By MAHMUT AKPINAR
Conspiracy may be described as: “all the thoughts and ideas emanating from the delusion claiming that secret, harmful plots are being concocted against a person, an institution or a country.” Conspirative approaches generally emerge when faced with an unexplained event or when liability for a failure is not wanted to be accounted. Conspiracy is a means to attribute the responsibility to vague national/international powers, demonised or antagonised parts of the society or to some unknown power groups, when account is not clearly determined or distinguished and legal responsibility not clearly defined. Deep state, Gladio, Free-Masons, Israel, America, big capital holders, communists (in the past) have always been shown as perpetrators by conspiracy theorists.
These actors may indeed be influential over the countries and play some role in the events happening around the world. However, conspiracy theorists are inclined to ascribe nearly all of the negativities, most of the time without observing any casual connection, to various groups, a phantom or unknown powers. Some politicians and officials can also be sympathetic towards such theories or prefer to remain silent to reduce the burden of responsibility and throw the liability upon others. Conspiracy theories are widely valued in the third world countries and the Middle East. They are also highly popular among some ideological groups.
Instead of accepting and questioning the failure of their ideologies, fronts, sects or political parties, they prefer to put the blame on an ambiguous, unbeknown entity. Thus, they prevent their cause or belief from being shaken. They even reinforce their ideological cause over these ambiguous/obscure enemies.
Those who foster ideas without attaining any knowledge cut corners and make commentaries about many things without needing to spend any energy in reading or conducting a research. Because, this is easy for them, as they do not need to chew over or spend any extra effort for this. With the conspiracy theories, they easily explain even the most perplexed cases. They also provide a comfort zone for the people who believe in them. They find a guilty one and bill him for all the sins and hence relieve their own conscience. However, conspirative approach is also a kind of disease. It prevents determining mistakes, detecting points of failure and making effort for amelioration. It is impossible for societies, individuals or officials who are flooded with conspiracies to find out the real causes lying behind and generate solutions for the problems.
As the attitude of looking at everything from a conspiratorial point of view, not reaching out to the roots of events and not carrying out thorough analyses is problematic; the attitude of straightaway rejecting causative and rational explanations by defiling and discrediting them with accusation of being mere conspiracy theories is also problematic. Ridiculing every criticism and ascribing them to conspiracy is sometimes a way of covering things up. Some power groups, who are influential in the field of media and communication, tend to parry many claims that question them and/or reveal their conducts, by calling them as “load of rubbish” or “conspiracy theories”. They often try to drop the articles written against them off the agenda by blaming them being “not academic or scientific”. Whereas, instead of approaching an assumption or allegation with a bias, it is always sounder to first analyse it with all its arguments and elements, and then reach an assertion.
Unfortunately, nowadays, Muslim societies and Islamic countries are where conspiracy theories are mostly credited and overrated. Especially in the Middle East, many ludicrous, unworldly, and by-no-means-rational conspiratorial interpretations are spread by word-of-mouth and this hurls Middle Eastern people to a totally different ball game. Among Muslims – especially those who hold Islamist ideas – fabricating and believing in conspiracy theories, seeking refuge in such stories whenever they face with problems they cannot overcome, and associating a failure or incompetency to a conspiracy theory, are very fashionable.
Why do Islamists resort to conspiracy theories?
A professor of mine used to say, “Yes for knowledge and cognition, no for finding excuses and self-justification.” Cognising – which is a mixture of perceiving, learning and reasoning -, producing something and generating a positive outcome is difficult; but producing excuses is easy. Especially in such a society where there are masses who believe in ludicrous ideas without questioning, whoever fails to success tends to produce an excuse for self-justification, or a conspiratorial story, or invent someone who is guilty, traitor or secret agent. Unfortunately, for the last few centuries, the Islamic World has displayed a tendency to foster conspiracy, and they seem to be quite skilful in ascribing nearly everything to a foreign power. This may be the natural consequence of a series of military coups, occupations, abuses and deceits they have been subjected to for the last few centuries. However, this has now become a port they run for refuge and an effortless comfort zone. Iran has been the major source for harbouring conspiratorial ideas. Being masters of utilising the conspirative approach, many Iranian officials are able to cover up all their administrative and ethical problems and prevent the public to question their regime.
Since political Islamists aim in all their actions to capture the ruling power and the state, whenever they fail to reach this goal or face with a hindrance on the way to achieving it, they look for a foreign factor to blame for and make up a related conspiracy story. They never question the inappropriateness of their methods and nor do they ever consider that they are doing wrong. Foreign enemies and conspiracy theories come to the rescue of especially the Islamists who are engaged in active politics and their political leaders, in concealing their failures, corruption and faults. By seeking refuge in conspirative approaches, they prevent themselves from questioning and their policies from criticism. This, however, also creates a continuous vicious circle in which wrong deeds are cherished and wrong people are nourished. Those who are responsible for faults and failures are not brought to account; they are not even sought after and mistakes are shoved under the carpet. Self-criticism and self-questioning are not practised and all the blame is pinned on some outside factors. This creates a vicious cycle and Muslim communities continue spiralling around the same mistakes. As conspirative approaches and the cycle of mistakes continue, the trust and faith in Islamists, Muslims, even in the religion of Islam, is becoming damaged. Thus, the people become more prone to putting the blame of the inconclusive acts and failures on religious faith, on thoughts or directly on Islam. Then, both inside and outside the Muslim world, people start making generalised judgements against Muslims. People in the outside world start having prejudices suggesting that, “This is how Muslims/Turks/Arabs/Islamists are”, while Muslims start fostering the pessimistic presupposition telling, “We always suck! We are a hopeless case,” or “We cannot do it/they will never let us do it”.
Conspirative characteristics deprive Muslims of courage and cause them to lose hope and confidence in themselves. Once they see Israel or America behind everything or assume that Free-Masons, Israel, the USA or the Jewish lobby has the control over everything in the world, they lose their tenacity to struggle for good before even starting. By creating a perception/belief that it is impossible to deal with the “giant and organised” powers, human will power is paralysed. A message evokes, “There is no other way than submitting to Zionism, Free-Masons or the USA” is whispered into the ears of ordinary men. This trait is actually in a complete contradiction with the Islamic belief, while it causes ordinary Muslims to commit one of the greatest sins – attributing someone equal to God. This is because, by displaying such an attitude, they attribute omnipotence to power holders other than God, one of whose name is “Qadeer” (Almighty, All-Powerful). Whereas, the believers of Islam recite “La hawla wa la quwwata, illa billah”, which means “There is no power, nor ability, other than that of God (and that of given by God)”. Muslims, on the one hand, do not properly observe the relations between causes and effects; do not spend both physically and mentally arduous effort; do not act scientifically and systematically; do not highlight good manners, ethical motives and discipline; prefer living a comfortable and lethargic life style, and on the other hand, claiming that they cannot compete against or struggle with global foreign powers. This, in essence, is deceiving oneself, not authorising or placing trust in God. Whereas God says, “The human being attains only what he strives for” (Najm; 39) in the Holy Qur’an. The term used in this verse is “human being”, not “Muslims”. In the world, with regard to physical and natural circumstances, except some extraordinary paranormal experiences, Muslims do not enjoy a preferential treatment. Whoever strives will achieve. If Muslims will strive, they may achieve success and reach an advanced position. Conspirative approaches, however, drive them to become lazy people who are watching out for ways to cut corners all the time. God, however, acts with wisdom and prudence in conformity with causes and their effects.
Fifteen hundred years ago, the Arabian Peninsula was a non-arable, barren desert, where petrol was something not heard of. Today’s Muslims do not recall that the Holy Prophet and his companions, without having any governmental experience or tradition, have emerged from this desert-land, which was suffering an age of very dark ignorance, and in only 20-25 years, reached a level to override the two imperial powers of the time (the Byzantine and the Sassanid Empires), not with conspiracy theories, but with sticking to reality, struggle and an exemplary life. Regarding the natural causes, in those days, Muslims were less-in-number and weaker than the Palestinians today, while each of their competitors were as powerful as the USA today. Unfortunately, as today’s Muslims, we give more credit to conspiracies than to the Divine Power of God. With all kinds of conspiracies we produce, we think that we have concealed all our inabilities and bad actions. Meanwhile, by doing this, we actually harm ourselves and exhaust our hope, determination and will power for doing something good. By inventing “invincible”, “giant powers”, we just release ourselves into sluggishness and heedlessness.
What raises and brings down civilisations is the human factor. Advancement can occur with individuals equipped with sublime qualities such as hard-working and giving importance to discipline, knowledge, wisdom, concordance and cooperation. States arise and develop on the shoulders of individuals, families and societies that are healthy in all aspects. Political Islamists, however, regard individuals as materials who can be exploited, used for elections and pushed forward into wars; and societies as “crowds to be herd”. For them, what really matters is the state or the ruling power. And this is only good, beneficial and Islamic, if they had captured it.
If the power is in the hand of others or even other Muslims, they straightaway declare it being “the tool of infidels” and “servant of Zionists”. When they are in the opposition, they proclaim even the most lawful things as “haram” (unlawful) and “ghayr Islami” (un-Islamic). When they come to the power, however, all the things they used to call unlawful become lawful and mubah (legitimate). They do not hesitate to bring an Islamic interpretation for every illegitimacy, cruelty, corruption, pillaging and prevarication they commit and use moral values and principles of Islam as flying buttresses for their dominion and sovereignty.
Political Islamists sanctify power and state. They believe that everything will magically change as soon as they capture the state and the ruling power. However, when they see that things do not change when this happens, what is more, they themselves become putrefied with their regime’s misconducts, then they clinch on conspiracy theories and discourses that blame foreign powers, while stigmatise others for betrayal. They themselves never commit any sin! They are always “pure and clean”! They do not budge an inch! Never expose themselves for questioning and instead of correcting their mistakes, they go for condemning others. They look for ways of continuing their sovereignty by making up criminals and victims to scapegoat and drawing attention of Muslims to these victims they show as demons.
From particularly the Iranian regime, to the armed ones, from the Jihadists to those prefer to conduct a democratic struggle, all of the Islamists keep harping on statements cursing Zionism and imperialism. This is because the political Islam is an interpretation of Islam that is squashed into a cold, soulless ideological form. It survives, only with the existence of the opposition, the other, the enemy. It regenerates and provide a legitimacy for itself by means of these. To be able to maintain the survival of this ideology, they may easily change or stretch the fundamental rules and principles of Islam.
A true believer is obliged by employing effort not by reaching a victory. Political Islamists, however, since they aim to capture the state and the ruling power, their Nirvana, their ultimate goal, is the establishment of their state. All gains and achievements other than capturing the ruling power are not real gains or victory. When political Islamists fail to reach the ruling power/state or overthrown from governance, they tightly hold on to conspirative approaches. By creating more propaganda and delusional perception, they attempt to re-gain that power. This side of political Islam kills and trivialise the civilian and social aspects of Islam. However, all divine religions including Islam are in essence civilian. They mainly address and give priority to human and society not to the state. Confining Islam to a territorial state and some institutional structures is restricting its realm of influence and not grasping its spirit. If individuals, families and the society become proper and virtuous, then both the state and its administrators will become wise and virtuous. As the Prophet emphasises in his saying, “You are governed however you are”; in actual Islam, human being and society are the main points of focus not the state and the government should be in the service of its individuals/the society.
If political Islamists cannot attain the ruling power, it is because, “the Zionists, or Free-Masons have prevented them.” If they attained the ruling power or rather when somehow the hindrances before reaching the ruling power are eliminated, they have achieved this despite all the efforts of their enemies to prevent them. During their reign too, they seek refuge in conspiracies and try to explain every problem with these stories. When they become unsuccessful and collapse, their excuse is ready: “Zionists, Free-Masons, foreign powers did it!” They never question their style of action, attitude or behaviour, because they are absolutely right! They never remember the verse in the Holy Qur’an, saying, “Whatever good happens to you is from God, but whatever bad happens to you is from your own self,” (‘Nisa’; 79). While displaying a self-conceited arrogance in appropriating all the success, they impute negative situations to ambiguous, imaginary power groups.
Muslims, Muslim scholars and reverends who aim to gain hearts, not the state, regime, system or power have always continued their journey in teaching, learning, representing and guiding; and they have restarted an era of restoration even at times when everything is completely destroyed, and when even not a single speck of hope is left. After the Ottoman State was demised and all the structures and institutions related to Islam were destroyed, many Islamists, including Mehmet Akif, have either left the country, or preferred to live a reclusive life inside their homes. Islamic scholars such as Badiuzzaman and Sulaiman Efendi, however, who represent the traditional school, initiated renovation and restoration movements, despite having been subjected to heavy pressures, threats and imprisonments. One strived for teaching the correct recitation of the Qur’an and the other spent all his life endeavouring to present the modern interpretation and meaning of the Qur’an.
Conspirative approaches cause pessimism, despair and disappointment in hope-craving countries and societies that are suffering from occupation or pressure. They weaken the society and the officials during occupations and foreign interventions. In reality, conspiracy theories mostly benefit the groups who are blamed by these theories rather than those who believe in them. Causing an information pollution by many different conspiracy theories and misleading blowbacks demoralises societies and prepare the minds for damaging projects. Another conspiracy story in circulation is Sabataists in Turkey. Elaborated with fearsome and apprehensive descriptions, these theories show this group of people as “mystically strong”, “invincible” and “non-confrontable”. Because of the atmosphere created by such a perception; timid, anticipating, and opportunist people in society give in and approach the power holders.
Again, because of these conspiracies, disintegration and conflicts are caused to arouse in society. By means of fabricated, untrue, ungrounded scenarios and ridiculous attitudes, genuinely loyal, philanthropic people are placed into one side of these conspiracies, then defamed and undermined. Society becomes divided and separated into sects. Individuals lose confidence in each other, even start discrediting each other. In a society which lacks mutual trust, it is nearly impossible to produce anything productive or positive. People, apprehensive of becoming subjects for accusations, yield to the lies, give up searching for the truth and cannot stand by the innocent.
The impact agents and foreign intelligence officers can easily conduct corrosive, disruptive activities in countries where conspiracy theories are widespread and they cause unrest among the people. They ignite enmities and stir up the society by taking up roles of sometimes “supporters”, and sometimes “opponents”. Conspiracy theories cause sedation and numbness in society. Because their resistance is dampened with these stories, people become submissive, while their territories are made ready for further operations.
It is a pitiful situation that the heirs of a civilisation, which had greatly contributed to the establishment of law discipline and procedures have fallen in today, by fostering opinions and judgements that are based on mere gossips and suspicion void of evidence and proof, and have indulged themselves in conspirative rumours to such an extent. In Islamic law, even when you yourself clearly know about a guilt, you may not accuse or punish a person if you cannot submit evidence or if the accused one did not admit their guilt. Muslims today, however, can easily smear and lynch an individual or a group based on even a slight rumour. Although the Holy Qur’an commands, “Avoid most suspicion, some suspicion is sinful. And do not spy on one another, nor backbite one another,” (Hujurat -The Chambers: 12), Muslims nowadays are motivated by and judge others by nearly only suspicions. Especially the events occurring in Turkey for the last couple of years cannot be explained or justified by the law and moral values brought by Islam. Prophet Muhammad says, “For a person to relate everything they hear to others is enough as a sin.” And although it is required in the Holy Qur’an that, “If a dissolute, immoral person brings you any news, investigate; lest you harm people out of ignorance and you become regretful for what you have done,” (Hujurat; 6), many Muslims today do not abide by this and as if they live with the lust of backbiting.
“Individuality of criminal responsibility” is a firm principle of both the universal law and the Islamic law. However, Islamists are quite daring in accusing some social groups as a whole without presenting any evidence or hearing any court case. Muslims must quit blaming each other with some conspiracy theories and calling each other “traitor”, “secret agent” or “enemy” and revert to the principles of law and Islam. Islamic law is very rigid about not condemning a human being based on fallacies. Today’s Muslims, however, are very salacious and carefree. Everybody is blaming everybody and continuously. Nothing good can come out from societies that make up stories of salvation, traitors, enemies and heroes from fabricated conspiracy theories; from societies that tread on air, cut out from reality, pin their hope on scenarios, rather than working and producing. As Muslims, we should first be good human beings, then good believers. We must first put ourselves into a good shape and save ourselves; save our families and those around us so that we will have a call and be a hope for humanity.
Generations raised by political Islamists are wretched; individuals are full of defects; and personalities are afflicted. However, Islamists are still claiming that they will be able to establish a strong state, a sound society and a secure future by these impaired building blocks.
We need to equip humans, establish morally sound, fair-minded family order, before we build states, systems or a world order. How can the world reach an order without having correct individuals?
The conspirative, absurd, idiotic and baseless news and commentaries of the ‘pool’ media and their writers, which appear every day, are mesmerising their readers and cutting them off from reality. Launching conspiracy scenarios to the market by the presidents, prime ministers, state officials and those who are expected to say some serious stuff, just because “they sell well” or “the public believes them” increases the number of advocates of these stories. Although the international community, academics and intellectuals are just laughing at those and do not take them seriously, conspirative interpretations are politically reciprocated by the local public and attract votes. For this reason, these fake stories are continued to be fabricated and exploited irresponsibly and loutishly by those so-called big guys.
Ascribing everything to foreign powers and so-called enemies is a sign of helplessness and exhaustion. Had the Prophet and the big states that displayed great breakthroughs not had enemies? Of course they had. But they had taken their steps by considering their foes and their stratagems and tactics. They had never sought refuge in the excuse of “having enemies”. Is it not said in the verse that, “You are responsible for your own souls. He who has strayed cannot harm you if you are guided,” (Maidah; 105).
Conspirative approach is a severe illness for Muslims and especially for the Middle Eastern people. It is a tool of self-consolation, justifying defeats, generating excuses and evading responsibility. If we will not get away from conspirative attitude and become working-producing societies whose feet stand firmly on the ground and who are well-prepared for the future, the conflicts, atrocities, civil wars and occupations will not end in this part of the world.