Sunday, 24 May 2009

Taqiyya: Islamic Religious Deception

There are many doctrines of Islam which are little known in the West, including many which are profoundly important in order to better understand the nature of the religion, and the nature of our enemies in the current conflict. We need to shake off our ignorance and work to comprehend these important doctrines if we are to be the victors in this fight.

For instance, consider the concept of taqqiya, or religious deception. Muslims are generally encouraged to tell the truth – but this apparently only extends among other believers, for the idea of lying to non-Muslims is a key part of traditional Islam. This deception is called taqiyya, and it stipulates that under certain circumstances, lying to unbelievers is permissible. It was invented by Shi'ites so that they could live among Sunnis without fear of persecution, but its roots remain in texts that Sunnis also consider sacred.

The main Qur'anic basis for taqiyya is this verse of the Qur'an: “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.” (3:28)

So Muslims are not to befriend unbelievers, "except by way of precaution, that ye may Guard yourselves from them." What does this mean? The prominent Muslim scholar Ibn Kathir (d.1373) explains that “believers who in some areas or times fear for their safety from the disbelievers” may “show friendship to the disbelievers outwardly, but never inwardly.” He goes on to quote an authority who says: “We smile in the face of some people although our hearts curse them.” But what constitutes a situation where Muslims may “fear for their safety” among unbelievers? Qurtubi (d.1273) says that such deception should only be exercised if a Muslim fears physical harm or violence, but other scholars are not so clear. Might a Muslim who supports violent jihad and Islamic supremacism fear the consequences of his beliefs, such as arrest, thus causing him to downplay or dissemble about his true views when among non-Muslims? The great Muslim historian and exegete Tabari (d.923) says that this deception can be practised “when they [Muslims] are clearly outnumbered by the infidels” – exactly the situation most Muslims in the West find themselves in today.

This may seem purely hypothetical, but it has been put into practice numerous times in recent years. An important example of this comes from America. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is just one of the many Islamic advocacy groups in the US that claims to be moderate and devoted to spreading a message of peace and inter-faith tolerance. And yet, a 1991 Muslim Brotherhood memorandum states that the Brotherhood is engaged in “a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and sabotaging its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God's religion is made victorious over all other religions.” It then lists its friends and allies in the US who are helping it achieve this goal – including none other than CAIR, which also has numerous other private ties to terror groups, all the while outwardly feigning moderation.

This would tie in with another dictum of Muhammad's: “War is deceit.” (Bukhari v.4, b.56, no.3030, and others) Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani (d.852), who wrote an authoritative commentary on Sahih Bukhari, the most sacred collection of the traditions of Muhammad, explains: “Revealing one thing while secretly planning another is the essence of deception; moreover, the hadith incites [Muslims] to take great caution in war, while [publicly] lamenting and mourning in order to dupe the infidels.” As such, the shady manipulations of the Muslim Brotherhood, CAIR and other groups and individuals should be seen as part of a deliberate campaign of deception aimed at “destroying the Western civilisation from within” and ensuring that Islam “is victorious over all other religions.”

Aside from CAIR and the Brotherhood, there may be no more important example of "war is deceit" in action than the words of Osama bin Laden himself. When he sends out messages to the West, he says that all the actions of al-Qaeda are simply retaliation for a whole host of injustices that the West, and the United States in particular, have brought upon the Islamic world. He has said, for example: “Therefore, I am telling you [Americans], with Allah as my witness, whether America escalates or de-escalates the conflict, we will reply to it in kind…” Bin Laden, of course, often begins every message directed at the West by saying “reciprocal treatment is part of justice” – that is, if we would just leave the Muslims alone and stop “oppressing” them in any number of ways with our offensive foreign policy, they would leave us alone also. As such, many in the West feel that they can sympathise with al-Qaeda's ultimate worldview, even if they disapprove of the physical violence that the group uses to express it.

However, these Westerners (often liberal) remain largely unaware of al-Qaeda's theological treatises, which are disseminated in the Muslim world and are not intended for a Western audience. These writings say little to nothing about US foreign policy, capitalism, or Western imperialism as the cause for their actions, but instead justify violence strictly within the framework of Islamic theology. In these theological essays, al-Qaeda's leaders give reasons for why Muslims should hate and fight the West that differ from those they offer to the West itself. While in their political propaganda they state that they are waging a defensive war against hostile and oppressive Western powers, in their theological tracts to Muslims, they state that non-Muslims are to be hated and fought simply for being non-Muslims.

For example, here is what bin Laden said in a letter to some Saudi theologians a few years ago, regarding the “correct” relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims:

“As to the relationship between Muslims and infidels, this is summarized by the Most High’s Word: “We renounce you. Enmity and hate shall forever reign between us – till you believe in Allah alone” [Qur’an 60:4]. So there is an enmity, evidenced by fierce hostility from the heart. And this fierce hostility – that is, battle –ceases only if the infidel submits to the authority of Islam, or if his blood is forbidden from being shed [i.e. a dhimmi], or if Muslims are at that point in time weak and incapable [in which case, bin Laden later clarifies, they should dissemble before the infidels by, say, insisting the conflict is about 'foreign policy', nothing more]. But if the hate at any time extinguishes from the heart, this is great apostasy!…Such, then, is the basis and foundation of the relationship between the infidel and the Muslim. Battle, animosity, and hatred – directed from the Muslim to the infidel – is the foundation of our religion.”

Note that at no point in his exchange with his fellow Muslims does bin Laden suggest that this enmity and war has anything to do with external causes such as US foreign policy. Instead, it is a purely theological argument that transcends time, space and circumstance.

In another part of his long letter, bin Laden explains why Muslims must wage war on infidels:

“Does Islam, or does it not, force people by the power of the sword to submit to its authority corporeally if not spiritually? Yes. There are only three choices in Islam: either willing conversion; or payment of the jizya [non-Muslim poll tax], through physical though not spiritual submission to the authority of Islam; or the sword – for it is not right to let him [an infidel] live.”

Again, nothing is said about retaliation or self-defence here. Bin Laden simply believes that Muslims must wage war on non-Muslims, unconditionally, in order to either convert them or subjugate them under Islamic law – because he believes that the Qur'an tells them to.

Thus it would befit us to consider the fact that, just maybe, when al-Qaeda sends messages to the West that say they hate us because of American and British foreign policy, we are in fact seeing "war is deceit" in action. These sentiments are designed to provoke a particular response, tapping in to inherent Western liberal constructs of post-colonial guilt, thus demoralising many Westerners and making them think twice about supporting the War on Terror – which, of course, plays straight into the hands of the jihadists themselves.

As I stated earlier, although taqiyya is technically a Shi'ite doctrine, Sunnis also practise it, and it is in fact a mainstream doctrine. Indeed, one of the few Arabic books dedicated entirely to the subject of taqiyya, “Taqiyya in Islam” by Islamic studies professor Sami Makarem, unequivocally states: “Taqiyya is of fundamental importance in Islam. Nearly every Islamic sect has agreed to it and practices it...Indeed, we can go so far as to say that mainstream Islam practices taqiyya, and that those few sects that do not practice it are aberrant, diverging from the mainstream.”

Terrorism expert Magnus Ranstorp, who has briefed US and European investigators on the background of al-Qaeda's recruitment and development in Europe, says that understanding taqiyya “is at the heart of understanding why law enforcement has not fully laid bare the European staging area for the Sept. 11 attacks.” And those attacks were, of course, committed by Sunnis, not Shi'ites.

So next time you see a Muslim spokesman on TV saying that Islam is a religion of peace and that he doesn't support jihad, think about taqiyya and ask yourself if he seems so sincere. Of course, he may be telling the truth – or he may be lying, knowing that it is entirely permitted by his religion. The fact that there is no reliable way to tell should give us pause in defining what constitutes a “moderate Muslim”. And it should also give us pause in determining how many Muslims really abhor the ideology and actions of jihadists - and how many are just pretending they do.

N.B. Credit must go to Raymond Ibrahim of Jihad Watch for some of the quotes and information presented above. For more information and analysis on taqiyya, via Ibrahim, see here.

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