Raymond Ibrahim’s attacks on Islam and Muslims
Just a few years ago I had never heard of Raymond Ibrahim and I never missed the experience; there are so may “experts” on Islam and on “Terrorism” that it is hard to keep up with the growing number of such people who seek to promote themselves by pressing another knife in the backs of Muslims.
Over the past year, I gradually became aware of one called Raymond Ibrahim, but I did not pay serious attention until I heard that he had been invited to speak at Everett Community College…on Islam!
Cursory investigation revealed that he was definitely one of those who made their careers spreading misinformation about Islam and Muslims; I decided to check him out in more detail, I decided to examine more closely, his writing on “Taqiyya” or Muslims’ lying, on his Everett presentation and on his book, “The Al Qaeda Reader” and to report on all three in this essay.
I found that he is one of the more effective hate-mongers against Islam and Muslims, not because he says things that have not been said by his peers, but because of the way in which he delivers his message. Raymond Ibrahim makes a great pretense of being objective, he insists that he has nothing personal against Islam, Muslims or Arabs (“some of my good friends are Muslims”), but that he is merely presenting what is in the Quran and revered texts of Islam so people may make up their own minds. He frequently says that, because of the violent, deceptive and evil nature of Islam, it is not possible for a Muslim…a practicing Muslim, to be a person who supports peace or coexistence with non-Muslims (“his choice of words here is “Unbeliever”).
I decided to visit his blog, “Pundicity” (http://www.raymondibrahim.com/), particularly one post called “Islam’s Doctrine of Deception” (http://www.raymondibrahim.com/7343/islams-doctrines-of-deception) and was shocked, but not surprised.
Before I continue, it is useful to keep in mind that Raymond Ibrahim is not some street Joe spouting rubbish about Islam, he is one who stakes a claim to expertise about Islam and thus, must be closely examined for accuracy in his presentations. If he presents an argument that is not accurate, one cannot simply dismiss it by suggesting it was “an honest mistake” because experts are not allowed to make “honest mistakes” about important issues and certainly not over and over again or, in articles dedicated to such “honest mistakes”. Skirting the truth, in order to re-fashion facts and bolster one’s own theses is also not a mark of a scholar, nor is focusing on an aspect of Islam to “prove” some hostile feature in it while ignoring similar features in other faiths.
No, “mistakes” of omission and distortion or, gerrymandering around facts, by such “experts” can only be ascribed to deliberate misinformation and distortion that are not suited to the works of a credible scholar.
Raymond Ibrahim goes to great lengths to impress upon his audience, that he is an irrefutable authority on Islam, Muslims and the Middle East. His bio on “Middle East Forum” (http://www.meforum.org/staff/Raymond+Ibrahim) talks about how he has been on national and international media, spoken before audiences such as US Strategic Command and National Defense Intelligence College. He informs us that he is “fluent in Arabic including colloquial dialects”.
He says one past position was “Reference-Assistant at the Near East Section of the Library of Congress” (actual title: Research Assistant) to establish his credibility, but fails to acknowledge that he was forced to resign from that position in 2007 after he a National Public Radio interview exposed him (http://www.infocusnews.net/content/view/16452/135/) as a hate-monger who was not concerned about facts in promoting himself and his book, the “Al Qaeda Reader“; I shall deal with this book later in this essay.
His blog entry on January 17, 2009 12:49 AM reads: ” Also for the record: after this Islamist op-ed was published, I received much heat from my supervisors at the Library of Congress, partially culminating in my recent resignation from that American bibliotech “. Clearly, the Library of Congress did not wish to associate their name with the hate-mongering of Raymond Ibrahim.
In “Islam’s Doctrine of Deception” Raymond Ibrahim seeks to establish that lying to “unbelievers” is mandated in the Quran and no Muslim would deal honestly with non-Muslims…ever, because of the “Doctrine of Taqiyya”.
- He refers to “Islam’s greatest theologians and jurists – collectively known as the ulema, literally, “they who know” “. “Ulema” is the plural form for “Alim” which means “Scholar” and is applied to anyone who is a scholar in any subject, not just the “greatest theologians”.
- He says that in Islam, “every conceivable human act is categorised as being either forbidden, discouraged, permissible, recommended, or obligatory.” This is no different from Judaism where the 613 Commandments (popularly known as The ten Commandments) which also divide life into such parts.
- He talks about Sharia as if it were the law and it is NOT; Sharia is equivalent to the constitution, a reference guideline, while the law is called “Fiqh”. There is also no universal standard of Sharia, nor are there any two regions with the same Fiqh, mainly because every school of thought and every sect has a different interpretation of the difference aspects of Sharia and therefore, of the Fiqh. He talks about the irrelevance of “common sense” in Islam yet, one of the foundational factors in codifying Sharia IS common sense…reasoning.
- He refers to Quran 4:29 as instructions for Muslims to lie yet, none of my translations of the Quran even refer to lying or deception in any way. You can check it out yourself by going to The Quran Browser (http://www.quranbrowser.org/) and look it up on any of the four translations available. Lying is in fact forbidden in Islam and Muslims are instructed to bear true witness even if it be against their own friends and relatives…even if it is against one’s self (4:135). The only time lying is permissible in Islam is to protect someone’s life or safety. I am sure even this statement can be used against Muslims in some fashion in spite of the fact that such lying is also permitted in Christianity and Judaism.
- He picks on the fact that some Sunnis do not consider Shia to be Muslims and that is why Shia codified lying…to protect themselves. Sectarian schism is not unique to Islam. He must be aware of the fact that most born-again Christians do not consider Catholics to be Christian and that Orthodox Jews do not consider Reform or Conservative Jews to be Jews, a fact that is a major point of contention in who is Israeli and who is not.
- He closes by defining “Radical Muslims” as those who “closely adhere to Sharia”…and thus, damns most of us.
Raymond Ibrahim is very proud of the fact that this article of his, “Islam’s Doctrine of Deception“, was published in “Jane’s Islamic Affairs Analyst” in October 2008. I could not bring myself to believe that “Jane’s Islamic Affairs Analyst” would publish such a baseless and misleading article. I called “Jane’s Islamic Affairs Analyst”, editorial department in the US to find out if it had actually been published and on what bases, it would have been considered valid for publication (did they not do ANY fact-checking?).
They could not verify any articles written by Raymond Ibrahim, but they asked me to contact their UK office editorial department who may have more extensive records.
I called their UK office and I spoke with an editor Jeremy Bonnie. He recognized Ibrahim’s article as soon as I mentioned it and the embarrassment was evident. He said that the original, Arabic-speaking editor of Jane’s Islamic Affairs Analyst had just left and a temporary one was in place when Ibrahim’s article on Taqiyya was submitted and got published. “It was a little bit unfortunate” he said. “it certainly wasn’t our greatest day”.
He said Jane’s then followed up with another article on November 12, 2008, correcting Ibrahim’s article, something Jane’s is not known to do easily. Mr. Bonnie forwarded the article, “Interpreting Taqiyya” by Dr. Michael Ryan; some excerpts from Dr. Ryan’s article:
- The recent article by Raymond Ibrahim is in this author’s opinion well-researched, factual in places but whose interpretation of taqiyya is ultimately misleading. It focuses on a very narrow use of the term taqiyya, which is sometimes used to refer to dissimulation allowed to Shias to preserve their own lives and the lives of others. It appears to be a polemical piece interspersed with cherry-picked citations from the Quran, the sayings of the Prophet and secondary works.
Islam is a universal religion that spans millennia of history and covers much of the earth’s population. Islam, however, does not have a central canon, a pope, or a single body that can set doctrine. So, it is extremely difficult to generalise about what Islam as a religion believes except in its core beliefs. One can always find Muslim jurists who offer opinions about matters of doctrine such as taqiyya, but it is also possible to find other respected jurists who disagree. So any assertion about doctrine needs to be carefully circumscribed.
The term taqiyya, for example, is derived from the Arabic trilateral root w-q-y and means “fear, caution, prudence” and by extension “dissimulation of one’s religion under duress. The term, itself, never appears in the Quran. The root in other forms appears in various contexts, but it never means “dissimulation”. The most common use of the root word in the Quran is in the sense of “to fear” or “have reverence” for God.
The article then quickly moves on to argue that within Islam war is deceit and war is eternal. No reader needs to be reminded that deception in war is universal. Furthermore, it is manifestly not true that Muslims as a whole desire eternal warfare with non-Muslims.
For someone who continually states that he is only after truth and that “truth can be ugly”, Raymond Ibrahim appears to avoid truth in the interest of enhancing his own profile. He seems to have successfully gambled that almost everyone hearing him would be disinclined to do even a rudimentary fact-checking of what they hear or read from him.
On May 5th 2011, I went to hear Raymond Ibrahim speak at Everett Community College because I wanted to learn from personal experience, if he was actually playing fast and loose with his “facts” on Islam. In order to not appear as if he were sharing his own opinions, he kept saying things like, “These aren’t my words, they are in the Quran” and “I am just the messenger”. Of the many misstatements and deliberate distortions about Islam and Muslims, I present just the following from his speech:
- He said Quran 29:3 permits Muslims to not practice Islam when among “Unbelievers”. 29:3 actually say, “My Lord! Give me victory over folk who work corruption”.
“Unbeliever” is a term used in the Quran only for those who do not believe in God. Thus, all those who believe in one God, including Jews and Christians, would be considered “Believers”.
- “Islam was spread by war…Islam forces people to convert, pay tribute or die.”
Among the most populous Muslim-majority countries are Indonesia and Malaysia and no Muslim soldier ever set foot in battle there.
The Mongols came conquering and slaughtering into Egypt and settled down for a while. Within a decade, they had converted to Islam, without a hint of violence form Muslims.
Muslims ruled Spain for 800 years and yet, at the end of the period, there were still Christian and Jewish princes ruling parts of Spain, owing allegiance to the Muslim King in Spain. Contrast this with what happened immediately after the Spanish Reconqusita under Queen Isabella and Ferdinand II when all non-Christians were told to convert to Christianity, leave Spain or die and within a decade after that, all those who had converted were slaughtered wherever they could be caught because their conversion was not deemed acceptable.
When someone asked if all Muslims were “Radical” i.e., violent, he said, “about 20% are Radical”, that makes over 200 MILLION of us to be mindless killers. He also said all practicing Muslims are Radical and the only “moderate Muslims” are Muslims who are mediocre in their faith.
Someone else asked why Muslims condemn Al-Qaeda and he responded, “Because it is strategic!”, meaning Muslims are lying to non-Muslims because they do not want to divulge what is in their hearts.
Clearly Raymond Ibrahim is also a master in the art of Contradiction.
Finally, I went to http://www.Amazon.com website and checked out his book, “The Al Qaeda Reader“. Amazon.com allows for some browsing of a book, so I took a brief look at a few pages, to see what Raymond Ibrahim wrote, once again, I was shocked but not surprised.
I will concede that I did not read the entire book (“The Al Qaeda Reader” by Raymond Ibrahim, Amazon.com… http://www.amazon.com/Al-Qaeda-Reader-Raymond-Ibrahim/dp/038551655X#_ ), nor for that matter, did I even read most or, SOME significant amount of the book; I read only about 3-6 pages of the forward, but that was more than enough to satisfy me that this book was yet another excuse to bash Muslims and Islam. Reading further would not have added to my understanding and would have been a waste of time, as Ibrahim continued with his readers and led them to believe that his fantasies about Islam and Muslims are valid enough for all of America to be bug-eyed with fear over what we Muslims are about to wreak on them.
Based on Raymond Ibrahim’s “translation” and explanations of Islam and the Quran, I don’t see how anyone can have any confidence that this so-called “translation” is at all, accurate enough to give a real flavor of what was said in Al Qaeda’s treatise. This is not being said in an attempt to make Al Qaeda look good, Ibrahim’s insistence to the contrary notwithstanding, almost every Muslim stands against Al Qaeda. Hateful as the organization is, it is important to know exactly what they said especially since Ibrahim takes great pains to link Al Qaeda’s thinking with the thinking of all Muslims. Unfortunately, we will not know until someone else reads the original Arabic version and re-translates it and that may not occur for quite a while. I will now deal with his book, at least as far as I could bring myself to read it…enough to be convinced that Ibrahim’s agenda was focused more on a character assassination if Islam and Muslims and less on translating to works of a mindlessly terroristic organization. Note: Page numbers may differ between the hardcover edition and the paperback edition of his book. Note too, that emphases are added in bold, by me, to highlight some special point he makes.
I read some of the definitions of common terms used among Muslims…I did NOT take the time to plow through them all, although doubtless, I would have found many more liberties taken with other terms as well. In the meaning of the term “Jihad“, he manages to distort the term into an unquestionable call for “warfare in the service of Islam”. For a fuller and accurate definition of this very important Islamic principle, please read, “Dare I Say “Jihad?” on my blog http://www.Penjihad.com (https://penjihad.wordpress.com/ ). I will also deal with the term “Sharia” in my blog within the near future. Suffice it to say that Ibrahim obfuscates enough to lead the readers to believe that Sharia is an absolute monolith that every Muslim must follow blindly. “Taqiyya” is another term Ibrahim re-defines to suit his purposes and to misguide the reader, but readers of this essay, will already have read the accurate definition of Taqiyya by Dr. Ryan.
This methodology of misguiding naive readers into fearing and hating Islam and Muslims is a common feature of all anti-Muslim hate-mongers and Ibrahim is no exception.
On page xv (“NOTE ON TEXT AND TRANSLATION”), Ibrahim goes out of his way to emphasize the accuracy of his writing and his translation, “…where a choice had to be made between fidelity and aesthetics, I always opted for the former”.
In his Forward, on page 4 of the book, Ibrahim describes the original work from which he made his “translation” and says:
- (Page 7 “DETERMINING RIGHT AND WRONG IN ISLAM”) “The Koran is the foundation of Islam. The words of the Koran are understood to be inspired by Allah(much as Christians and Jews believe the Bible to be inspired by God) “.
Ibrahim would like everyone to believe that “Allah”, the God of Islam, is different (and Evil) from “God”, the God of Jews and Christians (who is Love). The God of Islam is considered by ALL Muslims, to be the God of Adam, Joseph, Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus. Since Jews and Christians too, believe that their “God” is the God of all the same prophets, it is inescapable that “Allah” is no different from “God”, in fact, “Allah” is originally “Al-Lah” or “The God”; the name was created to distinguish Him from all the hundreds of other gods who filled the Holy Ka’aba in Mecca, during the time of the Prophet Mohammed. Drawing a distinction between “Allah” and “God” is crucial for those who wish to promote fear and hate towards Islam and Muslims…and benefit themselves at the same time.
- (Page 7) “I Sunni Islam, every law, practice or ideology must ultimately be traced back to Usul al-fiqh or the “roots of jurisprudence””.
Not to nit-pick, but the word “Usul” is more accurately translated here as “foundations” or, “founding principles” . The more accurate contextual translation of Usul al-fiqh would be The Founding Principles of Jurisprudence and this meaning will help the reader understand that Sharia, which is based on rules, principles AND traditions (past decisions) and is therefore, much more flexible than Ibrahim would like people to believe.
- (Page 4) “The second treatise, “Sharia and Democracy” outlines the obligation of Muslims to establish and uphold Sharia law while condemning all other forms of governance–especially, democracy, which is depicted in Islam as paganism. Every form of man-made governance–democracy, monarchy, communism etc.,–is anathema to Islam since the power to legislate is Allah’s alone”.
This would be news to the past 1400+ years of Muslim monarchs and other Muslim governors. It would also be news to the many modern leaders of Muslim-majority states who include monarchs, democratically-elected leaders and dictators. Even if we believe that the face of Muslim leadership has changed in modern times, Ibrahim’s argument does not explain the kings and caliphs of early times or the fact that the very first rulers were elected by popular majority, a definition of “democracy”.
- (Page 4) Ibrahim lists a verse from the Quran to prove that Muslims are directed against making friends with “Unbelievers” such as Jews and Christians. The quote from 5:51 reads: “O you who have believed! do not take the Jews and Christians for friends; they are but friends of each other; and whoever among you takes them for a friend, then surely he is one of them.”
Certainly, this is in the Quran, but by removing the context of the verse, Ibrahim has managed to make it a hate-command against Jews and Christians which it most definitely, is NOT!
In the days of the prophet Mohammed, almost every non-Muslim was aligned against the new faith and desired the extermination of ALL Muslims. This included many tribes of Jews and Christians, who were considered “people of the Book”…brothers in faith…by Muslims. The verse 5:51, refers to those Jews and Christians who were allied against Muslims and states clearly, that since the very existence of Muslims and therefore of Islam, was at stake, no righteous Muslim was to make friends with those among the Jews and Christians, who were allied against Muslims unless, the Muslim was also allied with those Jews and Christians against fellow-Muslims.
This explanation is easily proven by simply reading some of the preceding verses from the same chapter 5 (Al Ma’edah “The Feast”) where “Believers” are those who accepted past revelations by previous prophets…
5:44. “Lo! We did reveal the Torah wherein is guidance and light, by which prophets who surrendered (unto Allah) Judged the Jews and the Rabbis and the priests (judged) by such of Allah’s scriptures as they were bidden to observe and thereunto were they witnesses…. ”
5:46. “And we caused Jesus, son of Mary to follow in their footsteps, confirming that which was (revealed) before him and We bestowed on him the Gospel wherein is guidance and light confirming that which was (revealed) before it in the Torah– a guidance and admonition unto those who ward off (evil).”
5:47. “Let the people of the Gospel judge by that which Allah hath revealed therein. Whoso judgeth not by that which Allah hath revealed; such are the evil-doers.”
5:66. “If they had observed to Torah and the Gospel and that which was revealed unto them from their Lord, they would surely have been nourished from above them and from beneath their feet. Among them are people who are moderate, but many of them are of evil conduct.”
Chapter Five continues to inform us that “Believers” include those to whom the Bible and the Gospel were revealed…Jews and Christians, including verses 68, 69, 70 and more. ALL quotes from the Quran, can be verified for accuracy in The Quran Browser where one may also look at up to five translations of each verse in the Quran.
I stopped reading his book at this point, I am now certain that Raymond Ibrahim does not consider Truth or accuracy to be major obstacles in his desire to spread hate and fear against Islam and Muslims…and thereby, to promote himself as an expert on Islam, Muslims and the Middle East.
Lengthy though this essay is, I trust it will fully reveal Raymond Ibrahim to be what he really is; a self-promoting hate-monger who preys on the fears of a naive public. Sadly, there are so many such people that examining every single one of them in such detail is a task that may well occupy an army of people…more like swatting at mosquitoes in a swamp; swat at one and a hundred swoop in.
While it is not surprising that he should be able to fool so many sincere people, it is very painful to note that the very departments that are created to keep ALL America and Americans safe, listens uncritically to people like him.