To add to Yglesias’, and Justin Logan’s posts dismantling Michael Rubin’s latest argument for bombing Iran, a bit about Rubin’s invocation of taqiya as a clever way credit Iranian statements that bolster his thesis and discredit those that don’t.
This isn’t the first time Rubin has misrepresented this Islamic concept. Back in September 2006, Rubin referred to taqiya as “religiously-sanctioned lying.”
Many Islamists feel justified saying one thing to a Western audience, and quite another to fellow Islamists. Muhammad Khatami, soon to receive an honorary degree at St. Andrew’s University in celebration of his “practical work to improve relations between Muslim, Christian and Jewish communities,” is one example. No need for Khatami to explain statements justifying murder and terror. The case of Tariq Ramadan, the Islamist scholar whom Notre Dame University tried to hire, has become a cause célèbre. Many progressives are in an uproar that the State Department this week again denied Ramadan a visa. After all, doesn’t he say the right things in academic salons? Perhaps, but beyond the window dressing and the material support for terrorists, what does Ramadan stand for?
Taqiya is commonly understood as dissimulation in order to protect one’s life, family, or the faith. It developed in Shi’i jurisprudence as a defense against persecution by Sunnis or non-Muslims. It is not simply a license to lie, nor is it simply a technique to “lull an enemy,” as Rubin claims here.
The concept of taqiya has generally been looked upon with skepticism and suspicion by the vast majority of Muslims who are Sunni. Tariq Ramadan, who is Sunni, has never, as far as I know, indicated that he believes the concept is a legitimate Islamic practice, Rubin’s careless assertions notwithstanding. Ironically, sinister claims about taqiya have historically been deployed by Sunnis to stir up fear of Shias, just as Rubin deploys them here to stir up fear of Iran.
The implications of Rubin’s treatment of the concept are obvious. After all, if Muslims are encouraged to lie as a matter of religious duty, then why should we believe anything they say, ever? The right-wing blogosphere is rife with this sort of ignorant nonsense, but it’s pretty disgraceful that Rubin would use his scholarly credibility, such as it is, to feed it. Given his own past work in Doug Feith’s Office of Special Plans, it’s also pretty ridiculous that Rubin tries to pitch taqiya as some sort of devious occult practice, as if non-Muslim leaders never dissimulate, lie, spin, or misrepresent facts and intentions in order to achieve their political goals.