Modes of Taqiyya

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The following is a section of a larger article called Taqiyya: How Jihadis Deceive the West.

There are many modes of taqiyya which has developed as an art form of deception, including:


Islamic spokesmen commonly use taqiyya in the form of "outwitting." The matter under discussion is not to be debated or discussed; the opponent is "outwitted" through taqiyya, by diversion of the subject through the tactical use of honor (feigning "offense") and disparagement of the speaker and religious obfuscation, aided at times by a mystical reference to God or Allah, which is irrelevant to the topic under discussion. Outwitting is regarded as a skill, worthy of praise, often accompanied by smiles and laughter.

An Australian Example of "Outwitting": Sheikh Hilaly's Lebanon visit, 2004

In early February 2004, the Australian media reported that the controversial Mufti of Australia, Sheikh Hilaly of the Lakemba Mosque, New South Wales, had met with notorious terrorist Hezbollah leader, Hasaan Nasrallah, the leader of Lebanon's "Party of God"— the Syrian-Iranian-sponsored terrorist organisation — and on 13 February delivered a "sermon" at the Al Quds mosque in Sidon, Lebanon, calling for jihad and praising the 11 September terror attacks.

The controversy raged. The Sheik was the Mufti of Australia's Muslims, and a mufti by definition can issue fatwas, that is, a considered opinion ranging from an issue of community interest or religious law to peace, war and jihad.

On 18 February, Keysar Trad, the Sheikh's translator, told A.B.C. radio:

"I believe these people have been far too selective in taking information somewhat out of context. The Mufti is a proponent of peace and peaceful solutions to any conflict and his message was in a completely and entirely different context. I spoke to him yesterday and he assured me that the context in which he made his message was not in the way that it was reported by these people."

On 19 February, Keysar Trad affirmed that the remarks about Israel and Hezbollah had been taken out of context. He said he spoken to the Sheikh and his remark about jihad was a rhetorical question.

On 29 February, Keysar Trad also resorted to the Arabic poetic defence, reportedly claiming that the Sheikh had taken "bits from poems which he had incorporated into his sermons." On 1 March Trad used the "lost in translation" defense:

"I believe the context has been lost in the translation ... He's not praising it by any means, he's really condemning these atrocities."

In Australia, the Sheikh's speech was widely reported and criticized by the Prime Minister in Parliament. On 3 March 2004, in an unusually frank interview, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer commented:

"He talks out of both sides of his mouth. When there was initially a suggestion in the media that he had said — at least he had called for a jihad, a spokesman for Al-Hilaly said that his words had been taken out of context."

The journalist responded to Downer: "That's not true." Downer replied: "Exactly. That did not turn out to be true. We got a copy of the speech, we translated the copy ... and it's pretty obvious that he's been calling for jihad and suicide bombers ... He's been praising September the 11th as God's work."


Featured on the A.B.C.'s Religion Report on 3 March, Dr. Amir Ali, President of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils stated:

"Therefore unless I can see this transcript and unless I get it cleared by Sheikh Hilaly [an infidel cannot judge a Muslim] whether he has said the same thing, I will not be able to comment on what he has said. This sermon was not given in English, it was in Arabic. Now who made the transcript? What's the whole source of this transcript? So unless I see the transcript and I see what he has--listen to this man what he has said, I will not be able to make any comment."

The obviously frustrated interviewer asked:

"Hasn't the time come when the Muslim community has to stop saying that his comments have been misinterpreted or taken out of context?"

Dr. Ali replied frankly: "Yes, it is definitely happening all the time," but disingenuously continued that "this was started by the Middle Eastern Institute from Washington, which is known for twisting and turning what the Muslims say in order to create a bad image."

On 6 March 2004 the chief executive officer of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, Amjad Merhoud, warned he would be seeking an urgent meeting with the Sheikh to clarify his views, and the Federation could discuss stripping his title and claimed: "He could have in hindsight probably used different words to describe what he was trying to say or not used some of the poetry that he was trying to recite." Interviewed on A.B.C. radio on 7 March, Sheikh Hilaly replied to the criticism that he was "saying one thing in English in Australia and something else in Arabic in Lebanon." The Sheikh replied: "Of course, you are talking about two different environments ... I agree with you I am addressing two different environments I'm addressing them differently, it's be (sic) two different environments."

On 8 March 2004, the Sheik reiterated his themes and insisted the terrorist group Hezbollah was misunderstood and that his speech contained poetry that was misinterpreted. Previously he had condemned the Federal Government for proscribing Hezbollah as a terrorist organization:

"What is truth? Actually it was a poetry and in poetry we go a little bit into the imagination of presentation."

However Sheikh Fehmi Naji al Imam, interviewed on 10 March 2004, placed the Sheikh's translation problems in context. The interviewer pointed out:

"Sheikh Hilaly only really speaks Arabic. We hear this talk about flowery, poetic language and him being misunderstood. Do you accept that?"

Sheikh Fehmi responded, laughing: "I don't buy that."

On 10 March 2004 Sheikh Fehmi Naji, one of Melbourne's most senior clerics, claimed Sheikh Hilaly's comments were not misinterpreted and called on A.F.I.C. to withdraw Sheikh Hilaly as the Mufti. However, Trad claimed A.F.I.C. had already met with the Sheikh and they believed his version of events and "they understand that they believe the Mufti, and they will not make any judgment until they see something different in the Arabic tapes themselves."

On 19 March, the Sheikh cleverly criticised Al Qaeda as "a bunch of crazy people" and insisted in a declaration that he did not support the action of terrorists, and in the same context he claimed:

"I can understand why some people would mistranslate my comments because to them they cannot understand my high level of expression and they might feel my words have some ambiguity to them."

Asked if he would choose his words more selectively in the future, the Sheikh, in a humorous example of outwitting, replied: "Of course, mate."

Two of the Sheikh's daughters blamed the complexities of the Arabic language for the controversy. "You cannot just interpret it, just word by word", they said.

An anonymous associate of the Sheikh also pointed out in The Australian:

"We know he [the Sheikh] speaks English quite well, but a translator gives him time to think about his responses and gives him that 'out' if what he says provokes an angry response. And he thinks that if he gives a sermon in his native tongue no one's going to bother to translate anyway."

On 21 April 2004, the A.F.I.C., at its 40th Annual Congress, voted for the Sheikh to retain his position as Grand Mufti of Australia. On A.B.C. Radio, the President, Amir Ali, was asked if the issue of the Sheikh's dismissal had been put to a vote but he assured the interviewer that Sheikh Hilaly was not the main issue:

"Ali: 'In fact we said that the government did not submit the tape, the original tape that was taken. Still we are waiting for the tape to come, so they didn't send the tape.'

Interviewer: 'Oh ... When you told me on this programme that you intended to investigate the matter and get to the bottom of it ...'

Amir Ali: 'Yes, we investigated it and then we saw the translation was wrong.'

Interviewer: 'You never actually got the tape from the government?' Amir Ali: 'No, not the tape, we only got the transcript ... It just died down. Why (would) you want to bring it back?'"

The Muslim worldly and religious community leaders (with the notable exception of the courageous Sheikh Iman of Melbourne) must have known that no government would have exposed its information sources. Significantly, the government transcript of the Sheikh's speech in Lebanon was never accepted by Sheikh Hilaly or his spokesmen, a position which implied that the government was deceitful. The various tactical claims that the Sheikh's sermon was "taken out of context", was a "faulty translation", was "a sermon that could not be translated from Arabic to English", and involved the use of "poetry," raise the inevitable question: Did taqiyya prevail in this controversy?

Role-playing as Victim

A content analysis of Islamic media reveals an unremitting theme: Muslims in Western countries are a victimized minority and allegedly and supposedly victims of racism, xenophobia, "Islamophobia" and religious discrimination.

Terrorist counter-measures, such as specific anti-terrorist legislation and racial profiling, are vehemently opposed by Islamic organizations who would seemingly be content to have no monitoring of their activities at all. Even the most limited counter-terrorist measures enacted by legitimately elected democratic governments add to the Islamic self-image of imputed victimization and are widely misinterpreted as "a war against Islam."

False Claims of Torture

False claims of torture by terrorist suspects generally follow the instructions set down in the Al Qaeda training manual, Declaration of Jihad against the Country's Tyrants Military Series, in its 18th lesson, "Prisons and Detention Centres", which contains precise instructions to suspected terrorists [brothers] concerning [false] allegations of torture.

The manual instructs each Islamic brother to:

"(1) insist on proving that torture was inflicted on them by state security before the judge

(2) complain to the court of maltreatment while in prison

(3) ... do his best to know the names of the security officers who participated in his torture and mention their names to the judge (these names may be obtained from brothers who had to deal with those officers in previous cases)

(4) take advantage of visits to communicate with brothers outside prison and exchange information that may be helpful to them in the work outside the prison ... The importance of hiding messages is self-evident here."


Tauriya, or manipulated ambiguity, involves the use of double entendre, using a word which has an obvious meaning whilst alluding to another more "concealed meaning." The story of the Negus is illustrative. According to bin Ishaq, Islam's earliest biographer of Mohammed, the Negus was compelled by Christians to provide an account of his beliefs in case he had forsaken Christian beliefs. The Negus placed a statement of Islamic faith in his pocket and "outwitted" them, pretending to agree with their beliefs about Christ.

Claiming Harassment

False claims range from accusing law-enforcement organisations of ignoring Islamic customs (interviewing a woman without a female present), stealing money, damaging property and showing disrespect to Islamic women. False reports of harassment and threats are often framed by recourse to a family photograph opportunity to a receptive and often gullible media.

The Flight into Illness

A variation of the "victim of torture" claim is the "flight into illness" made by terrorist suspects involved in legal proceedings. Some law enforcement organizations have defined the condition humorously as "Post-Arrest Islamic Disorder." The most common claims are depression due to unlawful interrogation or incarceration, posttraumatic stress disorder and the most popular Islamic clinical artifact, "the heart attack."


Questions relating to the morality of the September 11 terrorists attacks are commonly diverted by counter reference to the plight of the Palestinians, the role of Israel and U.S. foreign policy and support for Israel as "causes" of terrorism. The Islamic hatred of Israel predates the formation of the State of Israel. Islamic anti-Semitism dates back to the Prophet Mohammed himself. The "root causes" of terrorism — allegedly poverty, marginality of youth, lack of opportunities and resources which are adduced as a "cause" of terrorist acts — overlook the fact that the "roots of terrorism" are found in Muslim countries.


Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Fadlallah, the so-called "Oracle of Hezbollah", whom some claim to be the spiritual leader and /or youth leader of Hezbollah but who has reportedly traveled in disguise for Hezbollah operational purposes and "blesses" suicide bombers before their missions, is a master of taqiyya in the form of evasion.

Martin Kramer, the distinguished Middle East scholar, has pointed out that "his elusiveness could drive journalists to distraction. Fadlallah perfected two methods of evasion. When it suited him, he delivered long and winding monologues to the simplest question, wearing down the resistance of the most persistent journalists. At other times he spoke in Delphic telegraphy... [A reference to the Delphic oracle who always gave an answer that could be interpreted in two ways]."

Asked if he was the "spiritual guide" of Hezbollah and the Islamic student movement, he replied: "I am all of these and none of them at the same time."

A similar instance was seen when Australia's controversial Sheik Omran, of the Ahl as-Sunnah wal Jamaah, was questioned by a leading Australian journalist:

"Interviewer: 'You are following the "Salhafi" tradition?'

Sheikh Omran: 'I could say yes and I could say no. But this is why we didn't call ourselves Salhaffi, we called ourselves Ahlas-Sunnah wal Jamaah, so we don't have a special flag or banner for us, different to the rest of the Muslims.'

Interviewer: 'Do you think that some Muslims in Australia are uncomfortable with your tradition?'

Sheikh Omran: 'Well, I don't think maybe. I don't want to say no. It could be yes ...'

Interviewer: 'Have any supporters from your group gone and trained in camps overseas, military camps?'

Sheik Omran: 'Maybe, yes, maybe. But this has nothing to do with the group.'"

Demanding "Evidence"

Islamic spokesmen and their legal advisors practice a form of taqiyya by repetitive and extreme requests for "evidence" and impossible standards of "proof" of alleged terrorist acts, which they know cannot be disclosed without revealing intelligence sources and methods. The demand for evidence is an attempt to identify intelligence sources and methods and personnel and obtain official documents for counter-intelligence purposes.

Tactical Denial

Admitting that a critical proposition concerning Islam may be even partly true would involve a loss of honor and invoke shame and reveal true intentions. For example the platitude: "It is impossible to be a Muslim and a terrorist", is clearly false. "Islam forbids suicide", is true, but irrelevant as suicide martyrdom attacks are not forbidden in the Koran or by the Prophet as they are believed to provide rapid entry to paradise and are an integral element of the history of Islam and are currently conducted in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon and against Israel. The fact that Islam forbids personal suicide, as do all major religions, did not impede the September 11 Islamic terrorists who launched four coordinated suicide martyrdom attacks.


The constant repetition of taqiyya themes induces a state of cognitive dissonance. The target audience attempts to resolve the claim that Islam is a peaceful religion with the dissonant reality of Islamic terrorist acts and operations. Christians and other participators seeking dialogue "with our Muslim brothers" are reminiscent of the "peace pastors" who, during the Cold War , believed that meeting with representatives of the Soviet Union somehow promoted peace.


The platitude that small groups of fundamentalists have "hijacked a great religion" is a masterly example of taqiyya. The timely, skilful, misleading and diversionary theme of the "hijacking" of Islam was introduced into public, political and media discourse by Islamic spokesmen in the United States shortly after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

The claim that the September 11 terrorist attacks were "un-Islamic" and contrary to the teachings of Islam is taqiyya. As Bernard Lewis observed in his recent study, The Crisis of Islam: "Most present-day terrorists are Muslims and proudly identify themselves as such."


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