Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
The degree to which Muslim terrorists can feign remorse for their crimes and convincingly pretend to have reformed—while secretly despising and plotting to murder non-Muslims—was on recent display.
After his prison evaluators had determined that Usman Khan, who was serving time for terrorist-related activities, had reformed and repented of his ways, they freed him early, in December 2018. Less than a year later, however, he murdered two people, a man and woman, and injured three others at Fishmongers Hall near London Bridge.
During a recent inquest, the Rev Paul Foster, a prison chaplain, admitted that he was one of those to have been “conned” by the falsely “remorseful” Khan.
Foster said that “Khan had engaged positively with programmes looking at his offending and the impact of his crimes.” Khan, moreover, “had conversations with me about wanting to change and make a fresh start—to pay more attention to the ripple effect of his actions.”
The April 24, 2021 report continues:
Mr Foster also said Khan had spoken “openly and emotionally” during a discussion session with a victim of crime.
He added: “We were being presented with a lot of positive things about his behavior—even some of the prisoners were telling me… in one instance a chap lost his son to a murder and Usman was the person at his door offering his condolences and asking if he could help.”
The chaplain described one session with Khan in which he professed “some shame” about the impact his crime had on the Muslim community.
“He appeared to show remorse for what he had done,” Mr Foster said.
In the end, it was all a charade. During the inquest, Foster expressed shock on learning that, during the same time period that Khan was feigning repentance, so too was he the “main inmate for radicalising others and had been involved in ‘forced conversations.’”
“[H]e was obviously presenting himself in a way that was likely to deceive the likes of myself and others,” Foster concluded: I’m open to say I am wrong, and it is possible I have been conned.”
Indeed, not only was he conned by Khan; but many other well-meaning prison employees and evaluators have been conned by many other “reformed” Muslim terrorists. Worse, such cons appear to be the rule not the exception.
According to a 2020 study published by Kings College London’s International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR) and titled “Prisons and Terrorism,” “‘False compliance’ seems to have become more widespread, especially among jihadist prisoners, though its true extent is unknown. This can be a major issue in relation to risk assessment and release arrangements.”
The ICSR report documented several other examples beyond Khan of jihadi prisoners pretending to have reformed and “de-radicalized.” One of the two Muslims who beheaded 85‑year‑old Catholic priest Jacques Hamel in his church in France in 2016 had twice earlier been apprehended for trying to go to Syria and fight for the Islamic State. All he had to do, however, was tell the judge what he wanted to hear: “I am a Muslim who believes in mercy, in doing good, I’m not an extremist … I want to get back my life, see my friends, get married.” Based on these words, the judge released him, and soon thereafter this “Muslim who believes in mercy” slaughtered the elderly priest.
Similarly, “many of the 40 female inmates in Fleury‑Mérogis prison in Paris have joked about how they tricked the judge or magistrate—by eating pork, for example, which is forbidden in Islam—to receive more lenient sentences.”
Sadly, the only ones learning from the interaction between Muslim prisoners and European authorities are the terrorists themselves:
From their perspective, prison is also an opportunity to understand how the authorities operate, and—in a sign of their growing awareness of counterintelligence and countersurveillance—jihadists have actively looked to pass their time in prison without incident or arousing the suspicions of the authorities.
Relatedly, the incarcerated terrorists “see prison as a test of their commitment to the cause and a place to recover from Islamic State’s battlefield losses and the wider upheaval in the jihadist scene.”
The ICSR report goes on to invoke the word taqiyya—Islam’s premiere doctrine of deceit:
[O]ffenders may try to ‘game’ a risk assessment if they are in contact with other inmates who have already participated in the process. Part of this involves knowing what to say to tick the right boxes. Much of this is seemingly the use of what is referred to as taqiyya, which is a (mostly) Shiite concept used to describe deception and dissimulation to hide one’s true intentions…. [T]he true scale of taqiyya may be greater than commonly understood… Yet the assumption that jihadists are more willing to engage in deception than non‑terrorist prisoners can pose a conundrum, whereby anything less than admitting to holding jihadist ideas and intentions is thought of as a form of taqiyya.
It is, admittedly, somewhat surprising, refreshingly so, to see a normally politically correct Western think tank even use the term taqiyya. For example, after “Islam’s Doctrines of Deception”—an article that Jane’s Islamic Affairs Analyst (a defense intelligence agency founded in 1898) had commissioned me to write on taqiyya—was published in September 26, 2008, its (since fired) editor called me in a panic: his superiors were outraged that he had allowed such an article to appear; part of their “damage control” was to publish another article refuting mine.
The great “crime” of my article was that it went against academic orthodoxy on taqiyya, which has long insisted that the doctrine permits Muslims to deceive others only when their lives are under threat. My article argued what the ICSR report is now saying—well over a decade later: that the application of taqiyya, or deceit, is hardly limited to life threatening situations and is often employed in any way that can be seen as helping Muslims against non-Muslims.
As for the typical (and wrong) caveat offered by the ICSR, that “taqiyya … is a (mostly) Shiite concept,” this is not true—as evidenced by the simple fact that the prison subjects in ICSR’s own study are overwhelmingly if not entirely Sunni. As Dr. Sami Nassib Makarem, the foremost authority on taqiyya, wrote in his seminal book, Al-Taqiyya fi’l Islam (“Taqiyya in Islam”):
Taqiyya is of fundamental importance in Islam. 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, and that those few sects not practicing it diverge from the mainstream … Taqiyya is very prevalent in Islamic politics, especially in the modern era.
Taqiyya was associated with Shiites because, historically, they had more reason to employ it, being minorities surrounded by hostile Sunni majorities. Today, however, Sunnis in the West are the primary Muslim minorities surrounded by their historic enemies—non-Muslims, “infidels”—and thus they, no less than Shia, employ taqiyya. (For those interested in more detailed expositions on Islam’s doctrines of deceit, see here, here, and here.)
So long as the West fails to appreciate the significance and widespread nature of taqiyya, so long will it continue to be duped by its practitioners—often, as highlighted by Usman Khan’s example, with fatal consequences.