Would It Be Wrong to Reject a Muslim Presidential Candidate?

July 8, 2008

Many people believe Barack Obama is now or once was a Muslim. Setting aside, for the moment, the question of whether or not there’s any truth to those rumors, what if a Muslim did run for President? Would it be appropriate to elect a Muslim President of the United States at this moment in history? Various commentators have expressed dismay at the notion that a Muslim could be rejected for the office of President based on his religion. Recently, for example, Colbert King of the Washington Post wrote:

What will they [orators 150 years from now] say about our professed fidelity to religious freedom when they find out that many of the Americans who thank God for their religious liberty are also ready to turn their backs on a candidate if they think he is a Muslim or Mormon?

This clearly implies Mr. King believes that to turn our backs on a Muslim presidential candidate would be religious bigotry.

Let’s interject some common sense here. We have been attacked by Muslim Jihadists, and are in the midst of an ongoing conflict with Islamic Jihad. Even if there was no inherent conflict between certain Islamic doctrines and our Western values, this would not be an appropriate time to elect a Muslim to the Presidency. I have no objection to electing a Japanese-American as President at this time, but it would not have been appropriate to do so in the context of WWII. This is not bigotry, but simply acknowledgment of a basic principle: when an individual is a member of two groups, and there is a conflict between those groups, we cannot be completely certain where his loyalties lie. Maybe we can be certain enough to be the individual’s friend, but not certain enough to elect the individual President. The stakes are just too high.

In addition, a significant number of Muslims believe that Islam ultimately requires the removal of non-Muslims from power and implementation of Sharia law worldwide. There is considerable evidence that this agenda is being advanced by stealth. Sharia is in conflict with our Constitution, violating such principles as freedom of speech and press, freedom of religion, equality under the law, and more. This conflict would need to be decisively resolved, such that Sharia would no longer be considered a valid source of law by mainstream Muslims, before it could be appropriate to elect a Muslim as President of this country.

Is Obama, in fact, a Muslim?

From the evidence I’ve seen, I think it’s virtually certain he was raised as a Muslim, at least for a period of time. Taking into account his Muslim background, there is also a small chance he remains a closet Muslim, as we can’t read his mind to find out what he really believes in his heart. For a Muslim to deceive non-Muslims (taqiyya) in certain circumstances gets the green light by Sharia law. For example, according to Imam Abu Hamid Ghazali as quoted in Reliance of the Traveller, a classic book of Islamic law, lying is permissible to reach a permissible goal that cannot be reached by telling the truth. If, for example, a Muslim believed that he would have to lie about his faith in order to be elected President, lying in this context would be permissible according to Ghazali.

Of course, just because lying can be justified in Islam does not mean that Obama is a closet Muslim. Not all Muslims practice taqiyya, and non-Muslims can also be dishonest. However, since it appears Obama has been dishonest about his Muslim upbringing, is it wise to trust his honesty regarding his current religious beliefs? And, given that there’s probably a small chance Obama is a closet Muslim, would it be responsible for us to risk it? That’s a judgment call each of us can make, but it certainly is a legitimate consideration that has nothing to do with bigotry, and everything to do with national security.


Revolutionary Revision of the Hadith in Turkey?

February 28, 2008

[Update: Reports of Turkey’s revision plans may have been exaggerated.]

According to the BBC, Turkey’s “Department of Religious Affairs has commissioned a team of theologians at Ankara University to carry out a fundamental revision of the Hadith….” The Hadith are oral traditions about Mohammed and his cohorts, certain collections of which are generally regarded as sacred by Muslims. Here are a few noteworthy items:

  • The Turks apparently want the Hadith to support their efforts at creating a modern, secular democracy.
  • They are claiming that in their reform, they are actually returning to an original Islam (a claim which may be subject to debate).
  • They are rejecting the doctrine of abrogation (later, violent verses of the Quran replacing the earlier, peaceful verses).
  • They want to end Islamic justification for honor killings and female genital mutilation.
  • It is theoretically possible their efforts could result in a radically reformed version of Sharia, or even an official doctrine of non-Sharia. We’ll see.
  • This is the only instance I’m aware of in which Muslims with this degree of official authority have admitted problems within Islam to this extent. This in itself is a welcome step in the right direction.

And here are some issues that are not discussed in this article:

  • Time will tell how the rest of the Muslim world will respond to this reform. Let’s not expect a sudden utopia.
  • Their reform may turn out to be a worthwhile one, we don’t know yet. However, even if it does, it is quite possible that it will be used by Islamists as taqiyya. The Islamists can say, “See! Sharia’s not so bad,” to sell the West on Sharia, and then do “bait and switch” on us. We need to stay vigilant with those pesky Islamists (or, more accurately, we need to become vigilant in the first place.)
  • From this article, it is difficult to see how their approach can neutralize the many problems in the Quran, such as the calls for Jihad, Jizya tax (extra tax on non-Muslims), and massive Jew hatred.

It is good to see a sign of progress, even if it’s too soon to break out the champagne.


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.