I just heard from Justin Elliott of Salon magazine, who is evidently preparing a hit piece [UPDATE: Thin gruel, but here it is] involving my speculations concerning Anthony Weiner and Huma Abedin. It reminded me that in all the excitement I let slip the chance to make any timely comment on his June 16 piece, "Arabic for right-wingers." In it, Elliott condescends to explain to those racist right-wing yahoos how they're misusing various Islamic terms. His source? The Saudi-funded dhimmi pseudo-academic John Esposito!
The term: dhimmi
How it's used: As a pejorative for non-Muslims who fail to understand -- and unwittingly aid, or even appease -- the Islamic menace
Example: "These dhimmi effetes at the Times think their toe licking will save them. They will be the first ones with their heads on the chopping block." -- the blogger Pamela Geller
What it actually means: "Protected people." The dhimmi were non-Muslims living under Muslim rule who paid a special tax and in return were permitted to practice their own religion, be led by their religious leaders and be guided by their own religious laws and customs. This treatment was very advanced at the time. No such tolerance existed in Christendom where Jews, Muslims and Christians who did not accept the authority of the pope were persecuted, forced to convert or expelled.
However progressive this policy may have been in the past, it would amount to second-class citizenship for non-Muslims today. Therefore, some insist that non-Muslims must be given full citizenship rights because of the Quran’s emphasis on the equality of all humanity. This need for reinterpretation can be seen in the increased incidents of discrimination and violence against non-Muslims in countries like Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia.
So even though Elliott uses Geller as his foil here, what she wrote was an entirely reasonable and justifiable use of the word. Esposito does grant that dhimmitude amounts to "second-class citizenship for non-Muslims," but he fails to mention that if dhimmis complained about their inferior status, institutionalized humiliation, or poverty, their masters voided their contract and regarded them as enemies of Islam, fair game as objects of violence. Consequently, dhimmis were generally cowed into silence and worse -- many even affirmed the wonderful tolerance of their Muslim masters and of Islam in general, and became vociferous advocates for their own state of subjugation.
It is this kind of bootlicking that Pamela Geller was referring to in connection with the New York Times' whitewashing of jihad and Sharia. The analogy is entirely apt.
Elliott then goes on to "jihad," giving Esposito's explanation:
What it actually means: Literally, "struggle" or "exertion" in the path of God, following God's Will. It is a concept with multiple meanings, used and abused throughout Islamic history. The importance of jihad is rooted in the Quran’s command to struggle in the path of God and in the example of the Prophet Muhammad and his early Companions. The two broad meanings of jihad, nonviolent and violent, are contrasted in a well-known Prophetic tradition. "Greater" jihad is the struggle within oneself to live a righteous life and submit oneself to God’s will. "Lesser" jihad is the defense of Islam and the Muslim community.
Jihad as struggle pertains to the difficulty and complexity of living a good life: struggling against the evil in oneself -- to be virtuous and moral, making a serious effort to do good works and help to reform society. Depending on the circumstances in which one lives, it also can mean fighting injustice and oppression, spreading and defending Islam, and creating a just society through preaching, teaching and, if necessary, armed struggle or holy war. A radicalized violent minority combines militancy with messianic visions to inspire and mobilize an army of God whose jihad they believe will liberate Muslims at home and abroad.
Esposito does not mention the fact that was pointed out by the 14th-century Islamic scholar Ibn Taymiyya: that the concept of the "greater jihad" as interior spiritual struggle is based on a hadith that "has no source and nobody whomsoever in the field of Islamic knowledge has narrated it." Ibn Taymiyya insists that "jihad against the disbelievers is the most noble of actions and moreover it is the most important action for the sake of mankind.” Nor is this his view alone. Jihad understood as warfare against unbelievers in order to establish the hegemony of Islamic law has much greater support in Islamic scripture, tradition, and historical practice than does the spiritual jihad -- and leading jihad theorists including Hasan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, and Abdullah Azzam, Osama bin Laden’s friend and intellectual mentor and co-founder with him of Al-Qaeda, challenge the authenticity of the "greater jihad" saying in their writings.
Esposito also fails to mention that jihad is not only defensive, but offensive. A Shafi'i manual of Islamic law that in 1991 was certified by the highest authority in Sunni Islam, Cairo's Al-Azhar University, as conforming "to the practice and faith of the orthodox Sunni community." This manual, 'Umdat al-Salik (available in English as Reliance of the Traveller), spends a considerable amount of time explaining jihad as "war against non-Muslims." It spells out the nature of this warfare in quite specific terms, saying that the Muslims must wage "war upon Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians . . . until they become Muslim or pay the non-Muslim poll tax."
The term: taqiyya
How it's used: As an explanation for why Muslims cannot be trusted -- because their religion allows them to ethically practice deception
Example: "Thus it is reasonable to conclude that Keith Ellison’s deceitful pronouncements at Thursday’s Homeland Security Hearings, this past Thursday, and one day later on 'Real Time With Bill Maher,' are consistent with the Koranic doctrine of taqiyya, Islamic religious dissimulation." -- writer on Andrew Breitbart's Big Peace site
What it actually means: Precautionary dissimulation of religious belief and practice in the face of persecution. Muslims recognize the personal duty of affirming right and forbidding wrong, but when confronted by an overwhelming injustice that threatens the well-being of an individual, this obligation can be fulfilled secretly in the heart rather than overtly. Among Shia Muslims, who from the death of the Prophet onward considered themselves subject to persistent religious persecution by the Sunni majority and the holders of political power, taqiyya permits not only passive or silent resistance, but also an active dissimulation of true beliefs when required to protect life, property and religion itself.
Esposito doesn't mention that this idea is based on the Qur'an, and thus has currency among Sunnis as well. 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." 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.
The Sunni Islamic scholar Ibn Kathir says that the phrase "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."
Then comes Sharia:
How it's used: To refer to a rigid set of Muslim laws that prescribe stoning for adulterous women, execution for homosexuals, etc.
Example: "We all know what shariah law does to women -- women must wear burqas, women are subject to humiliation and into controlled marriages under Sharia law. We want to prevent it from ever happening in Texas." -- Texas state Rep. Leo Berman
What it actually means: Historically, many Muslims and non-Muslims have come to confuse and use the terms "Shariah" and "Islamic law" interchangeably. Because the Quran is not a law book, early jurists used revelation as well as reason to create a body of laws to govern their societies. But, over time, these man-made laws came to be viewed as sacred and unchangeable. Muslims who want to see Shariah as a source of law in constitutions therefore have very different visions of how that would manifest. Though the definition of Shariah refers to the principles in the Quran and prophetic tradition, some expect full implementation of classical or medieval Islamic law; others want a more restricted approach, like prohibiting alcohol, requiring the head of state to be a Muslim, or creating Shariah courts to hear cases involving Muslim family law (marriage, divorce and inheritance). Still others simply want to ensure that no constitutional law violates the principles and values of Islam, as found in the Quran.
You'll notice that in all this verbiage Esposito doesn't ever deny that Sharia prescribes the subjugation of women, the stoning of adulteresses, the execution of homosexuals, etc. He just says that some Muslims mitigate it or don't want to apply all of it. Great. But it is what it is.
"Madrassa" (just a school, not a jihad factory!) and "Allah" (the Arabic word for God! Christian Arabs use it, too!) round out Elliott's lesson, but they're just lagniappes in a piece that in its totality amounts to less than meets the eye. Elliott purports to expose the ignorance of the various evil "right-wingers" he quotes, but he allowed himself to be played by Esposito, who left out of his explanations the aspects of the words that showed the "right-wingers" to be a lot closer to correct about Islam than Justin Elliott will ever be.