TheReligiousLeft.org

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Are All Muslims Liars?

By Imraan Siddiqui  
Part Two of "When Interfaith Goes Sideways

In my last article on The Religious Left, I talked about a memorable interfaith event that was turned on its head due by a local Islamophobic speaker and some local tea-partiers.  As I pointed out, in the end the experience turned out to be a positive one due to the unity among the speakers, organizers, and most of the crowd in overcoming hatred.  We were also able to able to connect with and have lunch with the rabbi from the event – which resulted in some fascinating dialogue.
I want to delve further into what we discussed with the rabbi because it covers vital misconceptions about Islam and Muslims.  As we ate our sandwiches, the rabbi mentioned an exchange that he had with one of the Tea-Party attendees prior to our arrival at the hall. As the other participants prepped for the event, the tea-partier came up to the rabbi and said "I can never believe anything a Muslim says anyway, because they're taught to lie in their religion."
The rabbi countered with a sharp reply - "Well then, that makes you a bigot," and promptly walked away from the crazed Islamophobe.  As awesome as his reply was, he had never heard of an allegation like this, and could not therefore fully respond to it.
So here's the question: Are Muslims Liars?
There's a narrative out there in the Islamophobia industry/right wing blogosphere that Muslims cannot be trusted, because at any given time they could be practicing what is known as Taqqiya -or religiously permitted lying. This narrative has been perpetuated by wingnuts such as Glenn Beck in the mainstream - along with Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer in the fringe.
Let's take the example that Muslims are taught as children. Pre-revelation in Islam - up to age 40 of the Prophet Muhammad's (Peace Be Upon Him) life - his nickname in Meccan society was al-Amin - meaning the honest and trustworthy. Post-revelation, society turned on him. Those who loved him and embraced him before - were now trying to undermine and marginalize him from society. When a group of elders from Mecca gathered, they actually held a brainstorming session to bounce ideas off each other on how to most effectively smear him:  Was he a sorcerer?  Was he a poet?  Was he possessed by a demon?  Was he a liar? They knew none of these allegations could stick - specifically the one labeling him as a liar, because they knew nobody in society would buy it.  In an honor based society – such as pre-Islamic Mecca, even the locals knew that the honesty that Muhammad displayed was unmatched and could therefore not be used against him post-revelation.
I attended Sunday school from ages 6-14 - yes Muslims go to Sunday school, no lie. Trust me, I tried to get out of it every week - like a Muslim Ferris Bueller - but my scheming was far less successful in getting me off the hook. My memory's pretty good - and we actually covered the topic of lying a total of ONCE in those 8 years.
AAH HAH! So they DID teach you to lie!
No, actually they didn't.  They taught us that lying - just as in nearly all belief systems - is a sin. Every single form of lie is forbidden - except in the case that your life is in danger.  

That's right, if you are taken prisoner in a war and you fear that you will be killed - then you can lie, and it won't count as a sin on your behalf.  And by the way, I believe lying in this case is acceptable in Christianity, Judaism - and is encouraged in the military as well.  To their defense – I can only give my Sunni viewpoint of this concept – which only represents 85% of the Muslims these guys hate.  Although the concept is thought to be more prevalent among Shi’a, it also refers to extreme duress situations.  Historically, the example of the Prophet’s companion – Ammar bin Yasir has been used – where as a young convert to Islam, he found himself in a life or death situation.  Both his parents (also converts) were captured, tortured and eventually killed.  His mother, Summaya is considered to be the first martyr in Islam.  This brave teenager was now faced with a decision by his captures:  renounce Islam – and give allegiance to their deity – or die.  Under duress, Ammar renounced Islam – and his life was eventually spared.   When he returned back to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) he was told that this was not considered any wrongdoing on his part, because Islam was still in his heart.  That – my friends is the extreme case that we are talking about.
Those who throw out allegations at Islam and Muslims intentionally obscure or leave out this vital context in order to further their cause. The above example comes from the Seerah (Life of the Prophet) as well as narrations from hadiths (traditions and sayings of the Prophet) which are backed by 1400 years of Islamic sciences and scholarship.  When Islamophobes like Robert Spencer attempt to twist the facts, they will conveniently disregard Seerah and hadiths and opt to attack the Quran.
So what does the Quran say about lying?
Let's take an entire Surah from the Quran, #83 -al-Mutaffifin (The Defrauders).  
“Woe to those that deal in fraud― (1) Those who, when they have to receive by measure from men, exact full measure. (2) But when they have to give by measure or weight to men, give less than due. (3) Do they not think that they will be called to account?― (4) On a Mighty, Day, (5) A Day when (all) mankind will stand before the Lord of the Worlds? (6)”
The Surah continues:  By no means! But on their hearts is the stain of the (ill) which they do! (14) Verily, from (the Light of) their Lord, that Day, will they be veiled. (15)
The Arabian Peninsula during the 7th century was a haven for commerce.  Al-Mutaffifin refers to those who intentionally lie, and deceive when it comes to weights and measures. When it comes to cheating in business, some things never change.  Islam came to reform and set straight those deceptions. In fact, it is considered a sin to cut whole milk with water, and still market it as whole milk? So for a religion that is that stringent on business practices, how can you be permitted to lie?
Skeptics would attempt to raise the question – “Well, the deception = sin part only applies to other Muslims, right”?  Wrong. When the Islamic state rose in Medina, Muslims maintained an open, strong relationship with Christians, Jews, and other faiths. Early Muslim delegations actively traded in places like China, and throughout the non-Muslim world – and these very rules applied to their code of ethics no matter who they dealt with.
Oh wait, I lied - There's one more…
There is one other permitted form of lying - that is when two people are fighting - it is ok to lie to help bring them back together.  But that's it...I promise. And isn't that kind of lying pretty romantic?
Chances are, if anyone would have been taught to lie - it would have been me - I mean most Muslim kids don't even attend Sunday school - let alone for 8 years...Are there even 8 grades in Sunday school?  I send both my kids to full-time Islamic school and they have yet to receive their Taqqiya training. And if they're not gonna teach them at Islamic school, who else is gonna train them? Me? I haven't even been properly trained.  Or maybe my kids are lying to me?
BUT...What if He's Lying About all of This?
Some people might say - "well that's what he's supposed to say - it’s all part of the huge Muslim deception." Well, my friends, you will have to decide for yourself.  I could be lying about ALL of this - that's what the Spencers and Gellers would like you to believe.  To an extent, that propaganda is working. 
The fact of the matter is – that the narrative that “all Muslims are liars” is a perfect alibi to shield their utter hatred.  When a group is perceived as “the other” or “the enemy” – what better way to shift public opinion against them, then to take away their collective integrity?  These type of absurdist concepts are being perpetuated through the right-wing blogosphere and among the very profitable anti-Islam industry – and unknowing audiences are lapping these salacious allegations up. 
Islam did not become one of the great religions in the world on the backs of lies, deception, and falsehood. It is antithetical to any belief system based on morals and uplifting society to endorse lying. In fact, it is a sin - in every case, except one - where one’s life is in danger....or if you wanna repair your besties' relationship.  So in closing - your Muslim neighbor isn’t practicing taqiyya when he or she politely invites you to their house for dinner.  In all likelihood, they have never even heard of the obscure concept of taqqiya – which has now become all the rage in the right-wing lexicon.  You believe me, don't you?  

Photo: via the Flickr photostream of Viktor Nagornyy
Imraan Siddiqi is a CAIR-Arizona Board Member, Editor of StopIslamophobiaNow.com, & an Entrepreneur.  He writes on the experiences of Muslim Americans as well as the subject of Islamophobia.  He has been published in outlets such as The Dallas Morning News, The Oregonian, Huffington Post, CounterPunch, SuhaibWebb.com, altMuslim, among many other media outlets.  You can follow him on Twitter @imraansiddiqi.

3 comments:

  1. Excellent and well explained article.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I have no idea how I ended up on your blog, but what a great article.

    ReplyDelete

 
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