Accusing a religious community of having a developed doctrine of deception

A while ago I heard a Catholic Apologist who was intimately knowledgeable about Islam (though I think his treatment of it was less fair than other treatments I’ve seen), claim that it is a little known fact that Islam is the only world religion with a worked out doctrine of deception. That is to say, that deception may be legitimately employed in some restricted sense in order to bring about Shariah. Now, in thinking about this allegation, I suspect that if it is true it will have to be reserved to the Sunni (though, that’s the largest denomination of Islam – granted -). The Catholic respondent was suggesting that when Muslims say that they do not intend to impose Shariah law on nations which are not themselves Muslim, what they mean is that the Nation must first become Muslim in order for it to be imperative for that nation to adopt Shariah. Thus, since the Muslim still intends to impose Shariah on every nation of the world, the statements to the contrary seem carefully deceptive.

Now, on the one hand I think that this suggestion is somewhat fear mongering, but on the other hand it has to be realized that Islam is really at war with a Christian view of mankind, and we would be quite wrong to ignore the very real threat Islam poses to Western Christianity (though the fact that Islam may or may not pose a threat to democracy is itself a triviality). However, think about the consequences of accusing some religious group of having a doctrine of deception. If in fact they have it, and if it stipulates that deception can be employed for ends which are understood to be ultimately good, then: if it is the case that admitting that such a doctrine exists would undermine the project of bringing about those ultimate goods, then they are liable (if not likely) to deny that such a doctrine exists. This brings all Muslims into question and, paradoxically, the very authorities who are best suited to speak on the matter are the suspects who cannot be trusted as reliable witnesses.

Of course, one could find somebody who had converted from Islam to Christianity, or even simply fell away from Islam, and ask them whether such a doctrine really exists in Islam. However, if it is possible that the Muslim might either pretend to convert, or else pretend to fall away, in order to advance the ultimate ends towards which Islam invites Muslims to strive, then the ‘apparently-no-longer,-but-once-was’ Muslim (for short, let us say ‘infidel’ for the purposes of this discussion) is unreliable by extension. Naturally, if the infidel says that there is no such doctrine, then that infidel cannot be trusted, but if the infidel affirms the existence of that doctrine then perhaps it makes it more plausible to believe that there is one (since it isn’t easy to see how admitting such a doctrine exists would help secure the goals which it exists to ensure).

This point seems obvious; no matter what the advocates of the religious tradition accused of having such a doctrine may say, it seems that their word alone cannot settle the matter. This accusation could be made just as easily of Christianity, and Christians would be in a similar position. If one calls somebody a liar and they respond “no, I am not a liar”, their response doesn’t help determine whether they are or are not a liar. Therefore, it seems that this allegation that Islam has a worked out a doctrine of deception is really an ad hominem argument against the Muslim. I think, therefore, this allegation is illegitimate as an argument. However, given that it may be the case that Islam does have a doctrine of deception, it may not be unwise to at least take notice that seems to, or that it has often been interpreted to have such a doctrine.

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About tylerjourneaux

I am an aspiring Catholic theologian and philosopher, and I have a keen interest in apologetics. I am creating this blog both in order to practice and improve my writing and memory retention as I publish my thoughts, and in order to give evidence of my ability to understand and communicate thoughts on topics pertinent to Theology, Philosophy, philosophical theology, Catholic (Christian) Apologetics, philosophy of religion and textual criticism.
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2 Responses to Accusing a religious community of having a developed doctrine of deception

  1. tedwitham says:

    Tyler, I think you are right to be cautious about the so-called Islamic ‘doctrine of deception’. As I understand it, taqqiyeh is not a doctrine promoting dishonesty. This is the implication all over the blogosphere, and most bloggers present a circular argument – I expect Muslims to lie and cheat, and they have a doctrine of ‘deception’, therefore they are lies and cheats.
    My small understanding is that taqqiyeh is the opposite of lies and deception. It is a subtle teaching about the masks we inevitably wear in our relationships with other people, and the encouragement is not to deceive but to be aware of our masks and to use them to the benefit of others.
    There is a story of a 13th Century Muslim from North Africa who went to Europe and used taqqiyeh to live as a European with access to the papal court etc. The point is not that he deceived, but that he fitted in.
    I know most Christian commentators will shout me down and say (conveniently) that I have been deceived, but I don’t think it is the evil many are saying that it is.

    • Right. While I agree with you in part and warmly share your concerns about the overly eccentric Christian propagandists, at the same time I do feel as though the existence of any such doctrine is a game changer for inter-religious dialogue, and it must not go unnoticed if people are really to come to terms with Islam from a Christian perspective. Particularly a Catholic perspective, since Catholicism more than other forms of Christianity, implies a strict doctrine of truth according to which even body language aimed at deception may be illegitimate.

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