Where can I find more on the Arabic concept of takazu or "mutual lying"?
January 3, 2014 1:38 PM   Subscribe

From this recent profile of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad in the New Republic: "Assad took pleasure in toying with the West. “He told me once, ‘When I sit with the Arabs, it’s a session of 'takazu’—mutual lying, we say in Arabic,” says the former adviser."

Web searches for takazu result in references to the same article. I assume there's an alternate English spelling that I haven't found. Can someone point me in the right direction?
posted by hamsterdam to Writing & Language (6 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
It may be related to the concept of taqiyya (تقية), which is a concept of lying to non-Muslims. An example would be how a leader might say something to western journalists about a given topic but then saying something different to his own people. Arafat was notorious for this.

I searched for a few variations of how I thought "takazu" might be rendered in Arabic script but came up empty. I defer to a native speaker, of course.
posted by Tanizaki at 2:08 PM on January 3, 2014

I'm no native speaker, but I'm pretty sure this is unrelated to taqiyya (which is not "a concept of lying to non-Muslims" but a legal dispensation whereby Muslims—usually Shi'ite, because of their history of oppression and different legal system—can deny their faith while they are at risk of significant persecution) but a mistake for a form like ﺘﮐﺬب; i.e., a form of كذب k-dh-b '(tell a) lie, deceive' with the t- verbal prefix (the letter dh is pronounced z in most parts of the Arabic-speaking world, including Syria). I will let an actual Arabic speaker confirm/deny and provide details.
posted by languagehat at 2:19 PM on January 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

In other words, I think "takazu" is a mistake for something like "takaz(u)b," though my trusty Wehr dictionary does not give that form.
posted by languagehat at 2:21 PM on January 3, 2014

Best answer: I speak Arabic. Takazu isn't an Arabic word, this is a transcription or copy-editing error. "T-K-Z" is not an Arabic root verb.

"Takazzub"* (note the b) literally means "the act of lying". I don't think there's really an Arabic word for the concept you're describing (mutual lying).

* I'm using poetic license to rendering تكذب as takazzub, as in Levantine Arabic dialect—Syrians and Lebanese pronounce the letter dhal like a z; most Arabs pronounce it like the "th" in "this".

That is, takath-thub with an imperceptible pause between th and th.

K-Th-B is Arabic's version of the three-letter Semitic root verb for "he lied". Many words related to the concept of lying derive from K-Th-B (or K-Z-B).

Kazzab: liar
Takzeeb: a falsification

Hebrew has the same root word, and in Hebrew it uses the Z just like Levantine Arabic

In response to Tanizaki:

Taqiyya is a Shia concept of ethical lying to save your life. The word is beloved by Muslim haters, most Sunni don't even know the Shia have a word for it. It's similar to some Jewish teachings that allow lying for self-preservation under persecution, and anti-semites have seized on these in the same way. It's unlikely that Arafat did "taqiyya", it would suffice to merely say he was dishonest. Arafat was not a Shia.

Edit: Hi again languagehat!
posted by evariste at 2:31 PM on January 3, 2014 [16 favorites]

languagehat said
(the letter dh is pronounced z in most parts of the Arabic-speaking world, including Syria). I will let an actual Arabic speaker confirm/deny and provide details.
You're right-I forgot that Egyptian dialect also switches dhal for zayn, and Egyptians represent a huge chunk of the Arabic-speaking population (20 years ago it was half, not sure what it is now).

Most Arabic heard on TV will have the z (zayn) because of prodigious Lebanese/Egyptian cultural output dwarfing the rest. But most Palestinians, Jordanians, Saudis, Iraqis, and Gulf nation Arabs will use dhal.

The future is probably on z's side.
posted by evariste at 2:45 PM on January 3, 2014

My Egyptian husband agrees with evariste, except he thinks this was not said at all/is not a "thing" in the culture.

Mr. Jbenben does note that there is a culture of (perhaps false) flattery between people - I've experienced this as the wife of someone from that part of the world - folks are very very nice to me, too nice.

We also know someone from a well-to-do family in Morrocco who makes disparaging remarks about "Arabs" along the lines of them being dishonest and cheap. My husband puts this down to a general feeling of Middle Easterners feeling inferior to Westerners, and therefore, to each other. The guy from Morrocco doesn't identify as "Arab" so he picks on them to seem better/more Western aligned.


My husband is from Alexandria, he strongly identifies himself as Egyptian/European. He explicitly does NOT identify as Arab at all.

That said...

I worked as a journalist AND I have been WILDLY MISQUOTED as a subject by journalists.

This sounds like totally made up propaganda to make Syrians/Arabs sound like liars.

Considering how agregiously I was myself misquoted during my brief time in the media spotlight, I doubt anyone said anything remotely like this, on the record or off the record.

This seems complete bullshit. I'm sad it's out there. Divide and conquer, and all that.

Business as usual.

I'm SO glad you asked the question and delved deeper! Good for you!!
posted by jbenben at 9:31 PM on January 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

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