Thursday, April 28, 2005

Do Arabs have a "conspiracy theory" complex?

"Just a few minutes' chat with a sophisticated Middle Easterner makes it clear how much he interprets great public issues through the prism of conspiracy theories. Whereas Westerners see a Syrian government long in conflict with Israel, he perceives Damascus as having surreptitiously worked hand in glove with the Jewish state since the 1960s. In his view, the Western powers built up Saddam Hussein, connived with him to put on Desert Storm, and provided him with the weapons to stay in powers after his defeat. Ruhollah Khomeiny may have appeared vitriolically anti-Western, but Middle Eastern interlocutors will claim this ayatollah served his British (or American) masters up to his death. And so forth." Daniel Pipes, The Hidden Hand, Middle East Fears of Conspiracy.

I don't like Daniel Pipes. I find him too biased against Islam (he seldom mentions anything positive about Islam or muslims). Nevertheless, I think the guy has a point: arabs are infected with what I would dare to call the "conspiracy theory complex". From the most illiterate to the most educated, from the secular to the religiously enclined thinkers, virtually each and everyone in the arab world will look for hidden explanations to our countries' successive failures, and ignore the glaringly clear and simple root causes of our backwardness. I was discussing the 9/11 attacks recently with an arab friend from the middle-east, who was still doubting that 9/11 has been perpetrated by al-Qaeda. His argument was that arabs are not so sophisticated as to carry out such a momentous operation, which required a great deal of coordination and attention to details, qualities that Arabs in general cruelly lack.

Karim: Yes, but a terrorism "expert" from the Arab world, Anis Nakkash (a lebanese who masterminded attacks himself in the 80's and who lives in hiding somewhere in the Middle East), when asked by al-Hayat about the attacks, said they were not highly technical given the relatively lax security measures in US airports prior to 9/11, and that they didn't require highly trained people. Besides, bin Laden himself endorsed the attacks and praised the attackers in his video-recordings broadcast on al-Jazeera!

Friend: Well, this doesn't mean at all that he actually did it! See, I agree with you that he probably would have done it if he could. The fact that he praised these poor middle east passengers who happened to by on these airplanes is just an attempt from him to get credit for these attacks and thus bolster his prestige in the arab world! You know how the arabs think! For them, what matters above all are heroic endeavors, of which 9/11 (to him) is a great example.

Karim: So, who do you think has dunit?

Friend: Well, you know, the intelligence agencies of the west are very good.

Karim: Sure, I am aware of that. But, so far, I haven't heard of any agency's operatives who commit suicide in order to carry out a given mission. Did anyone escape from one of these airplanes by parachute by any chance?

Friend: No, that's not what I meant. There are people who say that the airplane computers were either programmed or accessed remotely during flight in such a way as to put the airplanes in a head-on trajectory toward the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.

And there we go again... you see the picture? This was a very well educated person. No wonder that the average arab on the streets of Casablanca or Cairo will give credit to even wilder imaginations. Unfortunately, very few in the arab world will speak up and debunk all these conspiracy theories. So, I was pleased when yesterday I read an article in al-Hayat whose author had the courage to address this sickness of the arab mind. Any other articles or contributions on this topic will be most welcome!

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

An impressive little Iranian girl!

Have a look at this little Iranian girl who participated recently in a competition for the memorization of the Quran that took place in Beirut, Lebanon (note that most of the examiners are Sunni, not Shii sheikhs). And to think that there are millions of well-meaning muslims who believe that the Shia have their own version of the Quran! (Never mind the extremists who kill the Shia on a daily basis in Iraq and elsewhere on the grounds that they are "kuffar", i.e. disbelievers.)

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Ah, ces libanais!

Ils ont un sens inne des affaires, les libanais! Tout le monde connait le cas Rafik Hariri, qui d'un jeune entrepreneur de batiment dans les pays du golfe est devenu en l'espace de deux decennies l'un des plus riches milliardaires de la planete. Dans Al-Hayat d'aujourd'hui, un article sur un autre milliardaire libanais, le 4eme plus riche du monde selon Forbes Magazine.

Decidement, les libanais m'impressionneront toujours!