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Divided Hearts

Our Theodore Dalrymple also has his usual honest and enlightening piece in this week's NR (subscription required - boo hiss). A snippet:

...Despite my liking for the [taxi] driver as an individual, whom I adjudged sincere in his moderation, I could not entirely disembarrass myself of a residual prejudice against him: He was, after all, a Muslim, and I recognized in myself something discreditable that has become visceral, not under fully conscious control, namely a distrust of more than a billion people because of their religion...

...my prejudice is of recent, not distant, origin. Of course, I had long realized that the political traditions of the Muslim world were very different from those of my own country, and in my opinion inferior to them; but that was true of much of the globe, and extensive travel had taught me that the nature, virtues, and charms of a society were not completely captured by a description of its political institutions. Politics is not all.

The Islamists have changed all that. No doubt that was their intention: They invited, and wanted, a binary view of the world in order to overcome and defeat the half of it that they consider ungodly, evil, and an impediment to perfection on earth, and not coincidentally to their absolute power. Their success has been to instill apocalyptic visions in people who were previously immune to them.

So as I rode in the taxi, the word taqiyya, usually translated as “dissimulation,” kept running through my mind like a refrain. Taqiyya is the principle by which a Muslim may disavow his religious beliefs if it is necessary for him to do so. I am no Islamic scholar, but it seems to me that the application of the concept has been extended. Where once it meant that a Muslim could deny his faith if he were threatened with death unless he abjured it, it has come to mean lying to promote any religiously desired end. Taqiyya has always been more important for Shia than for Sunni Muslims, but is permitted to the latter.

On www.al-islam.org, I found the following, allegedly true story: A Shia and a Sunni Muslim were traveling to London to attend an Islamic conference. En route, the two of them discussed the need for unity between the two main branches of Islam, and the Sunni argued that the Shia resort to taqiyya was an obstacle to that unity. At London Airport, the Sunni told the immigration officer that he had come to England to seek medical treatment, while the Shia said that he had come to visit friends. The Sunni said to the Shia afterwards that an Islamic conference provided healing for the soul, while the Shia said that it provided an opportunity to visit friends. According to the author of the article on the Web, both had indulged in laudable and justifiable taqiyya.

This is not taqiyya to save life: No one was threatening the two of them with death unless they entered Britain. It was lying because the end was believed to justify the means, and possibly for the sheer malicious pleasure of deceiving someone (an infidel immigration officer) you cannot believe to be the equal to yourself...