Since anyone can edit Wikipedia, and there is little or no quality control, it is essentially worthless as a reference tool. To take just one example, as I have noted here before, my bio there is full of irrelevancy, ad hominem attacks, and unsubstantiated claims about inaccuracy in my work.
But that is no surprise, since ideologues are attempting to control the flow of information there — and with good reason, since despite being a messy stew of truth, half-truth, and outright lies, Wikipedia is still widely infuential. This is exemplified by “The Solution Is Education,” a letter that Larry Lowenthal, Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee, has written to the Jewish Advocate.
“The Solution Is Education.” That’s rich, since in this letter Lowenthal shows that he is learning from Wikipedia — and specifically, from a piece written by none other than Dean Esmay, the raving blogger who has never hesitated to purvey falsehoods about my work, as well as to call me a liar, a traitor, and worse. Here is the relevant portion of Lowenthal’s letter:
“Taqiyya” is another point of contention in the intra-Jewish argument. According to Muslim critics, all Muslims are instructed by God to lie to all non-Muslims if the purpose is to lull non-believers into complacency. Therefore, no Muslim can be trusted.
But respected Muslim leaders have explained that Taqiyya is a highly controversial doctrine among Muslims, held essentially only by Shiites (15 percent of Muslims), and condemned by the vast majority of Muslims as dishonest and un-Islamic. Those Muslims who do embrace Takiyya, however, emphasize that the entire doctrine is simply about saving yourself or your loved ones from persecution and torture.
Now compare the bolded sections to a little entry at Wikipedia called “Taqiyya Libel.” At least Lowenthal corrected Esmay’s spelling:
The Taqiyya Libel is a common political slander against Muslims. According to the Taqiyya Libel, Muslims are instructed by God to lie to all non-Muslims if the purpose is to lull unbelievers into complacency. Then, according to the libel, the Muslims can use violent methods to either kill the infidel unbeliever or forcibly convert the infidel to Islam.
In truth, taqiyya is a highly controversial doctrine among Muslims. The vast majority of Muslims condemn the entire idea of taqiyya as dishonest and un-Islamic. The few Muslims who do embrace taqiyya as a philosophy, however, emphasise that the entire doctrine is simply about saving yourself or your loved ones from persecution and execution.
This entry was written by Dean Esmay himself. In fact, Dean Esmay invented the concept of the “taqiyya libel,” and is its sole proponent: Google the phrase, and all you get are links to Esmay’s site and related sites. This is a concept he has cooked up and is trying to make into something, and is making use of Wikipedia to do so. But in fact, he is wrong about taqiyya in regard to both Muslims and non-Muslims:
Lowenthal/Esmay says: “According to Muslim critics, all Muslims are instructed by God to lie to all non-Muslims if the purpose is to lull non-believers into complacency. Therefore, no Muslim can be trusted.”
This is a straw-man argument. I don’t know of any serious “Muslim critic” — and by that I am excluding anonymous commenters on blogsites — who has stated the doctrine of taqiyya in those terms. I think it is best to stick with what the Islamic sources say. Muhammad taught that when it comes to unbelievers “” particularly those who are at war with Muslims “” “War is deceit.” Specifically, he taught that lying was permissible in battle.
Also, mainstream Muslim theologians have explained that religious deception is taught by the Qur’an itself: “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” (Qur’an 3:28). In other words, don’t make friends with unbelievers except to “guard yourselves from them”: pretend to be their friends so that you can strengthen yourself against them. The distinguished Qur’anic commentator Ibn Kathir explains that in this verse “Allah prohibited His believing servants from becoming supporters of the disbelievers, or to take them as comrades with whom they develop friendships, rather than the believers.” However, exempted from this rule were “those believers who in some areas or times fear for their safety from the disbelievers. In this case, such believers are allowed to show friendship to the disbelievers outwardly, but never inwardly. For instance, Al-Bukhari recorded that Abu Ad-Darda said, ‘We smile in the face of some people although our hearts curse them.’ Al-Bukhari said that Al-Hasan said, ‘The Tuqyah [or taqiyya, the shielding of what is in one’s heart] is allowed until the Day of Resurrection.'”
When Shi”ite Muslims were persecuted by Sunnis, they developed the doctrine of taqiyya, or concealment: they could lie about what they believed, denying aspects of their faith that were offensive to Sunnis. This practice is sanctioned by the Qur’an warning Muslims that those who forsake Islam will be consigned to Hell “” except those forced to do so, but who remain true Muslims inwardly: “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” (Qur’an 16:106). Closely related to this is the doctrine of kitman, or mental reservation, which is telling the truth, but not the whole truth, with an intention to mislead.
Although these doctrines are commonly associated with Shi”ites, throughout Islamic history they have also been practiced by Sunnis, because of their Qur’anic foundation. You can find discussion of Sunni acceptance of taqiyya in Ignaz Goldziher’s illuminating Introduction to Islamic Theology and Law. Ibn Kathir, who was no Shi”ite, explains that “the scholars agreed that if a person is forced into disbelief, it is permissible for him to either go along with them in the interests of self-preservation, or to refuse.” Jihadists today have spoken of the usefulness of deceptive practices.
Lowenthal/Esmay continues: “But respected Muslim leaders have explained that Taqiyya is a highly controversial doctrine among Muslims, held essentially only by Shiites (15 percent of Muslims), and condemned by the vast majority of Muslims as dishonest and un-Islamic. Those Muslims who do embrace Takiyya, however, emphasize that the entire doctrine is simply about saving yourself or your loved ones from persecution and torture.”
It is indeed about saving yourself or your loved ones from persecution or torture. But such a provision can have a quite elastic application. In any case, it is interesting that neither Lowenthal or Esmay provide even a single name of a single scholar among this “vast majority” who condemn taqiyya. As Goldziher points out, it is not so easy to go against this idea explicitly, because it has Qur’anic sanction.
Anyway, a few morals of this tale:
1. Wikipedia is a worthless propaganda sheet.
2. Dean Esmay is an authority on nothing and a guide to nowhere.
3. Larry Lowenthal should know better than to take what he thinks he knows about Islam from such a shady source.
4. Nothwithstanding numbers one and two above, if you put a falsehood in the right place, it will be swallowed by the credulous.