Tuesday, August 08, 2006

What Muslims want

The Channel 4 documentary show Dispatches aired a programme last night called What Muslims Want.

So what do Muslims want? Channel 4 commissioned a survey. And just like any group, they want a diversity of things. But Dispatches seemed to focus on what a disturbing minority wanted: e.g. an Islamic existence separate from British life and in some case Sharia Law in Britain. To illustrate this, women in full veils (niqab) were interviewed, crazy youths with sheets draped over their heads were interviewed, those who had turned their back on an "integrated" life and sought fundamentalism were interviewed. But hardly anyone was interviewed who said that they wanted a reasonable, integrated life. No women were interviewed who didn't "cover" (though many Muslim women don't).

Perhaps Dispatches wanted to frighten us with the extremes. Perhaps they wanted to demonstrate to the leftist chatterati that there is indeed a dangerous minority who want something that is absolutely antithetical to Western values of liberal democracy, secual law and free speech. But what they did was underpin the views of separatists, the Islamists, the fundamentalists and the radicals - by showing only their views.

I'm one of those people who believe that moderate Muslims need to speak up, but I have to wonder if sometimes they're not fully given the chance.


Dispatches did highlight the prevalence of "conspiracy theories" among British Muslims. Many believe that 9/11 was not orchestrated by Muslims or Arabs, but that it was a conspiracy between Israeli and American intelligence services.

Nearly half of Muslims appear to think that 9/11 was some kind of US Zionist conspiracy; only one in five reject entirely any kind of conspiracy theory about the bombing of the World Trade Centre. (source)

Many also believe that Princess Diana was killed because she might have married a Muslim man (that most unobservant Dodi al-Fayed). Curiously, there doesn't seem to be much doubt that British Muslims did indeed commit the London terrorist attacks on 7/7.

Now, I knew about the 9/11 conspiracy theories. Anyone with an Internet connection knows about those. But it's shocking just how pervasive it is. I was chatting with someone in the bar the other night who was absolutely convinced that 9/11 was an American-Israeli plot.

I think I rolled my eyes in response. It's laughable. I've worked with government too long to believe that kind of stuff. Screw-ups and cover-ups. Oh, yes. Absolutely. Attempts at conspiring to get one over on the rest of us (yep, remember yellow cake or the 45 minute Iraqi missiles). Sometimes. But big scale stuff? Without anybody finding eventually out and presenting definitive proof? Unlikely. And 9/11? Preposterous.

But then she said something absolutely shocking. "Then why did no Jews die in the Twin Towers?"

What?? I knew about this conspiracy theory, too - of course. But I really didn't think that someone I think of as pretty reasonable could possibly believe that for a second. "That's just not true," I said. "How do you know?" she said.

Well, of course I didn't have any death certificates stapled to synagogue membership papers, that had been sworn and notarised as belonging to same individual there with me in the bar that night. That's just not the kind of thing I carry around. But it's the kind of thing - that if true - would be absolutely un-hidable.

But it got me to thinking. How in the world are we going to come to some kind of understanding if there's a reluctance to believe the most basic facts (who was responsible for 9/11) and a willingness to believe strange conspiracy theories (no Jews died in 9/11)? What kind of evidence could shake that kind of belief. Wikipedia? Clearly not - Zionists submit information to that. Mainstream newspapers? Hardly. The entire American media is controlled by the CIA (or some murkier organisation). How about Google Answers? What would it take? Would you have to parade bereaved spouses and orphans in front of everyone who held this view?


Sam said...

I work with several very bright, well educated colleagues who are still not convinced that everything we know about 9/11 is true. For instance, they are not convinced that an airliner crashed into the side of the Pentagon (the hole was too small, no wreckage, etc). The same with the Pennsylvania crash (no wreckage). Of course, to believe in a conspiracy like this is preposterous, but these bright people have real doubts about very fundamental issues surrounding the attacks. Obviously, they aren't alone in their skepticism. But if my colleagues, enlightened American Christians, are suspicious, imagine what the rest of the developing world must think.

I have no idea what we collectively can do to fight this kind of misunderstanding of events, perhaps nothing.

Anonymous said...

We are all people of faith in something. We all believe something, no matter how baseless or absurd. It is part of the human makeup. Discovering reality is a full time job, and people have to eat, sleep, work and have fun. The only thing that we can do is give each other honest feedback, and hope for collective sense. But then, there are plenty of cases where the lone soul was closer to the truth than the group.
Mystery, paradoxes, surprizes and irony. Isn't life facinating. VM