, and application of the concept of taqiyyah. In doing so, my purpose is to minimise its use, as part of a hostile narrative which paints Muslims are [sic] religiously-obligated liars.
Taqiyya is Islamic sanctioned deception. Apologists, such as Hasan, insist that it is limited to preserving one’s life when in danger, while others say its application is much more open-ended and potentially subversive of non-Muslim societies.
The occasion that spurred Hasan to write—and the heart of his argument—appear in this paragraph:
Melanie Phillips is a Times columnist and often appears on the BBC in its TV and radio programmes such as Question Time and The Moral Maze. She also writes for the JC. In her article, “Islamists are not the same as other prisoners,” (The Times, 3 December 2019) she claims that “taqiyya, the command to deceive for Islam … is of fundamental importance in Islam. Practically every Islamic sect agrees to it and practises it.” Her authority? A minor Lebanese academic who is a member of the relatively heterodox Druze sect. This is a bit like deploying Neturei Karta against mainstream Jewish sects, or quoting a Jehovah’s Witness as an authority on the doctrinal content of post-Nicene Christianity.
The “minor Lebanese academic” that Hasan deigns not even name is Dr. Sami Nassib Makarem (1931-2012), a scholar of Arabic and Islam. In 1963, Makarem earned his PhD in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Michigan, where he taught Arabic and specialized in Islamic Studies. Since 1964 till his death he was a professor of Arabic and Islamic thought at the American University of Beirut; from 1975-78, he was director of its Center of Middle Eastern Studies. He published well over twenty books, most of them academic and in the Arabic language.
His 2004 book, Al-Taqiyya fi’l Islam (“Taqiyya in Islam”), is what concerns us here. I first encountered and read it in 2006, while still working at the Library of Congress; later I translated portions of it. Going now through my own copy again—and at 327 pages, with countless references and citations to Islamic/Arabic texts—it is by far the most comprehensive and scholarly treatment on the doctrine of taqiyya known to me. It certainly validates one of its opening statements (which Phillips partially quoted, and which Hasan dismisses out of hand):
Taqiyya is of fundamental importance in Islam. Practically every Islamic sect agrees to it and practices it … We can go so far as to say that the practice of taqiyya is mainstream in Islam, and that those few sects not practicing it diverge from the mainstream … Taqiyya is very prevalent in Islamic politics, especially in the modern era.
Despite Makarem’s credentials, Hasan dismisses him in an ad hominem attack that presents him as “A minor Lebanese academic who is a member of the relatively heterodox Druze sect.” Citing him in regards to mainstream Islam is, for Hasan, “a bit like … quoting a Jehovah’s Witness as an authority on the doctrinal content of post-Nicene Christianity.”
What a silly argument. It’s tantamount to saying that no one but a Sunni can objectively study and write on Sunnism; no one but a Shia can objectively study and write on Shiism; and so on. In reality, many of the world’s greatest authorities have no “innate” connection to their topic; such disconnectedness, if anything, often helps ensure their objectiveness. Up until a few decades ago, for example, if you wanted to know anything about Islamic history, you—and this includes Muslims, who at best knew only hagiography—had to turn to European Orientalists (whose writings tend to remain more learned and objective than their modern day counterparts).
Despite Hasan’s insinuations, Professor Makarem did not approach the topic of taqiyya “as a Druze”—whatever that might mean—but as a scholar, as his book makes clear on every page. Indeed, any notion that he had some sort of axe to grind—for example by pinning taqiyya on other sects but exonerating his own—is dispelled by the fact that his comprehensive treatment also includes the Druze.
Incidentally, and very much unlike Makarem, Usama Hasan has no relevant credentials; his degrees are in the hard sciences (e.g., engineering).
So what we have here is a Muslim man, with no formal credentials on the topic—aside from being a former jihadist whose Saudi-educated father compelled to memorize the Koran in youth—telling us to ignore an actual scholar with formal, academic credentials in Islamic theology, simply because the latter says things (taqiyya/deception is prevalent and mainstream) that present Islam in an unflattering light.
To be sure, Hasan tries to rationalize taqiyya in other ways—including through the usual array of partial truths, partial omissions, generalizations and conflations that I’ve encountered and dismantled many times before (here and here for example)—but it was his flippant dismissal of Makarem that seemed especially disingenuous and in need of addressing.
The overall hollow nature of Hasan’s article is perhaps most evident in how it regularly turns to fake outrage against those who dare mention—and, worse, disseminate knowledge of—taqiyya. A few excerpts follow:
Raymond Ibrahim, author of Sword and Scimitar and The Al Qaeda Reader, is Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center; Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute; and Judith Rosen Friedman Fellow at the Middle East Forum.