Conspiracy Theories are Rampant

In Islamist Internet forums, conspiracy theorists propound occult, paranoid worldviews. There was also talk of participating in the German Bundestag elections. Lennart Lehmann logged on to take a closer look

Conspiracy theories are circulating on the Internet – usually born of crisis situations in which the established value system is called into question.

​​Why are young people prepared to sacrifice their lives in suicide attacks? In their search for motives, investigators frequently find themselves helplessly looking for clues in the obscure depths of the human psyche. On the Internet, young Islamists are giving voice to paranoid worldviews rooted in bizarre conspiracy theories.

Such talk can be found in German and English Internet forums such as "Muslim-Markt," "," which has now been shut down, or "" Some of the contributors are convinced that "Muslims should get out of Germany" and that "normal citizens are being manipulated and stirred up by the media."

Other forum participants even believe that the Last Judgment is fast upon us and that George W. Bush is an "ambassador of the devil." They try to attribute current US foreign policy to President Bush's close ties with radical evangelist circles.

Death wish is nothing new

Omid Nouripour, on the federal board of Germany's green party, 'Bündnis 90/Die Grünen', does not regard this development as anything new, nor as something typical of Islamism. "Occult elements and conspiracy theories have always played a role in Islamism. The same with the death wish. Every religious dogma contains a death wish of some sort."

Some people deliberately try to elude rational argumentation by shifting the discourse into the realm of the occult:

"We must not let our clear view of the situation be clouded by the chimera of complexity. That is one of the tools of cosmopolitan corruption: paralysis through complication. This is why simplification is all too readily and frequently referred to as 'thinking in terms of black & white' whenever a statement hits a sensitive spot."

This is how one forum member underlined his contention that both the attacks of 11 September 2001 as well as those in London had been instigated by western secret service agencies in order to drive forward Anglo-American world conquest.

"The fact that the USA and Israel are behind Al-Qaida is concealed perfectly. How long do they think they can keep up this cover-up tactic?" Others put forth as argument: "Israel seems able to predict all the attacks."

And another chat participant adds ambiguously: "Today, the attacks in London are carried out right in the middle of the Muslim district. And in Egypt the perpetrators make sure that as few tourists and as many natives die as possible."

"Muslims are always to blame"

According to the forum writers, Muslims are persecuted simply for being Muslim. "Last weekend in Iraq, 150 innocent people fell victim to brutal terrorists right under the eyes of the American and British occupiers. Not even half a minute of mourning is wasted on these victims – after all, they are only Muslims and it is always their fault anyway!"

Other contemporaries also blame the West for terrorism: "Politicians like Bush and Blair attract more and more hatred from the people with every passing day. This unimaginable hatred now shared by over 95 percent of the world's population against Bush and Blair is a force to be reckoned with."

They justify the attacks by the "partisan movement" as "reactions to the many far more barbaric acts committed these days by the NATO military."

Disdain for tolerance

Social psychologists see such conspiracy theories as an attempt to vindicate one's own hostile actions. People tend to feel guilty when they behave aggressively toward others who are acting reasonably, but "a diabolical enemy is fair game."

In the forum section of the English-language website "Islamicity," one person writes: "We abjure 'tolerance.' It is the doctrine of atheists and freemasons."

Not heard in these Internet forums are the voices of distinguished intellectual Islamists such as Geneva resident Tariq Ramadan from Egypt, who remarked after the attacks in New York:

"What scares me most is that Muslims might ultimately come to feel at home in their role as victims, as if the only choices would be either to dismiss us as potential criminals or to lament us as hapless victims. We must free ourselves from these unfortunate alternatives. The horrible events compel us to exercise self-criticism in a meaningful way, and above all to stop trying to blame others. The attacks have shown just how isolated we still are, even after fifty years of presence in the West."

Loss of values

Conspiracy theories typically arise in crisis situations in which the established value system is called into question. "In our globalized world, many traditions are disappearing," says Nouripour.

"Although people contribute to this attrition by participating in consumer culture, many sense on an emotional level that their way of life is threatened. They have the feeling that they do not have an equal hand in shaping the direction the world is heading – that they have to take what comes without being able to contribute anything. They drink Coca-Cola and then turn around and say: The USA is destroying our culture. Under certain circumstances, these kinds of conflicting feelings can lead people to justify terrorism on an emotional level."

In German Islamist forums, recent discussions also focused on whether a well-respected Muslim should take part in the elections for the German Bundestag. Many noted that they were voting for the CDU: "Because all of the other parties are in favor of Turkey joining the EU. But it is of no use to us when Muslim countries are softened 'from within'."

"Just imagine Turkey as part of the EU: open borders, the right of non-Muslims to live wherever they wish, evangelist missionaries, pornography everywhere, anti-Islamic propaganda, and so forth. Is that what we want?"

By contrast, the left-wing 'Linkspartei' inspired only distrust: "I will not vote for atheists. That is the worst of all possible evils," said one forum member.

Lennart Lehmann

© 2005

Translation from German: Jennifer Taylor-Gaida

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