Who’s Afraid of Aymann Ismail?

Why the Far Right Believes Every Muslim—Including Me—Is a Liar

I’d never heard of “taqiyya” until someone accused me of it. I discovered it’s a conspiracy theory with disturbing power.

This is part of Season 2 of “Who’s Afraid of Aymann Ismail?,” a series featuring Slate’s Aymann Ismail investigating fears about Muslims in America. Watch the entire series.

At a protest the night before Donald Trump’s inauguration last year, a woman accused me of “taqiyya” on the street. I didn’t know it at the time, but she was telling me I’m a liar because I’m Muslim.

I’ve since learned that the concept of “taqiyya” has taken hold in anti-Muslim circles to mean deception—that any Muslim can lie to non-Muslims if it means advancing some hypothetical Islamic global conquest. The term is often deployed to refute anything a Muslim tries to say. After that night, I wanted to know where this conspiracy theory came from, and whether anyone would even believe me if I tried to prove it wrong.


I turned to a young imam in Texas who runs a group that takes on myths about Muslims to explain the concept’s real meaning in Islam, if any. Then I talked to a self-marketed Islam “specialist” whose work is often cited to back up these claims. —Aymann Ismail

This series is written and produced by Aymann Ismail and Jeffrey Bloomer, and edited by Aymann Ismail.

Watch more episodes:

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