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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

What is Hypocrisy

Hypocrisy needs to be better defined, I think, as people tend to have different definitions of it.

As a Muslim my definition was more political. Based on the Qur'an I thought a hypocrite was a Muslim with a subversive agenda, meaning a Muslim who hoped to cause divisions or make changes in the religion, especially innovation (bed-aat) which is always a bad thing. Sometimes I thought it meant anyone who is against Islam, whether or not they are Muslim. This concept was a scary one for me, because it seemed it could be any group or another (even me and the thought came up every time I had a question about Islam), and only Allah knowing for sure. This is because the word for hypocrite is monafegh, which is a person who causes dissent or fitneh. Its definition is based on the consequences. So if two Muslims have a disagreement, one is probably a monafegh, but which one? If the disagreement is between groups, the larger group (the "status quo") would be the correct one and the smaller group would be monafeghs. At least more for Sunni Muslims, whereas Shiite Muslims are better used to the idea of being a minority group that's in the right, but for them the right group is defined by syed blood line, similar to apostolic succession, but in most conflicts (where that is not relevant) they go by the status quo too. Or the group that loses or is less popular are the monafeghs. This always sets the odds against reformers as being suspected monafeghs.

The American concept is simply that a hypocrite is someone who doesn't practice what they preach. This sounds easy but this leads to a common problem in practice. For example, a father who drinks and smokes doesn't want his children to do the same but he feels like a hypocrite to say anything to them. Or a mother who had a bad past doesn't want her daughter to follow her footsteps but she feels she no longer has the right to say anything. That is why religious people are commonly accused of hypocrisy. So this definition is wrong because then nobody can preach the ideal of perfect conduct and virtue because no one is perfect.

A better definition of hypocrisy is a hypocrite is a person who preaches what they don't believe. It means pretending to believe that lying is wrong, but not believing it personally. To read more on this concept, read this (a great article called The Truth About Hypocrisy).

Now I submit to you that religious people can be hypocrites, including myself, but in a different way than we are accused. Most of the time our hypocrisy comes when we are afraid to state our convictions because of what people will think. Because faith talk is uncool at best and offensive at worst, we modify our language in the presence of unbelievers. So Christians tend to be hypocritical by downplaying their beliefs, and this is because our message is so radical that no one can bear to hear it.



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