Conspiracy theories are believed by people of all nationalities and religions all over the world. As a young man, I didn't feel the Muslims had a particularly big problem with conspiracy theories. Of course, there were already a few of them circulating which the Arabs believed as facts, and they still do. It was in the 1990s when the Muslims’ conspiracy mentality reached a phenomenal level that still shapes their minds. The 1990s was the decade characterised by the spread of satellite television broadcasting and the link between the two is more than likely. Having said that, Muslims believed in conspiracy theories throughout their entire history, which is why we have so many different sects of Islam today.
The only conspiracy theories I was aware of, as a young Muslim, were related to the Jews and their alleged plot to control the world. Muslims always considered the Jews to be behind all world problems, and their evidence is a book titled ’The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’, which is regarded as the most important document in the field. Muslims also believe that the Jews created the ‘Free Masons’ to be used as their tool to achieve their ultimate goal of controlling the world. The above book is credited as a mandatory reading to any one interested in understanding world politics. After I moved to the West, I mentioned the book a few times to some of my colleagues and was amazed that many of them never heard of it and the few who did believed it was forgery.
I was a university student in Cairo at the time of the Apollo moon landing. Egypt was a pro Soviet state and the government controlled press was anti American but I read the news of the moon landing, in the Egyptian newspapers, as it was officially published by NASA. It was considered a genuine human achievement that deserved to be applauded by all. I don't think I met an Arab who thought otherwise, even though all of us wished if it was a Russian, not Neil Armstrong, who made that giant leap for mankind. Also I don't remember the Soviets making any hints that the landing was a hoax. Three decades later, nearly half of the Arabs believe the moon landing was faked!
Since the 1990s, the Arabs believe there are conspiracies behind all political events. Earlier this year, I made a couple of visits to the Middle East that included Egypt and Jordan. I managed to meet Syrians, Egyptians, Jordanians as well as other Arabs, all were Muslims. I cant say I was surprised because I wasn’t, nonetheless, I was dismayed at the way the Arabs perceive their politics. They live in a world of their own, almost entirely dissociated from the real world. I can’t think of any news story that the Arabs believed as it was told in the news, not a single one. Somehow they manage to produce alternative scenarios to all political events that fit with their mindsets. The media in the Middle East makes matters worse as it often presents conspiracy theories as proper news. Debating Arabs on political matters has become a pointless nightmare, just like watching an Arab debating a Chinese and each speaking in his own language. In the future, the Arabs will be reading a history that has no resemblance to the real history we live today.
The Arabs are not good readers by any standard, most of them hardly read anything apart from the Quran. Those who do read have a very poor taste of reading material. Biographies of retired politicians make a popular and easy reading for most. Such books are usually poorly written and poorly presented. They contradict each others as each author struggles to present himself as a saint surrounded by devils.
This state of affair is alarming and has a special significance. If the Arabs can forge the events of today as they unfold, then they must have done so throughout their history. In short, the Arabs cannot be trusted on history, which is just another reason to add to the list of why we should be careful when reading Islamic history.
The following are two examples of conspiracy theories that prevailed in the Middle East, which also reflect ironies and confusion in the Arabs’ minds:
The conspiracy: On the same day of the tragic death of princess Diana, Egyptian journalists/ analysts claimed it was a plot from the British establishment to avoid the humiliating embarrassment of a royal princess giving birth to a Muslim (Arab) baby. The claims were mere hallucinations not based on any evidence, nevertheless, were circulated as proper news. The Arabs’ views of the affair that preceded the tragedy encompasses an interesting irony.
The irony: To Muslims, adultery is the most shameful of all sins. A Muslim finds it easier to be accused of murder than adultery. Islam and its legislations are generally harsher on women, but not in this kind of adultery. Both men and women get killed once adultery is proved. However, if sharia is not implemented, which is the case in most countries, the woman’s family take the law in their hands and kill the woman who brought shame on them in what is known as ‘honour killing’. There is no honour killing of men because they do not bring shame to their families; their sins will be left for Allah to deal with.
The Arabs including Mohammed Al Fayed had no problems in claiming that Diana and Imad Al Fayed had a sexual relationship. The most shameful of sins didn’t seem to have been perceived by them as shameful at all, not even as a sin. Indeed, they didn’t refer to it as ‘adultery’ but as an ‘affair’, or rather a special affair; one that deserved to be celebrated rather than condemned.
This morbid trait can be traced to the beduins perception of sexual relations. Deep in the Arabs’ tribal minds still lives the conception that a sexual affair humiliates the woman and her tribe, but it doesn’t harm the man. The beduin’s minds perceive sex as a fight that always ends up with the male being the winner. This perception has nothing to do with Islam, it existed before Islam and frequently supersedes Islam. Mohammed had the habit of finishing his tribal victories by having sex with the wives of the chiefs of the defeated tribes (without respecting the Islamic obligatory waiting period ). Such practices were blatant violations of Islamic law but hardly noticed by Muslims.
The Arabs’ minds perceived the relationship between Diana and Al Fayed as a submission of the British monarchy to an Arab. Obviously, they wouldn’t let any religious claims to spoil the euphoria.
The conspiracy: It has never been easier to identify the crime and criminals as in the case of 9/11. It is like a murder taking place in the town’s square in full day light. Millions watched the crime directly or though live television broadcasting. The criminals were identified and found to be Arabs, mainly from the gulf states. Muslims in general were happy to see America’s anguish, some couldn’t contain their happiness, which they displayed in the streets. We didn’t hear any spontaneous condemnation from Muslims and we didn’t see any of those Muslims’ outrages because of the claimed “hijacking of their religion”.
9/11 was such an obvious crime that leaves no room for doubt or conspiracy theory. The Muslim communities in the West were too scared and many didn’t go to work the next day for fear of reprisals. They were like rabbits, scared to death and motionless in their hiding places. Once it became clear to them the West has no intention to cause them any harm, they became like tigers. They denied responsibility and rejected the footage despite the overwhelming evidence and the millions of witnesses. They disbelieved their eyes and surrendered their minds to some baseless conspiracy scenarios because, they claimed, the official story has no solid evidence.
Solid evidence? More solid than actually seeing the crime happening? But to Muslims seeing is not believing.
The irony: On the other hand, those same Muslims are happy to believe that Mohammed was made a prophet by a god named Allah, over 1400 years ago and that he travelled on a winged mule to visit Allah, at the far end of the universe, and came back to earth within an hour.
Every one of the above claims is unbelievable, yet they believe all of them, not only without evidence, but against all evidence! They do not only believe those fairy tales but they would kill any fellow Muslim who dares to question them!