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memri
August 16, 2017 No.
7054

Jordanian Writer: Arabs' Tendency To Believe In Conspiracy Theories Prevents Internal Reform

In his July 17, 2017 column, 'Abd Al-Hamid Al-Majjali, columnist for the Jordanian daily Al-Dustour, wrote that the Arabs tend to believe in conspiracy more than any other people in the world. He added that, although this tendency is partly justified, since the West has indeed interfered in the Arab countries and brought disasters upon them, it is irrational to apply conspiracy theories to all events occurring in the Arab world today, such as the Arab Spring revolutions. He warned that the tendency to resort to such theories harms the Arabs by thwarting any efforts of change and reform.

The following are excerpts from his article:[1] 


'Abd Al-Hamid Al-Majjali (image: Al-Dustour, Jordan)

"The Arabs seem to believe in conspiracy theories more than any other people in the world and [constantly] use them to explain events, political, social and other. Such theories are reassuring and require little mental effort. They do away with logic as long as there is some ready-made concept that can be utilized and believed at any given time and in any give place.

"History is full of [genuine] conspiracies, and what causes the Arabs to resort to conspiracy theories more than other [peoples]... is the dark history of the other, namely the West, in its relations with the Arab region. The past barbarity of the West – [barbarity] that today [takes the form of] gentler intervention in our region and hides behind false humane principles – was the reason for most of our disasters, whose repercussions are still felt today and will continue to be felt [even] in the distant future...

"Although this justifies the Arabs' penchant for conspiracy theories, it is nevertheless unrealistic and irrational to explain every event as an outcome of some foreign plot hatched in dark chambers in the West... [The tendency to] ignore the real reasons for the changes and events in our lives and blame them on others keeps us from analyzing events objectively, and thus thwarts any attempt at change or internal reform, as long as [we continue to believe that] the reason for events is the other and not our own misdeeds...

"Conspiracy theories have spread to most areas of life in our Arab world, and their proponents apply them to every event that occurs, to the point that we hear explanations that evoke derision and laughter and fly in the face of logic and common sense.

"The proponents of these theories dismiss [the notion that] the Arab peoples are capable of acting and rising up against tyranny. As far as they are concerned... the Arab Spring was a foreign conspiracy in which external forces embroiled the Arab peoples in a rebellion against their own rulers. Who [can] believe that Western intelligence [agencies] selected a police station in one of the cities of southern Tunisia and arranged with [the policemen there] to target the vendor [Muhammad] Bouazizi,[2] and later incited the people of that city to protest against police oppression, so that the protests spread to the rest of Tunisia and people rose up against the oppression of the Bin Ali regime? Wasn't that what happened? And who [can] believe that Western intelligence entered one of the homes in the [Syrian] city of Dera and encouraged some kids – who for weeks had been watching the masses chant 'the people want to topple the regime' on the satellite channels – to go out and naively scribble this slogan on a wall? Since the [Syrian] regime is foolish and oppressive, it used oppressive measures against these kids and their families and committed criminal acts – and this was the seed of the Syrian revolution. Had the Syrian regime acted wisely at that moment, nothing would have happened...

"Some people even doubt the existence of ISIS after everything that happened and is still happening, and ask where the ISIS [fighters] in Mosul have disappeared. Do you really need to ask that? They are dead and underground. They were buried without it appearing on the [television] screens. Did you see the bodies of the Iraqi soldiers who were killed by the thousands? Armies do not exhibit the bodies of [their] dead during a war. Did we see [pictures of] the Egyptian soldiers killed last week in Sinai?

"This is nonsense. It is the malady of conspiracy theories... which keeps the Arab mind from [recognizing] the accurate facts, even the most self-evident of them. True, there was foreign intervention which led the popular uprisings to be hijacked for many reasons, too numerous to list here. But it was the Arab peoples who carried out these uprisings, without anyone prompting them or conspiring [against them]... These were spontenuous revolutions that were later diverted from their original course by outside elements.

"It will be a long time before conspiracy theories are subjected to scientific and rational thought that explains events [in an objective manner], at least in the Arab region. These theories still infiltrate the Arabs' collective mind, driving out reason – and that is just one of our innumerable disasters."

 

[1] Al-Dustour (Jordan), July 17, 2017.

[2] A Tunisian street vendor who set himself on fire on 17 December 2010 after the authorities confiscated his wares. The incident was a catalyst for the Tunisian Revolution and the broader Arab Spring.