Kathy Shaidle

Tin Foil Turbans: The 6 Stupidest Conspiracy Theories that Millions of Muslims Believe

Posted on November 7 2010 11:00 am
Kathy Shaidle blogs at FiveFeetOfFury, now entering its 11th year online. Her latest book is Acoustic Ladylandkathy shaidle, which Mark Steyn calls "a must-read."

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“But the biggest problem with conspiracy theories is that they keep us not only from the truth but also from confronting our faults and problems. …This way of thinking relates any given problem to external elements, and thus does not [lead] to a rational policy to confront the problem. He who speaks of ghosts [as the reason behind any given problem] can do nothing to solve it.”

“Anyone, who adopts the conspiracy theory becomes so helpless that he ends up surrendering or committing suicide. The thinking of conspiracy theorists shifts between surrender and suicide, between helplessness and passivity, between negligence and failure.”

Dr. Abd Al-Mun’im Sa’id, 1999

During the Q&A at Mark Steyn’s recent “controversial” speech burlesque song-and-dance routine (no, really…) in London, Ontario, a young man rose to ask Steyn a question.

“I am Iranian,” he began — leading our gang ensconced in “bloggers row” to turn in unison to the Iranian ex-pat in our group for his verdict. After the questioner got out another sentence, our friend rolled his eyes and muttered, “Idiot…”

The Iranian up at the mic had asked a reasonable question about how much the U.S. had armed Iraq before they decided Iraq was their enemy and invaded them. (Steyn’s answer: according to a Stockholm “peace research institute”, only 1% of arms sales to Iraq since the 1970s had come from America. Most came from France and Germany. Ooops.)

What came next led everyone else in the hall to roll their eyes.

Just as, in the famous phrase of Abba Eban, “The Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity,” it seems that Muslims never miss an opportunity to toss out some pointless, idiotic conspiracy theory.

In this case, Steyn’s questioner was particularly agitated about the “fact” that Saddam Hussein had once been awarded the “key to the city of Kansas City.” To this young man, this naturally proved conclusively that… well, I’m not sure, but Steyn managed to get some comic mileage out of it.

As it turns out (and this too is typical), the Iranian questioner was half-right about the facts, and wrong about his conclusions. According to Wikipedia and other sources, Saddam Hussein was honored with the Freedom of the City of Detroit — write your own jokes in the comments — for donating a huge sum to a local church.

I think it was Canadian journalist Robert Fulford who called conspiracy theories “history for stupid people.” Given the level of illiteracy in the Muslim world, this is as good an explanation as any for why millions of Muslims, even “educated: ones, believe crazy stuff. I recently heard Canadian Muslim author Tarek Fatah relate stories of his latest visits to the Middle and Near East; he said he was most often regaled with 9/11 “troother” nonsense by relatively wealthy Pakistanis with university degrees.

Of course, the unpleasant fact is that the Muslim world has been in decline for centuries. Since this decline contradicts their self-image as a superior people, there must be some other explanation for their backwardness. Conspiracy theories provide that explanation, while short circuiting the very self-criticism that international Islam desperately needs to get itself out of its hole.

It’s easy to laugh at these conspiracy theories, and maybe watch Jesse Ventura’s new show about them, “just for laughs.” However, as memorably laid out in one of my favorite books — The Cost of Deception: The Seduction of Modern Myths and Urban Legends, by John A. Williams — conspiracy theories, far from being harmless fun, actually pollute the public square. Misinformation undermines civil society by making trust in one’s fellow man a mug’s game. Paranoid cynicism becomes the default “sophisticated” worldview.

Indulging in conspiracy theories isn’t healthy, whether or not those indulging are on the right or the left.  And when those theories are being spread by millions of people who have the potential and the will, to kill, they can be fatal.

And now, on to the 6 stupidest conspiracy theories that millions of Muslims believe:

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