Sharia Utopia Is a Myth Part 1: Muslim Countries Among Most Corrupt

March 14, 2008

Transparency International publishes a Corruption Perceptions Index, ranking of 179 countries for corruption. In their most recent report (2007), there are no Muslim countries in the top 10 (least corrupt) countries. There are none in the top 20. There are none in the top 30. The least corrupt Muslim country on the list is Qatar, number 32, which means that 31 non-Muslim countries are less corrupt than the least corrupt Muslim country.

Looking at the most corrupt countries, 16 of the bottom 34 are Muslim: Somalia (the very worst), Iraq, Uzbekistan, Sudan, Chad, Afganistan, Guinea, Turkmenistan, Bangladesh, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Cote d’Ivoire, Azerbaijan, Nigeria, and Guinea-Bissau. To give you an idea of just how corrupt these countries are, they are ranked worse than Russia!

Where’s the utopia? The reason this is important is that Islamists often justify Sharia by arguing it creates a utopian society. Why, then, are Muslim countries generally more corrupt than non-Muslim countries, despite having the “benefit” of Sharia and Islam? Muslim countries all have different ways of implementing Sharia, and a very few don’t use much of it if any, but they all share a common belief that Sharia is a valid source of law. If Sharia really were a benefit, you’d think one of them would produce a stunningly honest government.

What is the relationship between Islam and the corruption in Muslim countries?

Islam does not mandate corruption, but there are provisions in Sharia that provide the conditions in which corruption thrives.

Checks on power: According to Transparency International, one factor allowing corrupt practices to flourish is the lack of institutional checks on power. This follows the maxim, “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Sharia is very authoritarian in nature, concentrating power in the rulers with no orderly process for holding them in check. A Quran verse often quoted to support this authoritarianism is 4:59: “O ye who believe! Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger, and those charged with authority among you….” Reliance of the Traveller: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law also quotes a Hadith to emphasize the importance of obediance to the Caliph: “Hear and obey, even if the ruler placed over you is an Ethiopian slave with amputated extremities.” (pg. 645) Another Hadith quoted is “Leaders shall rule you after me, the godfearing of them ruling you with godfearingness and the profligate ruling you with wickedness. So listen to them and obey them in everything that is right; for if they do well, it will count for you and for them, and if they do badly, it will count for you and against them.” (pg. 639) A Caliph is supposed to have a list of qualifications which include being an upright person, but “it is valid, if forced to, to resort to the leadership of a corrupt person….” (pg. 642) Although there is currently no Caliphate, this authoritarian framework is in the Quran and seems to be hard for Muslim countries to shake off.

Democracy: In addition, democratic systems are better able to fight corruption. Transparency International states: “In a modern democracy, the power of governing bodies is inherent in the political mandate given by the people. Power is entrusted and it is supposed to be used for the benefit of society at large, and not for the personal benefit of the individual that holds it. Thus corruption – misusing publicly entrusted power for private gain – is inherently contradictory and irreconcilable with democracy. That does not mean, unfortunately, that corruption cannot be found in democratic systems. Temptation remains a challenge anywhere. That is why it is all the more important to put in place control mechanisms and establish systemic hurdles to prevent people from abusing their power, as TI is seeking to do. Such mechanisms are more easily drawn up and introduced in established democratic systems, however, than in newly democratic or non-democratic ones.”

Freedom House lists electoral democracies in the world. Of the 32 least corrupt countries, only 3 are not electoral democracies, and 29 are. Of the 34 most corrupt countries, 24 are not electoral democracies, and 10 are.

Many Muslims believe that Islam is incompatible with democracy. If their views prevail, it is likely that the corruption currently entrenched in their societies will never get a whole lot better. Other Muslims are trying to redefine Islam as a personal religion only, with no political side. If they succeed, political reform in Muslim countries becomes more possible; however, they have a long way to go.

Freedom: There is a very clear inverse relationship between freedom and corruption: the more the freedom, the less the likelihood of corruption, and vice versa. Looking at the Freedom House report, which gives countries a rating for freedom, in combination with the TI corruption report, we find that of the 32 least corrupt countries, only one is Not Free (which is Qatar, number 32 on the list); two are Partly Free (Singapore and probably Hong Kong); and the other 29 are Free, of which 26 have the very best score. (Hong Kong was not in the Freedom House report, so I’m arbitrarily calling it “Partly Free”.) In contrast, of the 34 most corrupt countries, 21 are Not Free, 13 are Partly Free, and not a single one is Free. Freedom and honest government go together, and Muslim countries are decidedly freedom challenged.

Honesty: Another factor I would expect to make a difference is the society’s attitudes toward honesty: a more honest society would, logically, tend to be less corrupt. As we have examined extensively in other contexts, Islam and Sharia do not have an absolute commitment to honesty. Deceit is allowed if it’s for a permissible goal. Oaths can be broken if something better comes along. Truth-telling can be punished if the truth embarasses someone. This is not a winning combination for rooting out corruption. There is no such thing as a completely honest or dishonest society, but there are certainly differences nonetheless.

To be clear, my sole interest in this information is to remove a common argument used to defend Sharia. Many people believe it’s “insensitive” to criticize another culture or religion. That would be fine, unless that culture and/or religion wishes to make us more like them. When that’s the case, as it is with Sharia, scrutiny is in order.


Can We Believe What Muslims Say About Sharia and Jihad?

February 19, 2008

The answer is: sometimes. The challenge is that we know deception is a part of the ideologies of Sharia and Jihad, and an integral part of Islamists’ game plan in dealing with non-Muslims.

Examples of Islamists using Deception (”Taqiyya”)

A Sunday Times reporter in Britain infiltrated the Savior Sect, a group which encourages hatred and violence. According to the Times Online article, the sect’s leader, Omar Bakri Mohammed, condemned the killing of all innocent civilians when giving public interviews. “Later when he addressed his own followers he explained that he had in fact been referring only to Muslims as only they were innocent: ‘Yes I condemn killing any innocent people, but not any kuffar.’” “Kuffar” is the plural form of “kafir”, a derogatory term for unbeliever, which is also used in the Quran.

Notice that Bakri was using a deceptive meaning of “innocent” rather than outright lying. Islamists sometimes intentionally use words like “innocent”, “peace”, and “terrorist” with a very different meaning from that of their listeners.

According to the Israeli National News, senior Hamas leaders have said, in effect, “We’re allowed to lie.” They explained, “A Muslim is permitted to say things that oppose his beliefs in order to prevent damages or to be saved from death.” According to INN, “Senior Hamas terrorists in Samaria, who were recently released from jail, publicly expressed disapproval with the Hamas takeover of Gaza and said they supported the PA forces. [Other senior Hamas leaders] explained that the Samarian terrorists’ announcement was not a sign of dissent within Hamas ranks, but rather a permitted use of ‘taqiyya’ to deceive Abbas and avoid prison sentences.”

In his article, The Development of a Jihadi’s Mind, former Jihadist turned reformer Tawfiq Hamid gives several examples of taqiyya practiced and encouraged by Jamaah Islamiyah, an Islamic organization which is now considered to be a terrorist organization:

“Salafi Islamic texts demonstrate Mohammed’s uncompromising nature…. They encourage devout Muslims to emulate the Prophet’s deeds and to accept and defend his actions in even the harshest passages. When confronted by outsiders, however, these same Muslims insist that such stories are misinterpreted because they are taken out of context—though they rarely, if ever, provide the context. This self-protective denial effectively paralyzes further criticism by the West. Meanwhile, these texts are taught and understood in a very literal way by both the young members of Jamaah and many other Muslims.”

“Among the more appalling notions [Salafi ideology] supports are the enslavement and rape of female war prisoners and the beating of women to discipline them. It permits polygamy and pedophilia. It refers to Jews as “pigs and monkeys” and exhorts believers to kill them before the end of days….Homosexuals are to be killed as well….

“These doctrines are not taken out of context, as many apologists for Islamism argue: they are central to the faith and ethics of millions of Muslims, and are currently being taught as part of the standard curriculum in many Islamic educational systems in the Middle East as well in the West. Moreover, there is no single approved Islamic textbook that contradicts or provides an alternative to the passages I have cited.”

“Muslims who live in the West—who insist to outsiders that Islam is a “religion of peace” and who enjoy freedom of expression, which they demand from their Western hosts—have threatened me with murder and arson.”

So, it is evident that many Islamists believe it furthers their aims to deceive non-Muslims by pretending Islam is peaceful when they really don’t believe it is. At the same time, there may also be some who claim Islam is peaceful and really believe it. Then there may also be some who think if they pretend Islam is peaceful, that will make it come true. However, even if they are sincere or well-intentioned, those who deny Islam’s violent and oppressive doctrines are doing the Islamists’ work for them by fooling the gullible West who wants to think well of Islam, despite the evidence. We need to understand Islam as it is, not as we wish it were. Muslims who wish Islam were peaceful need to reform it by addressing its problematic aspects. Living in a make-believe world won’t help.

What Is the Islamic Basis for Taqiyya?

Sunnis (the majority sect) will often say taqiyya is a Shia doctrine, ignoring the support for deception in Sunni hadith and law. As Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch notes, taqiyya is even practiced on the subject of taqiyya. The examples given above (Savior Sect, Hamas, and Jamaah Islamiyah) are, to the best of my knowledge, all Sunni.

Here are three examples from the Quran which excuse dishonesty:

Quran 3:28: “Let not the believers Take for friends or helpers Unbelievers rather than believers: if any do that, in nothing will there be help from Allah: except by way of precaution, that ye may Guard yourselves from them. But Allah cautions you (To remember) Himself; for the final goal is to Allah.” This means Muslims can only be friends with unbelievers as a means to defend against them, which is not sincere friendship. Muslim commentator Ibn Kathir explains: “[When believers fear for their safety from disbelievers], such believers are allowed to show friendship to the disbelievers outwardly, but never inwardly.”

Quran 16:106: “Any one who, after accepting faith in Allah, utters Unbelief,- except under compulsion, his heart remaining firm in Faith – but such as open their breast to Unbelief, on them is Wrath from Allah, and theirs will be a dreadful Penalty.” So, it’s fine to deny belief under compulsion.

Quran 2:225: “Allah will not call you to account for thoughtlessness in your oaths, but for the intention in your hearts; and He is Oft-forgiving, Most Forbearing.” So it does not bother Allah if Muslims make oaths thoughtlessly. Along these lines, in a Hadith recorded by Bukhari, Mohammed says, “…if ever I take an oath to do something, and later on I find that it is more beneficial to do something different, I will do the thing which is better, and give expiation for my oath”. I have found nearly identical statements in 11 additional Bukhari Hadith, as well.

According to several Hadith recorded by Bukhari, Mohammed said “War is deceit”.

Also from Bukhari, Muhammed gave permission for his follower to tell a lie in order to assassinate a critic.

In three Muslim Hadith, Mohammed gives three exceptions to the rule of telling the truth: in battle, to bring about reconcilliation in general, and to bring about reconcilliation between husband and wife.

Taqiyya also has some support from Islamic Law. In Reliance of the Traveller: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law, (pgs. 744-748) we find a paragraph explaining that lying is prohibited, followed by four pages on “Permissible Lying”, Exaggeration”, and “Giving a Misleading Impression”. Here are some quotes: “…Imam Abu Hamid Ghazali…says: ‘Speaking is a means to achieve objectives. If a praiseworthy aim is attainable through both telling the truth and lying, it is unlawful to accomplish through lying because there is no need for it. When it is possible to achieve such an aim by lying but not by telling the truth, it is permissible to lie if attaining the goal is permissible, and obligatory to lie if the goal is obligatory….But it is religiously more precautionary…to employ words that give a misleading impression….[I]f a ruler asks one about a wicked act one has committed that is solely between oneself and Allah Most High… one is entitled to disclaim it….’” “Scholars say that there is no harm…in giving a misleading impression if required by an interest countenanced by Sacred Law that is more important than not misleading the person being addressed, or if there is a pressing need which could not otherwise be fulfilled except through lying.”

So, according to this source, it’s obligatory for Muslims to lie in order to accomplish an obligatory goal that could not be accomplished truthfully. And what are some obligatory goals? According to Reliance (pg. 600), “Jihad is a communal obligation…” (emphasis added). In addition, we know that the goal of Jihad is to impose worldwide Sharia, so it follows that Sharia is also an abligatory goal. Since both Jihad and Sharia are considered obligatory, it follows that lying about them to non-Muslims would be obligatory if they could not be accomplished truthfully, according to the rules spelled out in Reliance.

This does not mean that all Muslims are liars. However, it does mean that Muslims who take Islamic Law seriously could very well believe that lying to non-Muslims about Jihad and Sharia is justified. This is why it’s important to check multiple sources, including not just supporters but also critics of Islam, and see who has the evidence to back up their position.