Acceptable lies and the New York Times

The New York Times has an extraordinary article that extols the virtues of lying and doublespeak in a recent “Memo from Jerusalem.” Well, you might ask, what of it? How does a dodgy story on the Arab-Israeli conflict fall within the ambit of GetReligion? What is the religion/journalism hook you ask?

To which I respond: lying is a sin or bad manners or ethically challenged behavior from a Western perspective. Lying is not always a sin in Islam — that is to say lying to non-Muslims is not a sin, bad manners or ethically challenged behavior. The Times ties itself in knots trying to excuse lying by the Palestinians, even going so far as to raise instances of Israelis behaving badly. However, the moral equivalence argument expressed in the Times-patented insouciant world-weary tone, which holds that as both sides are dissemblers we should not cast aspersions, does not work here.

Ignorance of Islamic moral standards, or perhaps the reluctance to raise the precept of taqiyya has placed the Times in the position of endorsing cant.

Take a look at this 20 Dec 2011 article entitled “Finding Fault in the Palestinian Messages That Aren’t So Public.” The editorial voice of the story states that news agencies that translate into English the statements made in Arabic by Palestinian leaders are doing a disservice to the cause of peace.

The Times argues that statements in English that are tailored to a Western audience by Palestinian leaders that speak of peace and reconciliation should not be juxtaposed against by statements made in Arabic by the same Palestinian leaders to their constituencies that call for the destruction of Israel and death to Jews.

The article begins by observing that:

A new book by an Israeli watchdog group catalogs dozens of examples of messages broadcast by the Palestinian Authority for its domestic audience that would seem at odds with the pursuit of peace and a two-state solution.

This claim is “not new” the Times notes. As:

For years, many Israeli and Palestinian analysts have said that what Palestinian leaders tell their own people in their own language — as opposed to English-language statements tailored to opinion in the rest of the world — is the truest reflection of their actual beliefs. This has had the effect of further entrenching the sides to the conflict and undermining confidence that it can ever be resolved.

Let’s stop and think about what the Times has just said. It is true, the article concedes, that Palestinian political leaders are saying one thing to the West and another to their own people. The lede sentence in the story soft peddles the results of this lying: it “would seem at odds” with the peace process. However, the follow up sentence states this explicitly: it has had “the effect of further entrenching” Palestinian revanchist views.

The article quotes one of the lead authors of the study on Palestinian media doublespeak on why this is problematic, but the story then pivots with a sentence that sets the theme and context of the article.

Some Israelis struggle with the practice of monitoring the Palestinian news media, acknowledging the importance of knowing what is being said in Arabic, yet disturbed by how its dissemination is exploited by those not eager to see Israel make concessions.

The article offers examples of this doublespeak, but then introduces contrary Israeli and Palestinian voices that criticize the book. This criticism, however, is not that the results of the study are untrue, but that these truths are inconvenient to the political agenda of the Israeli left, which the Times also conflates as being co-equal to the cause of peace.

The Times then offers its critque.

Some of the examples publicized by the Israeli monitoring group are old ones that have been repeated over the years, and some of its interpretations are arguable.

A Palestinian critique is offered.

“This is not a serious attempt to solve the problem of incitement,” said Ghassan Khatib, the spokesman for the Palestinian Authority government in the West Bank. Mr. Khatib said that the authority had significantly reduced the level of incitement on the Palestinian side in recent years. “The question is,” he said, “are the Israelis improving or reversing in this regard?”

And the story concludes with voices from the Israeli left.

“There is peace making and there is peace building,” said Itamar Rabinovich, who served as Israel’s chief negotiator with Syria and as Israel’s ambassador in Washington, explaining why the contentious messages in Arabic are so damaging. The lack of peace building, he said, is part of the failure of the Oslo peace process that began with accords signed in 1993 but has not yet produced a Palestinian state.

In one of the most egregious examples of Palestinian doublespeak, Yasir Arafat spoke in a mosque in South Africa in May 1994, only months after the signing of the Oslo accords, and called on the worshipers “to come and to fight and to start the jihad to liberate Jerusalem.”

As the ambassador to Washington at the time, Mr. Rabinovich said he found himself in the awkward position of having to explain to anyone who would listen that jihad, usually translated as holy war, could also mean a spiritual struggle, in order to justify continuing the peace process.

Still, he said, it is not by chance that those focusing on Palestinian incitement and publicizing it are “rightist groups who use it as ammunition.”

Where is the religion hook then? It comes in the form of a religion ghost — meaning that there is a religion element to this story that is omitted. And this omission is crucial, I believe, in understanding the story.

As it is written, the Times piece is a defense of sophistry and comes across as being morally dubious at best. By excusing the doublespeak the Times engages in the “soft bigotry of low expectations” — to quote a favorite of its editorial board, President George W. Bush. It belittles those who expose this duplicity by arguing that truth telling will block a two-state solution.

Are the Palestinians masters of moral duplicity then, as the Times would have us believe? Or are they acting according to the lights of their own moral and ethical system?

Writing in the Winter edition of the Middle East Quarterly, Raymond Ibrahim discusses the concept of dissimulation [taqiyya] in Shia and Sunni ethics.

While the Qur’an is against believers deceiving other believers—for “surely God guides not him who is prodigal and a liar”– 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.

Ibrahim explains that Shia communities living as minorities in Sunni areas were permitted to dissemble about their religion in order to avoid persecution. But among the Sunni community,

… far from suffering persecution have, whenever capability allowed, waged jihad against the realm of unbelief; and it is here that they have deployed taqiyya—not as dissimulation but as active deceit. In fact, deceit, which is doctrinally grounded in Islam, is often depicted as being equal—sometimes superior—to other universal military virtues, such as courage, fortitude, or self-sacrifice.

Palestinian leaders have used taqiyya in their war with Israel. In an incident dismissed in the Times article as being “old” news, Ibrahim reports on a speech by Yasser Arafat that offers an example of this strategy.

More recently, and of great significance for Western leaders advocating cooperation with Islamists, Yasser Arafat, soon after negotiating a peace treaty criticized as conceding too much to Israel, addressed an assembly of Muslims in a mosque in Johannesburg where he justified his actions: “I see this agreement as being no more than the agreement signed between our Prophet Muhammad and the Quraysh in Mecca.”  In other words, like Muhammad, Arafat gave his word only to annul it once “something better” came along—that is, once the Palestinians became strong enough to renew the offensive and continue on the road to Jerusalem.

The implications of this way of thinking offend Western sensibilities, Ibrahim writes.

Yet most Westerners continue to think that Muslim mores, laws, and ethical constraints are near identical to those of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Naively or arrogantly, today’s multiculturalist leaders project their own worldview onto Islamists, thinking a handshake and smiles across a cup of coffee, as well as numerous concessions, are enough to dismantle the power of God’s word and centuries of unchanging tradition. The fact remains: Right and wrong in Islam have little to do with universal standards but only with what Islam itself teaches—much of which is antithetical to Western norms.

What then are we to make of this story about Palestinian doublespeak? The Times concedes it exists, but down plays its importance and gives prominence of place in its article to those who see the exposure of lies as being harmful to the cause of peace.

Would ascribing all divergence between what the Palestinian leaders say to the West and what they tell their own people to taqiyya answer the questions raised in this story? Or does cant play a role in any of this? What say you GetReligion readers?

But where ever the line may be found between lying to advance the faith and cant, the omission of this religion element to the story by the Times does a disservice to its readers.

 

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About geoconger
  • herb glatter

    thank you Mr. Conger for addressing the doublespeak in the nytimes article. this is but one of many that have harmed Jewish people in their editorials, columns and reports.
    some would say: “how could a newspaper owned by Jews harm the Jewish people?” first the Sulzbergers abandoned Judaism becoming Episcopalians.C-Span covered a symposium at NY’s 92nd Street Y several years ago that had former managing editor of the times, Arthur Gelb say: “leading up to the Second World War Sulzberger decreed that reporting of atrocities committed by the Nazis against Jews were to be downplayed or omitted.” today Tom Friedman, Roger Cohen et. al. continually describe Israel negatively. I don’t expect to be loved as a Jew – just treat us fairly, something the nytimes avoids.

  • Harris

    I should think that it is also important to note that the authors of this “study” also possess their own bias. The crucial graf:

    Mr. Marcus, who set up Palestinian Media Watch in 1996, says that he wants to foster genuine reconciliation. His critics, however, note that he is a settler who lives in the Gush Etzion bloc south of Jerusalem, a contested area of the West Bank that Israel intends to keep under any agreement with the Palestinians

    .

    Secondly, the notion that all Muslims are liars in the post’s second graf is certainly one that urges the less sympathetic to disregard all that follows.

    • geoconger

      Please let’s stay on point here. I did not say that all Muslims are liars.

  • John Pack Lambert

    Can anyone seriously tell me that there is anyway to interpret Arafat other than someone who wants to destroy Israel?

    People should want the real views of others exposed. We should not allow this double-speak, where people say one thing in Arabic and another in English. The claim that “Jihad” is not about war does nothing to suggest that Arafat was doing anything but calling for unilateral and full control of Jerusalem just after agreeing to negotiate.

    The 1966 limits of Israel were cease fire lines, they were never meant or intended to be permanent borders. There is no logical reason to force Israel back to these.

    The bias is in the times and their protecting lieing and not studying the full source issues.

  • Mike O.

    There is a facet I would have liked to have seen in the article. In this information age it has beome so much harder for anybody to speak out of both sides of their mouths and not have the whole world hear each part.

    I can’t really call the article a “defense of sophistry” as it seems (at least to me) to be just laying out the facts and letting the reader decide.

    While I’m not accepting of such doublespeak, I think it’s safe to assume that every political entity for centuries has engaged in this kind of doublespeak: Stating one thing to its base and something different to a general audience. Again, I’m not endorsing it or approving it in any way, especially not with the Palestinians and how much of a threat they continue to be. I’m just saying I don’t think anyone reading this article will be too surprised at their duplicity.

    One other thing to mention is that in general it’s hard for a writer to call out anyone on the holy words they believe. They have a tendency to become malleabale when the situation demands it. Either they are being read out of context, or they were for a different time, or some other excuse.

  • Jerry

    Most of your analysis is just fine. Especially when discussing the politics of lying. In American politics people try to find out what politicians say to supporters that is different from what they say to the general public. So to ding coverage on this point is spot on. And to ask what Islam teaches is totally appropriate.

    It’s also fair to quote that fanatics use passages of scripture to justify their actions. But there was one sentence you quoted which struck me as out and out bigotry:

    The fact remains: Right and wrong in Islam have little to do with universal standards but only with what Islam itself teaches—much of which is antithetical to Western norms.

    You should have challenged that antithetical assertion because I see it as stemming from a particular political perspective and not from a careful consideration of religion. It is pure bias because it uses the beliefs of a minority to smear the majority.

    Taking a step back to consider lying: We have, for example, Catholics who lied about their religion during Queen Elizabeth I’s reign. And we had Jews who lied during the Inquisition. And wikipedia documents least some of the Muslim scripture about lying covers this case of persecution.

    I have no doubt that Muslims can twist what is in the Quran as easily as Christians can find things in the Bible to justify anything they want to do. A classic example of this was the Biblical justification of slavery.

    So the key question is to ask how the majority of Muslim scholars interpret such passages in the Quran and, more, what they say about lying. And another key question is what the vast majority of Muslims believe. I’m not sure about the latter but I found a couple of references to the former question:

    “Telling lies is a bad conduct. It is not proper for righteous people and true believers; rather, it is a sign of hypocrisy, as the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: ‘The hypocrite has three characteristics: he tells lies, breaks his promise and breaches the trust.’ (Reported by Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

    Telling lies is not part of the human nature. It is completely rejected in Islam, and the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) warned Muslims against such evil trait, saying: ‘Stick to truthfulness, for it leads one to righteousness, and the latter leads to Paradise. Thus, when one sticks to truthfulness and shows keenness in it, Allah considers him as an absolutely truthful man. And avoid telling lies, for it leads to excessiveness, and this leads to Hell-Fire. Thus, when one persists in telling lies, Allah considers him as a liar.’

    There are levels of lying, i.e., the more harm lying causes, the more urgently it is rejected and the severer punishment for it will be. Thus, some lies are considered minor sins, while others are major ones.”

    http://www.infad.usim.edu.my/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=10734

    4) The religion of Islaam is a complete religion comprising both ‘aqeedah (beliefs) and Sharee’ah (laws).

    • It commands them with being truthful and prohibits them from lying.

    • It commands them with fulfilling trusts and prohibits them from acting treacherously.

    • It commands them with keeping promises and prohibits them from breaking them.

    http://www.fatwa-online.com/aboutislaam/0010801.htm

    So in summary, I have no doubt that Muslim politicians are just as capable of lying as Christian or Jewish politicians. And, to me, the sins the NY Times commits are political sins of minimizing the importance of what Muslims politicians say to their people.

  • Bain Wellington

    Someone is being led up the garden path here. But who?

    Since the Israeli and western governments monitor what is being disseminated by Palestinian leaders in their Arabic discourses, must we assume that it is the Palestinian refugees who are ignorant of what is being bargained away on their behalf?

    Or is there another possibility : that one or more of the parties (Israelis, Palestinians, the western bloc) is in denial? Either way, I can’t, for my part, see a religion angle here.

    Since the dark arts of disinformation and deceit seem to be intrinsic to the practice of both diplomacy and war, it is a little hopeful for Mr. Conger to object that the NYT article, in failing to introduce the highly contentious topic of tayiyya into the discussion, has spawned a ghost.

  • Bain Wellington

    Someone is being led up the garden path here. But who?

    Since the Israeli and western governments monitor what is being disseminated by Palestinian leaders in their Arabic discourses, must we assume that it is the Palestinian refugees who are ignorant of what is being bargained away on their behalf?

    Or is there another possibility : that one or more of the parties (Israelis, Palestinians, the western bloc) is in denial? Either way, I can’t, for my part, see a religion angle here.

    Since the dark arts of disinformation and deceit seem to be intrinsic to the practice of both diplomacy and war, it is a little hopeful for Mr. Conger to object that the NYT article, in failing to introduce the highly contentious topic of taqiyya into the discussion, has spawned a ghost.

  • Bain Wellington

    Sorry about that! the only difference between the two previous posts is in the spelling of taqiyya.

  • Mark Baddeley

    Well, I wouldn’t be following Jerry down his path. I think Geoconger might be faulted for not having acknowledged some diversity within Islam on this question – making it look as though all Muslims are okay with a fairly front-footed strategy of lying to non-Muslims.

    But Jerry’s response at #6 is fairly selective.

    Raymond Ibrahim, while controversial (as you would expect given how charged this issue is) is a scholar with credentials in the area. You don’t remove his opinion simply by quoting a Muslim site with a different opinion – the two different views interact, but they don’t annihilate each other that way.

    The wikipedia article on the subject that he links doesn’t mention anything beyond lying to protect oneself under persecution, but if you then look at the discussion behind that page, you can see that there has been long controversy over that position. In the end, it seemed to me in perusing it that at least part of the reason was because the term is originally not a sunni term, and so discussion of the issue should be in a page about sunni religious reasons for lying – a page that, as one would expect with wikipedia’s recognized leanings, doesn’t exist. That is, wiki has taken an unusually narrow and literalistic (in comparison to decisions elsewhere) take on the scope of the word, and set the bar very high as to what sources will be allowed – with the effect that the page on the question makes no mention of it. From the discussion, it looks as though that was the intention and purpose of some of the key decision makers whose goal was not to strengthen conservatives, and for others it was just a byproduct.

    One can give examples of Muslims arguing for a reasonably broad scope for deception as being mainstream. See, for example:

    http://www.answering-ansar.org/answers/creed_of_shia_explained/en/chap7.php

    That page includes lying to advance diplomacy as permissible – and the activity that the Times is discussing would fit into that fairly easily. That’s not just politicians being politicians-at least some schools of Islamic thought think that is being a good Muslim.

    Some mention of that point of view would certainly have improved the article.

  • MJBubba

    Jerry, note this section from the Raymond Ibrahim article that was cited in the post:

    However, one of the few books devoted to the subject, At-Taqiyya fi’l-Islam (Dissimulation in Islam) makes it clear that taqiyya is not limited to Shi’a dissimulating in fear of persecution. Written by Sami Mukaram, a former Islamic studies professor at the American University of Beirut and author of some twenty-five books on Islam, the book clearly demonstrates the ubiquity and broad applicability of taqiyya:

    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.[5]

  • Bob Smietana

    Politicians – whether they are Mormon, Methodist, or Muslim- lie all the time. They only tell the parts of the truth their audiences want to hear. And the message to the outside world is different that the message to insiders. It’s called propaganda. The claim that it is ok to lie in in Islam and not in Western culture is one of the main messages of critics of Islam in the US like the Middle East Quartety. Stating it as a fact is an error that needs a clarification or an correction .

    • geoconger

      Bob, you do not appear to have grasp of the subject. Muslim ethical theory — the teaching of taqiyya — holds that it is morally permissible, and at times a moral good, to lie. This is uncontroverted except among Islamist apologists and the naive.

      I do not doubt that there are political leaders in the West who lie. However, they lie in the knowledge that they are committing a bad act — those who do not know this are what are called reprobates. Muslim political leaders who lie to spread jihad do so in the full blessing of their faith. As Ibrahim points out — it is foolish to posit a universal moral code on this point when the clear teachings of the Hadith contradict Judeo-Christian standards.

  • Mark Baddeley

    I find the argument ‘all politicians lie’ unconvincing in this context.

    If the Australian PM signed a treaty, and justified the signing to the Australian people by saying, in effect, ‘it doesn’t commit us if we don’t want it to’, that would not play with the voters. I imagine it would be the same for American voters and their President.

    This is not about politicians lying. This is about politicians justifying their actions to their people by saying, ‘Don’t worry, I was only lying’. That’s very different from just ‘all politicians lie’.

    In the West, politicians try to at least have plausible deniability. At best they try not to get out lying. They certainly don’t say publicly, “I was lying” as their justification for their actions.

    For that to be a political strategy suggests that a significant block of the citizens will find that acceptable rather than unacceptable.

  • Buzzk

    Hatemongering article by hatemongering author.
    Then there are the hatemongering comments.
    Sick in the head.
    Neonazis

  • Jerry

    geoconger, the same is true for Christians so you’re being selective and thus displaying bias and thus being a Christian “apologist” and not a reviewer news coverage.

    The question now becomes, Is there such a case for the so-called just or justified lie? I would say so, and the situations falling most clearly into that category would involve war, murder, or criminal activities. If a murderer comes to your house and he wants to know if your children are upstairs in bed and you know that it’s his intent to murder them, it’s your moral obligation to lie to him, to deceive him as much as you possibly can to prevent those lives from being taken. I think that would also be true in cases of war. I don’t think a person is required to tell the enemy where his group is concealed any more than a quarterback in a football game is required to announce to the defense what the intended play is. He can use faking and deception in order to execute that play. That’s sort of a war game on the football field. Numerous Christians lied to the Nazis in order to protect Jews from capture and extermination. I think that in cases in which we know that lying will prevent such evil, it is legitimate. — Now, That’s a Good Question.

    http://internationalstandard.wordpress.com/2011/06/16/rahab-the-harlot-the-hebrew-midwives-and-others-throughout-the-old-testament-supposedly-lied-to-protect-others-and-god-in-turn-blessed-them-does-this-mean-that-christians-today-may-have-occasion/

    And that is not the only source. Another is

    Moreover, as we’ve seen, a nation or militia is justified in its use of deception against enemies in war situations

    . http://www.reformed.org/webfiles/antithesis/v1n3/ant_v1n3_issue.html

  • Mark Baddeley

    Jerry,

    Feel free to show some quotes of reasonably mainstream Christians, or Jews, arguing that it is okay to lie to unbelievers in order to promote the spread of the gospel.

    That would be comparing apples with apples after all.

  • Jeffrey

    Before scolding Bob, maybe it would be worthwhile to do your own research on Muslm ethical theory and not just rely on the interpretations of neocon apologists like Ibrahim. It is not uncontroverted and it would be naive to rely just on activists at outfits like Mddle East Quarterly for analysis of this complex concept.

  • http://Faith&Reason Cathy Grossman

    Inconvenient truths — the phrase of our times on so many fronts. Of course it is 100% kosher to report the news fully — in whatever language the folks are speaking. Likewise, it’s valid to address what fallout comes from full knowledge of facts.

  • Stan

    This posting seems to be very selective in its understanding of Christian history and theology. I don’t know enough about Muslim theology to know how accurate it is in that regard, but at several points in Christian history it has been deemed moral to lie and commit other “crimes.” The Pope who declared Queen Elizabeth I a heretic also announced that it would be a pious act if she were assassinated. Surely, this is countenancing as “moral” something far worse than lying.

  • Bob Smietana

    Bob, you do not appear to have grasp of the subject. Muslim ethical theory — the teaching of taqiyya — holds that it is morally permissible, and at times a moral good, to lie.

    George:

    I’ve no interest in playing a game of who knows more about Islam.

    However, this post contains an error.

    Taqiyya is a Shi’a term, which allows someone to lie in a time of persecution if their life is being threatened. It is not a universally accepted or common practice among Muslims.
    Claiming claim that it is an universal or normal practice is an error.

    This post relies on the work of Raymond Ibrahim – who is a partisan source who sees Islam as a threat to Western Civilization. He is free to do so, but using him as a sole sources turns your post into an op-ed piece and not journalism criticism.

    A suggestion. Perhaps a call to the Center for Middle East and Islamic Studies at the US Naval Academy– which is neither a home to Islamist apologists or the naive– would result in a different explanation of what Taqiyya. (A hint- I know this from reporting on the topic at length.)

    Getting religion means understanding the complexity of many faiths not just your particular favorite.

    Merry Christmas

    Bob S

    • geoconger

      Bob,

      I too have no interest in playing the game of who knows more about Islam. My knowledge of the topic is not as strong as I would like. It has been over 25 years since I studied Persian and Arabic in college and through disuse I am no longer conversant in those tongues. And it has been equally long since I first learned of this concept from reading Bernard Lewis’ work on the Assassins — and I have not kept as up to date on my Muslim studies as I should

      I disagree with your assertions about the person of Raymond Ibrahim and his work. I also find your argument objectionable. I do not believe Ibrahim’s views serve as an automatic bar to the strength or veracity of his arguments about contemporary Muslim practices. The facts Ibrahim offers in support of his argument, which I find to be creditable, are taken from contemporary sources about Sunni Islam. You would first need to impeach the 2004 book on Taqiyya by Prof. Sami Mukaram, late of the American University in Beirut, before you can dismiss Ibrahim out of hand. Dismissing his conclusions because you object to his person is no argument.

      Nor have I said that taqiyya is a moral obligation to be practiced by all Muslims at all times. What I have said is that it is a teaching that is found across Islam. That is not the same thing as saying all Muslims are liars all the time — something I did not say.

      You are correct that the practice has its roots in the 6th century conflicts between the Sunni and Shia — and was used by the Shia and later by Alawites, Yezdis, Sabeans, Druze, and other sects/groups when under pressure from Sunni masters. The Sunni began to practice taqiyya in Spain following the reconquista. Sunni Islamic jurisprudence held that it was permissible for a Muslim to dissimulate and participate in Christian rituals in order to preserve his true faith. I very much doubt that any source would be foolish enough to say that taqiyya has been practiced only by Shia — the historical sources are so strong the other way.

      The article in question, the Times piece, dealt with Fatah and Hezbollah leaders and press officers practicing dissimulation in their statements to the West. The article failed because of its sloppy moral equivalence and its omission of the doctrine of taqiyya. Your saying that only Shias practice taqiyya and no one else is the only error here.

      I am unsure of what you mean by your final remark about understanding favorite religions. However, if you can point to a study that questions the arguments of Ibrahim and his sources, that would indeed further change the tenor of the debate.

  • Bob Smietana

    George:

    You’re taking one view of a religious concept – in this case the Shi’a practice of taqiyya, which is lying under persecution- and making it universal, by saying Muslims approve of lying in general.
    That’s the problem – taking one scholar’s opinion -one who a critic of Islam – and calling it fact that all Muslims teach.
    Getreligion would not accept that approach if this were a post about a Christian doctrine. Terry blows a gasket anytime someone uses the f word (fundamentalist) or the e-word (evangelist. But your post criticizes the Times for not pointing out that-and this is my paraphrase all Muslims are liars.

    Bob S

  • Mark Baddeley

    Bob,

    I think the meaning of taqiyya has broadened from its roots – if you look at the page I linked, the Muslims there argue for diplomacy as a legitimate aspect of taqiyya in Muslim thinking going back to the Prophet.

    If you read Geoconger’s post carefully, it doesn’t say all Muslims think that lying is legitimate. He uses phrases more like the following, all of which are in quotes of others:

    *

    has Qur’anic support and falls within the legal category of things that are permissible for Muslims

    *

    In fact, deceit, which is doctrinally grounded in Islam, is often depicted as being equal—sometimes superior—to other universal military virtues, such as courage, fortitude, or self-sacrifice.

    *

    Yet most Westerners continue to think that Muslim mores, laws, and ethical constraints are near identical to those of the Judeo-Christian tradition.

    (This last one was criticized earlier in the thread for being patronizing IIRC, which seems absurd – what is more patronizing – to not assume that other traditions conform to Western norms or to assume that, deep down, all other traditions are really children of the Enlightenment as well? Are our norms really so self-evident that we can just assume all other traditions comply with them?)

    All of these quotes, on careful reading, imply a widespread grounding of the practice in Muslim teaching, but not that all Muslims lie – merely that it is considered acceptable in certain circumstances in mainstream Muslim thinking. In retrospect I think that maybe Geoconger could have made that clearer, but if the issue was less heated it is possibly his nuancing would have been more immediately obvious.

    And then Geoconger concluded by explicitly raising the question of whether we could just explain all of this by invoking taqiyya or whether at least some of it should be explained as being cant. So Geoconger tried to set up the discussion as a discussion between ‘politicians lie anyway’ and ‘mainstream Islamic ethical teaching has more of a place for lying to unbelievers’.

    The problem isn’t so much that Geoconger tried to say all Muslim deceit is religiously grounded, but that people tried to deny any religious ground at all because that would (apparently) patronisingly assume that Islam doesn’t have the same the norms as Western thinking.

    I think the thread was a GetReligion moment in miniature – people of more liberal persuasion finding the idea that a different cultural group might not value truth telling both utterly wrong and offensive because it cuts against the grain of a fundamental belief of liberalism that everyone values the truth and that reasonable people of good will can profitably come to a meeting of the minds. Conservatives more prepared to accept that other cultures might be significantly non-Western in their norms. That’s not religion per se but it is certainly fundamental beliefs shaping people’s responses.


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