Counter-jihadists have known about taqiyya for years, but they’ve been dismissed as greasy Islamophobes with no credibility. Mainstream (i.e. politically correct, as you can see from the denials below that there is anything distinctively Islamic about taqiyya) counterterrorism experts, however, are now beginning to realize that the “Islamophobes” were on to something.
Qur’an 3:28 warns believers not to take unbelievers as “friends or helpers” (َأَوْلِيَا — a word that means more than casual friendship, but something like alliance), “unless (it be) that ye but guard yourselves against them.” This is a foundation of the idea that believers may legitimately deceive unbelievers when under pressure. The word used for “guard” in the Arabic is tuqātan (تُقَاةً), the verbal noun from taqiyyatan — hence the increasingly familiar term taqiyya.
Ibn Kathir says that the phrase Pickthall renders as “unless (it be) that ye but guard yourselves against them” means 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. 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 [taqiyya] is allowed until the Day of Resurrection.” Abu Ad-Darda’ was a companion of Muhammad.
While many Muslim spokesmen today maintain that taqiyya is solely a Shi’ite doctrine, shunned by Sunnis, the great Islamic scholar Ignaz Goldziher points out that while it was formulated by Shi’ites, “it is accepted as legitimate by other Muslims as well, on the authority of Qur’an 3:28.” The Sunnis of Al-Qaeda practice it today.
Also, there is Muhammad’s statement, “war is deceit.” He also allowed for lying in battle and between a husband and wife. And when he gave permission to one of his followers, Muhammad bin Maslama, to murder one of his critics, Ka’b bin al-Ashraf, he also gave Muhammad bin Maslama permission to lie to Ka’b in order to lure him close enough to be killed.
And Muhammad is the “excellent example of conduct” for Muslims (Qur’an 33:21).
“Taqiyya, or the terrorist ‘art of deception,’” by Anne-Diandra Louarn for France 24, March 14 (thanks to Rosine):
A year after the Toulouse attacks by Mohamed Merah…, French counterterrorism experts are monitoring the practice of “taqiyya” - or deceiving society by concealing one’s faith – and its uses in jihadist circles.
Nearly a year ago, as one of France’s longest-ever police sieges was about to end on the morning of March 22, 2012, Mohamed Merah – also known as “the Toulouse gunman” – uttered a cry that seemed enigmatic to the uninformed, but was weighted with meaning for counterterrorism experts.
“It’s not the money, it’s the deception that’s critical,” said the 23-year-old French-Algerian shortly before he jumped off his Toulouse apartment window and was gunned down by an elite French anti-terror unit.
The somewhat cryptic cry was a likely reference to “taqiyya” – a form of religious dissimulation or legal dispensation in which believers deny their faith or even commit blasphemous acts as a deception if they are seriously threatened or at risk of persecution.
“Concealment is a technique as old as the world,” explained French anti-terrorism judge Marc Trévidic in an interview with FRANCE 24. “It’s also an essential component of any war strategy, regardless of the people involved.”
Sure, but Islam is unique among religions in having a “war strategy.”
In Islam, taqiyya dates back to the time when Shiite Muslims were hounded and persecuted by the Sunni caliphs following the 7th century schism between the followers of the Prophet’s son-in-law, Ali, and the Sunni caliphate.
For the traditionally persecuted Shiite minority, deception – or taqiyya – was considered a matter of survival. Although the term does not exist in Sunni jurisprudence, there have been rare cases of Sunnis practicing taqiyya in extraordinary circumstances.
Actually, because it is based on the Qur’an, many Sunnis practice it, even if they don’t refer to it as such.
But it was not until the term was recovered by Sunni jihadists trained in the Afghan terror camps that it began to get the attention of counterterrorism experts as trained and radicalised young men began practising taqiyya as a means of integrating and disguising themselves in Western societies.
“Taqiyya, as it’s understood today, is actually a radicalised version of concealment, in the sense that some religious extremists have found ‘dalils’ (or ‘evidence’) in the Koran that would justify their actions,” said Trévidic.
Actually, it isn’t just “extremists” who have found evidence for taqiyya in the Qur’an, but venerable centuries-old and mainstream Muslim authorities, as explained above.
From Afghanistan to Europe and Canada
In France, intelligence agencies have been aware of the radicalised adoption of taqiyya since the mid-1990s, when al Qaeda began to advocate this technique among recruits plotting attacks on Western targets. The message was also targeted at French citizens of North African origins.
“These people who took the path of taqiyya were called ‘sleepers’. This is when we began to discover that after their passage through the jihadist training camps in Afghanistan, the recruits were sent home and directed to make a show of their ordinary, integrated lives - sometimes even masquerading as unbelievers,” said Trévidic.
One of the best-known jihadist sleepers was the “Hamburg cell”, the infamous group of radicalized students in that German city who went on to execute the September 11, 2001, attacks – including 9/11 leader Mohamed Atta.
Another example of a terrorist in disguise was Fateh Kamel, a handsome Algerian-Canadian who was sentenced to eight years in jail by a French court in 1999 for supporting a terrorist plot against targets in Paris.
Assessing the danger of Islamists
But while Merah’s behaviour may have been deceptive in keeping with taqiyya norms, his activities were well known to the French secret services, according to Trévidic.
According to the anti-terror judge, the challenge for French authorities is not so much to identify the followers of taqiyya, but to assess their threat levels. “That is the whole problem of the DCRI [Direction centrale du renseignement intérieur – or the French domestic intelligence agency] in the Merah case,” noted Trévidic.
If Merah’s suspicious trips to places like Pakistan were being monitored and French intelligence agents were aware that he belonged to a small Toulouse-based Salafist group, they failed to distinguish between a low-level delinquent and a potentially dangerous Islamist militant – or at which point the former could become the latter.
Trévidic acknowledges that it’s a challenge for the DCRI to identify radicalised youth ready and capable of putting their plans into action. But that’s the strength of taqiyya followers: in the impoverished, immigrant-dominated French suburbs – or banlieues in French - they often behave like local gangsters or gang leaders. To escape the counterterrorism radar, it’s not uncommon for potential terrorists to engage in minor acts of delinquency.
‘Rediscovering what we already know’
“No country is truly equipped against concealment. What we know today is that practices such as taqiyya require a deep infiltration of our territory, an in-depth knowledge of groups and individuals, as well as an effective system of recovering and retrieving information in the field,” said Trévidic.
The dismantling of suspected sleeper cells, such as the March 7-8 arrests of three terror suspects in the southern French town of Marignane (a suburb of Marseille), has intensified in the wake of the Merah case. “In terrorism, we are constantly rediscovering what we already know,” notes Trévidic.
It’s a view mirrored by Alain Gresh, deputy director of the left-wing monthly Le Monde Diplomatique. In an interview with FRANCE 24, Gresh noted that taqiyya is not a new phenomenon. “Who are the terrorists who shout their intentions from rooftops?” he asked.
In a blog post published on March 2, Gresh argued that the media treatment of taqiyya has sometimes been “racist” and inappropriate. “Some journalists have suggested that Arabs have a perverse way of thinking that is permitted by their religion. Concealment is not limited to radical Islam. It is found in all religious doctrines and even in political doctrines,” he noted.
Alain Gresh should know better. Taqiyya is a doctrine of Islam, not of Arabs. Does he think that all Muslims are Arabs? And no, there is nothing comparable to taqiyya in Christianity — the Roman Catholic understanding of mental reservation probably comes closest, but is still miles away from the sophisticated and elaborate deception of unbelievers that taqiyya can involve. Christianity never encourages concealment of one’s faith — the stories of Christian martyrs frequently involve refusal to renounce one’s faith even when under pressure of death. This is in sharp contrast to the Qur’an’s excusing of people who deny their faith under pressure: “Whoever disbelieves in Allah after his belief — except for one who is forced while his heart is secure in faith — but those who open their breasts to disbelief, upon them is wrath from Allah, and for them is a great punishment” (Qur’an 16:106).