The Conspiratorial Mind of the Arab World
Robert Spencer
The Conspiratorial Mind of the Arab World
Sat Jan 3 17:11:48 2004

The Conspiratorial Mind of the Arab World
By Robert Spencer | December 29, 2003

Have you heard? Saddam Hussein is in Tel Aviv. He has been an agent for the U.S. and Israel since 1980, and followed instructions given him by George W. Bush himself in a phone conversation last winter about how to behave when American troops entered Iraq. The capture of Saddam was an elaborate charade designed to bolster the flagging morale of American troops in Iraq. The bearded, broken man who was captured wasn’t Saddam; any keen observer would know that Saddam had a mole or wart on his cheek, but that the crude double in the hands of the Americans has no such mark. What’s more, in the footage of Saddam’s hideaway, the foliage is from late summer! Clearly the Americans are trying to fool us with months-old archival footage that has nothing to do with Saddam at all!

Saddam’s sons Uday and Qusay, meanwhile, are in Monte Carlo, continuing to live the high life. American troops spirited them out of the country and staged their deaths in order to demoralize the Iraqi resistance.

This kind of talk, fantastic and unbelievable as it is, is rampant in the Muslim world today. The idea that the Americans faked the capture of Saddam, and that the genuine article is still at large somewhere, is just the latest installment in a string of paranoid fantasies that have captured the imagination of untold numbers of Muslims worldwide. Most notorious, of course, is the idea that Mossad or the CIA, or both, actually flew airplanes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. If Muslims were involved at all, goes the story, it was only to take the rap and justify the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan (as well as, coming soon to a theater of war near you, Syria and Iran).

While courageous souls such as the American Ambassador to Egypt, David Welch, have confronted these lurid fictions head-on in meetings with Muslim media figures, the stories persist — in no small part because some of these have been spread at the highest levels. Not long after 9/11, according to the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), Yasir Arafat declaimed to an appreciative audience in Ramallah: "Oh brothers, there is a conspiracy to Judaize Jerusalem." MEMRI also reports that Uday, before he took up his place at those great Monte Carlo gaming tables in the sky, wrote in an Iraqi paper in 2002 that Iran was "part of the new conspiracy against Iraq and that the Iranians were ready to cross the border at any moment to materialize their ambitions."

And of course, the mother of all conspiracy theories, that noxious incitement to genocide known as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, still circulates widely in the Muslim world. Nor would an inquiring mind have to go to a seedy bookstore in a shabby part of town to pick up a smudgy copy of this implausible account, cooked up by the Czar’s secret police in the 19th century, of the Zionists’ plot to rule the world. An up-to-date conspiracy theorist would need only a television: during this past Ramadan, Hizballah’s worldwide satellite TV network broadcast a thirty-part dramatization of "the criminal history of Zionism" that was quite similar to the Protocols — the genuine article was already dramatized on Egyptian television the previous year. More literary types could repair to the new Library of Alexandria, the heir to the legendary collections that shone in antiquity as beacons of civilization. There, until an international outcry forced its removal, the first Arabic translation of the Protocols was prominently displayed next to a Torah in a manuscript exhibit. According to MEMRI, a library official, Dr. Yousef Ziedan, explained that the Protocols "is more important to the Zionist Jews of the world than the Torah, because they conduct Zionist life according to it... It is only natural to place the book in the framework of an exhibit of Torah [scrolls]."

Amid all this there are glimmers of self-awareness, particularly in post-Saddam Iraq. "Every time Arab peoples are afflicted with disaster, defeats, or tragedies, it is always blamed on a Zionist, colonialist, or American imperialist conspiracy." This strikingly honest assessment comes from Iraq’s Al-Ittihad daily. Unfortunately, however, it’s unlikely that conspiracy paranoia will be extinguished in the Islamic world anytime soon. After all, it has deep roots.

A fundamental element of Islamic culture is an implacable belief in its own superiority. This idea is rooted in the Qur’an and Islam: the revelation to Muhammad, according to orthodox Muslim belief, is the final and perfect revelation from the one true God. It corrects and abrogates all previous revelations, including the Torah and Gospel that form the foundation of the culture of the non-Muslim West. The Jews and Christians who remain in the world after the time of Muhammad are renegades who have rejected this final revelation out of corruption and malice. At certain points in the Middle Ages, this Muslim self-understanding meshed quite well with the realities of the world: a unified Muslim empire encroached inexorably upon a Christendom riven by squabbles and overmatched in both military might and technology.

But when all that began to change, and when the squabbling mini-states of Western Europe began to chip away at the former domains of the Mehmet the Conqueror and Suleiman the Magnificent, the Muslim world found that it had no framework to deal with defeat. The superiority of the House of Islam was a given. How then did it lie defeated, divided, colonized? Well, it must not have been a fair fight. The Muslims must have fallen victim to shabby, shadowy trickery — to a conspiracy. After all, even the Qur’an itself portrays Jews and Christians as scheming liars: "When they come to [Muhammad], they say: ‘We believe’: but in fact they enter with a mind against Faith, and they go out with the same, but Allah knoweth fully all that they hide" (Sura 5:61). Jews are even portrayed as fabricating divine revelations in their lust for money: they "write the Book with their own hands, and then say: ‘This is from Allah,’ to traffic with it for miserable price!" (Sura 2:79).

The orthodox Muslim view of verses like these (and there are many others like them) is not that they are seventh-century polemic, but words spoken by Allah himself which retain their validity for all time. Consequently all too many Muslims today see them as revelatory of the twenty-first century world. The crafty, dishonest Jewish and Christian renegades are up to their same old tricks. But even though Bush, Sharon and Co. have all the world’s resources at their disposal as they weave their conspiracies and deceptions to ensnare the Muslim world, the Muslim can see through them: he has the Qur’an.

This is the point at which all these conspiracy theories stop being merely amusing or pathetic and start to appear genuinely lethal. For what bridges of genuine trust can be built with people who view the world from this perspective? The epidemic of conspiracy stories in Middle East and Iraq in particular today betrays a mistrust that is far deeper than most anyone has imagined, and is in fact founded upon fervently held religious concepts. We may fervently hope that cooler heads will prevail, and it isn’t inconceivable that they ultimately will. But it would be wise not to expect too much in the short term.

Robert Spencer

is the director of Jihad Watch and the author of Onward Muslim Soldiers: How Jihad Still Threatens America and the West (Regnery Publishing), and Islam Unveiled: Disturbing Questions About the World’s Fastest Growing Faith (Encounter Books).

Q: Why should I believe what you say about Islam?
A: Because I draw no conclusions of myself. Pick up my books Onward Muslim Soldiers and Islam Unveiled, and you will see that both are made up largely of quotations from radical Muslims and the traditional Islamic sources to which they appeal to justify violence and terrorism. I am only shedding light on what these sources say.

Q: Why have you studied Islam for so long?
A: It has been an enduring fascination. Since childhood I have had an interest in the Muslim world, from which my family comes, and when I met Muslim students in college I began studying the Qur'an in earnest. That led to in-depth forays into tafsir (interpretations of the Qur'an), hadith (traditions of the Prophet Muhammad), and much more about Islamic history, theology, and law.

Q: Why do so many people convert to Islam?
A: There are many attractive elements of the religion. I think that its adamantine certainties appeal to many people who are disgusted with the current relativism and amorality of the Western world. Also there are many rich and grand aspects of Islamic history and culture which also make the religion attractive today. The global jihad against the West today also helps Islam gather converts in the West from among groups that feel themselves to be oppressed or marginalized. Conversions have been stimulated by successful, if often fanciful, Muslim efforts to present Islam as a religion free of the sins of the West -- particularly racial discrimination.

Q: Do you hate Muslims?
A: Of course not. Islam is not a monolith, and never have I said or written anything that characterizes all Muslims as terrorist or given to violence. I am only calling attention to the roots and goals of radical Islam. Any Muslim who renounces violent jihad and dhimmitude is welcome to join in our anti-jihadist efforts. Any hate in my books comes from radical Muslims whom I quote, not from me. Cries of "hatred" and "bigotry" are effectively used by American Muslim advocacy groups to try to stifle the debate about the terrorist threat. But there is no substance to them.

Q: Do you think all Muslims are terrorists?
A: See above.

Q: Are you trying to incite anti-Muslim hatred?
A: Certainly not. I am trying to point out the depth and extent of the hatred that is directed against the United States, because I believe that the efforts to downplay its depth and extent leave us less equipped to defend ourselves. As I said above, the focus here is on jihad; any Muslim who renounces the ideologies of jihad and dhimmitude is most welcome to join forces with us. Anyone who targets innocent Muslims in the USA is not only evil, but is playing into the hands of the radical Muslims who are trying to fan the flames of anti-American hatred. Also, one of the reasons why the war on terror is so important is that those who would destroy Western civilization do not believe in the principles of due process and justice that are central elements of the American system.

Q: What can we do about this threat?
A: Many things, but what we must do above all is remain true to our principles of freedom and equality of rights and dignity for all. These ideas and related ones are what set us apart from global jihadists. If we discard them in order to fight the jihadists, we risk erasing the distinction between the two camps.

Q: Why are you doing this?
A: Jihad ideology is a threat to the peace and human rights of non-Muslims as well as Muslims worldwide. If it is not confronted and resisted, it will prevail. /

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