One of the enduring perceptions of Arabs and Muslims in the West is that of a people who fall easy victim to conspiracy theories. Books are written on how the worldview of Muslims is influenced by conspiracy theories and we are often caricatured in fiction and folktales in the West as paranoid reactionaries. As a consequence of this, whenever a Muslim mentions the word "conspiracy", eyes roll even before he is able to finish his sentence and you can almost hear the collective groan of "oh-no-not-that again" echo around the room. This reaction has become so insidious that one can even find Muslims reacting in a similar manner, as I saw among the responses we received to last week's JumahPulse.
My analysis of the unfolding events in the Arab world was dismissed by some as mere "conspiracy theory" and a suggestion was made that I might be belittling the sacrifices made by those who have died in the Egyptian protests.
So for those of you who would have glanced at the title of this article and had your groan, I ask you to bear with me so that I can set the record straight and explain my reasoning, which I did not do last week for fear of the piece becoming too lengthy.
First of all, the innocent Muslims who died in Egypt at the hands of the brutality of the Mubarak regime are undoubtedly martyrs and we pray that Allah accepts their sacrifices and grants their relatives sabran jamilan. The courage and sincerity of their actions cannot be questioned. Hosni Mubarak was a notorious dictator who plundered the country's wealth and oppressed the Egyptian people for decades. Protesting (i.e. speaking the truth) against Egypt's brutal regime (sultanun ja'ir) was, in the words of the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam), afdal al-jihad (one of the best forms of jihad). However, the response from the regime and the apparent outcome of the protests was not, as those who celebrate seem to think, a revolution. Instead, it was a conspiracy and trickery of the most wretched kind.
Of course, no one can deny that there are fictitious stories of conspiracy circulating in gossip circuits and cyberspace but we are equally obliged, as thinking rational beings, to acknowledge that we live in a world where conspiracies do exist, even in the West where four American presidents were assassinated not by accident but by conspiracies. "Watergate", "Iran-gate", "Iraq-gate" were all conspiracies and the full list is too long to detail here.
As for the Muslim world, apart the from the long list of intrigues and "great games" played out against the Arab and Muslim nations during the last two centuries, the Sykes-Picot Agreement and the Balfour Declaration are conspiracies of such magnitude that they continue to cause pain, suffering and anger in the Muslim world even today.
Every day, day after day, these two conspiracies present the consciousness of Muslims with new tragedies and frustrations. These were such notorious conspiracies that the Christian historian George Antonius described them in the following words:
"The Sykes-Picot Agreement is a shocking document. It is not only the product of greed allied to suspicion and so leading to stupidity: it also stands out as a startling piece of double-dealing." (George Antonius, The Arab Awakening, p.248, 1939).
The effect of the Balfour Declaration was no less devastating, as the same author explained: "In those parts of the Arab world which were in direct touch with the Allies, the Balfour Declaration created bewilderment and dismay, even among those who were not aware of the exact nature of the British pledges to the Arabs... The news reached Egypt first, where it soon provoked a wave of protest on the part of the Arab leaders congregated in Cairo." (George Antonius, The Arab Awakening, p.267).
The latest result of these conspiracies is that Israel, just a few days ago, used the upheaval in the Arab world to fortify its stranglehold on al-Quds al-Sharif (Jerusalem). While the news bulletins are cluttered with reports of events in Libya and elsewhere, Israel has chosen to announce the relocation of three army colleges to East Jerusalem in the hope that it would go unnoticed. Pesky Orientalists often tell Muslims to "get over it" and to stop talking about the Sykes-Picot and Balfour conspiracies but when we have to live with their consequences day after day, decade after decade, it's easier said than done. The scheming and conspiracy-mongering of these "Balfour children" are not contained within the borders of Israel.