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Conspiracies, Anyone? No, Thanks!

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By Farooq Sulehria

In the wake of the London bombings, as was the case after September 11, conspiracy theories are making the rounds. An Associated Press report, later retracted, is being widely quoted. According to it, Scotland Yard warned the Israeli Embassy in London only minutes before the explosions of July 7. Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in town to address an economic conference in a hotel over one of the attacked underground stations. He did not leave his room.

The Israeli government denied it had been forewarned. But it could not explain why Netanyahu did not leave his room. Then, Netanyahu said that Scotland Yard did indeed warn the Israeli Embassy -- something that Scotland Yard denies. The Israelis then said Netanyahu was warned only after the first blast.

Building on the AP report, Asia Times stringer Pepe Escobar informs: "According to Russian intelligence reports, there was frantic telephone traffic between the Israeli Embassy and the US immediately before the bombings."
Escobar also finds the translation of the London claim as "nothing less than dodgy" and says "they even misquoted the Koran." He thinks, "Al-Qaeda would have caused much more economic havoc by going for the financial centre (the City of London), the commercial centre (Oxford Street) and the modern Jubilee Line," instead of Liverpool Street, Edgware Road and Kings Cross, where the bombings took place.

Similarly, questions were raised shortly after the September 11 attacks. One popular theory goes that Israeli and Jewish workers at the World Trade Centre had been warned of the attacks, and a large number did not attend work that day.

Such theories are often hard to believe simply because they are not provable. But these theories are also hard to dismiss. They find a wide audience since conspiracy theories offer refuge or escape from harsh realities. It is because, like fiction, they make something out of nothing. It is the simplistic know-all answer for those who prefer easy, even if untrue, answers. Like religion, they are explanations for the inexplicable. Often irrational, conspiracy theories, however, hardly survive science, real investigation or time.

True, there are conspiracies hatched by certain powerful circles. Otherwise, John F. Kennedy would have served his whole term, Liaquat Ali Khan would have finished his speech at the Rawalpindi rally. But assigning all powers to some all-powerful cabal that is out of everybody's reach is lulling the masses to sleep and enhancing their sense of disempowerment.

Take, for instance, the case of September 11 and the London bombings. Confronted with complicated situations, many Muslims are taking refuge behind some kind of conspiracy theory. They refer to the absence of thousands of Jewish workers from the World Trade Centre that day. No proof is sought to actually verify if Jews in such a big number were indeed missing from work on September 11. There is no proof, by the way.
Secrecy is the quintessence of conspiracy. No one questions: how secrecy was maintained involving thousands of Jews (among them non-believers, communists, liberals, anti-Zionists, anti-Israeli). Above all, Israel is not so stupid as to risk attacking the USA, its brazen supporter, especially when there remains the big possibility that investigations might reveal the culprit.

The same applies to the London bombings: Israel -- no doubt cruel, but no goof either -- cannot take the risk of attacking London when investigations might unmask the real perpetrator. Yet another oft-repeated argument is: "Look! Who has benefited?" It is George Bush and Tony Blair who are the beneficiaries of the terrorist attacks on 9/11 and 7/7. No doubt. But in view of their countries' open societies, only fools will hatch such conspiracies. Remember Watergate?

In fact, subscribing to conspiracy theories in case of September 11 and the London bombings is tantamount to absolving Osama bin Laden and the Bush-Blair duo of their crimes. A conspiracy theory suits both camps since it lends credence to al-Qaida while distracting attention from the occupation of Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine.
Even if September 11 and the London bombings were the products of sinister conspiracies, the real threats facing the world remain: militants orchestrating violence in the name of Islam on the one hand, and the occupation of Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine, on the other.

Furthermore, even if these acts were an outcome of certain conspiracies, it does not render al-Qaida and its subsidiaries innocent. Bin Laden is no Gandhi. The Muslim world has seen its own share of violent crimes, in Afghanistan, Bali, Egypt, Pakistan, Morocco, Somalia and Turkey. At least, the suicide attacks on mosques in Pakistan cannot be ascribed to a Yahud o Hanud (Jewish-Hindu) lobby. This is a homemade curse.
The world, in fact, is neither run through conspiracies nor changed through them. Conspiracies exist, but as one of the tactics to further political agendas. Wars and occupations are an extension of politics by violent means. The ultimate power to run and change the world remains in the hands of the masses. More than anyone else, Muslims need to realise that conspiracy theories are in the end merely "the opiate of the masses".

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