Snarks, Boojums and Moderate Muslims

My latest for Whale Oil blog

It’s common for Islamophile apologists to dismiss talk of taqiyya as just redneck paranoia, and, sure, that seems a pretty reasonable objection. After all, taqiyya just seems too conveniently like the sort of those sneaky foreign types would do. Except … except …

Once I began to research the subject properly, I began to turn up a wealth of academic material, in religious and foreign policy studies, from at least the 1970s to the present, which made clear that taqiyya is very real,  and is founded in fundamental Islamic doctrine.

Although common Snarks do no manner of harm,
    Yet, I feel it my duty to say,
Some are Boojums
 – Lewis Carroll, “The Hunting of the Snark”

Finding moderate Muslims often seems like hunting Snarks: the maps are blank, and harmless Snarks sometimes turn out to be deadly Boojums. Lee Kuan Yew once remarked that, “moderate Muslims are keeping out of sight”, while historian and commentator Daniel Pipes admits that, “there are lots of fake-moderates parading about, and they can be difficult to identify”.

Too often a telegenic Muslim turns out to be not so, well, moderate. The story of Ahmed “Clock Boy” Muhammed, “the Muslim Hero America’s Been Waiting For”, according to the Daily Beast, quickly fell apart. Women’s March organiser Linda Sarsour has ties to Hamas, and posts problematic tweets. The hijabi whose selfie provoked cooing admiration from the left turned out to be an anti-Semite.

But more than just Muslim media darlings gulling leftist dupes, fake moderates can turn deadly. Interpreter Othman Ben Amar was arrested in the Netherlands in 2004 for leaking state secrets to militants. Othman had meanwhile founded a lobby group to counter Dutch “Islamophobia”.

Muslims in the US police and military have also been found to be perhaps less than “moderate”. A Muslim FBI special agent was accused of jeopardizing investigations by refusing to secretly record other Muslims, as well as covertly contacting suspects. Muslims in the US military have committed terrorist offenses, most notoriously, the attack at Fort Hood army base. Indeed, leading up to the attack, the killer, Nidal Hasan, regularly attended the mosque of Anwar al-Awlaki, then also considered a “moderate”. Al-Awlaki was later found to be a senior al Qaeda recruiter and planner.

According to former intelligence analyst, Dr Andrew Campbell, this is an example of the threat of taqiyya, and how “those who are unaware of, or do not study, taqiyya, may be its victims”.

Taqiyya is the doctrine whereby Muslims are permitted to employ “religiously-sanctioned deception”. Although taqiyya orginated in Shia Islam, today, according to Dr Sami Makaram, “practically every Islamic sect agrees to it and practices it … We can go so far as to say that the practice of taqiyya is mainstream in Islam”.

As Middle East and Islam specialist Raymond Ibrahim says, “the use of taqiyya is the main reason most non-Muslims are so confused about the real nature of Islam”. For instance, it’s common to hear the Qur’anic verse, “whoso saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind,” piously invoked. Yet for many non-Muslims, this fine sentiment seems obviously contradicted by the fact of widespread Islamic violence.

Because what is left out is the continuation of the text, which explicitly instructs the killing, torture and mutilation of the enemies of Islam. It’s only when you realise what you are not being told that the apparent contradiction becomes clear. “Once you know about [taqiyya],” says Ibrahim, “the jig is up”

Sure, this all starts to sound like Manchurian Candidate-style paranoia: but then one has to remember the Cambridge Five and Communist sleeper agents. Chang and Halliday, for instance, detail the crucial role of sleepers and moles undermining Chiang’s Nationalist government in bringing Mao’s Communists to power.

Just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean that they’re not out to get you.

Daniel Pipes notes that jihadists are well aware of western liberals’ “urge to find moderate Muslims”, and have learned how to fake it accordingly. Counter-terrorism expert Rita Katz describes an encounter with a “Muslim human rights activist” at an Islamic Association for Palestine conference in Chicago. As the man spun his tale of victimhood, what Katz didn’t tell him was that she already knew about Muhammad Salah’s links to Hamas.

So how are we to tell genuine moderate Muslims from taqiyya-practising extremists? How does one tell a Boojum from a Snark?

Pipes recommends a strategy of subjecting Muslim activists, intellectuals and clerics to a series of direct, closed questions, to reduce the scope for obfuscation and misdirection. Further, these questions should be posed publicly, in front of an audience, or in the media, to minimise the possibility of dissimulation.

Questions might include:

  • Do they condone or condemn the terrorist actions of specific terrorist groups?
  • Do non-Muslims have equal rights, in all things, to Muslims?
  • Are Muslims allowed to convert to other religions – or become atheists?
  • Can Muslim women marry non-Muslim men?
  • Should Muslims accept all the laws of a non-Muslim state – even if they contradict sharia?
  • Who was responsible for the 9/11 attacks? (Pipes identifies this as an often critical question.)

Questions such as these, along with a basic understanding of Islam, should form part of the toolkit of journalists and others wishing to cut through the fog of taqiyya and begin to discern the genuinely moderate Muslims – those we are constantly told make up the peaceful majority – from the dissembling extremists cloaking their true beliefs.

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