Posts Tagged ‘Conspiracy’


Anti-Intellectualism as a Pillar of the Tinfoil Turbanist

In General Discussion on March 10, 2013 by tinfoilturban Tagged: , , , , , , , , ,

Bismillah iRahmen iRaheem

Asalaamu Alaykum Wa Rahmetullahi Wa Bareketahu,

I hope this finds you all well ๐Ÿ˜€

I have been noticing lately than an antipathy towards intellectual endeavour forms a central foundation of the understandings that we have been talking about in this blog. In my interactions with my brothers and sisters in Islam I have found that in general there is a large degree of respect paid towards the Ulema; the scholars. The religious reasons behind this are a multitude and I won’t go into them here but the central point is that for the average believer, the instinctual response to a question about the religion is to seek out a scholar.

This is not simply a trait of the lay Muslim, but also the scholars themselves. In one class the Sheikh was asked a question that was pertinent to a particular topic to which he did not claim extensive knowledge, his reply was an unhesitating ‘I don’t know, but you should ask fulan fulan’.

Being the sons and daughters of Adam, we naturally live in a state of varied and vast ignorance. We may know one or two things, we may even know a large amount of things, but we will never Know, as He does. We must then, by absolute necessity, be willing to admit the gaps in our knowledge. This is not simply a sign that one is intellectually consistent, but to do otherwise seems to me as something of a rebellion against the reality of the religion itself.

The wearer of the Tinfoil Turban, even if never stooping to such outright rebellion, rides a unicycle around the edges. Be it medicine, science, politics, history or any other subject which has its scholars, the Tinfoil Turbanist will reject the possibility that those scholars know something they don’t. There is the keen assertion that the intellectual endeavour of not only an individual but often an entire discipline, is second to their own knowledge of the topic at hand, however cursory their education in it.

There are a number of different ways that this anti-Intellectualism manifests itself;

1. The home grown theorist. This individual’s Tinfoil headgear is wholly self constructed. A home grown theorist decides that the scholars in whatever discipline have gotten it wrong. Perhaps they believe that the whole system of scholarship is rotten, root to branch. Maybe they believe that if they educate themselves within the system, it will corrupt them. They may even believe that a conspiracy exists to silence anything but their incoherent YouTube manifestos…

Regardless, they feel that the best way to respond is to start from scratch. Whether they have to hand a perpetual motion machine or have discovered the real history of the world, they know for certain that those who possibly dedicated their life to study of a subject have missed what their layman’s enquiry has laid bare.

2. The fringe follower. The fringe follower is not themselves the one taking the fight to the scholars, it is another whom they follow. Be they a discredited doctor with fraudulent studies or a conspiracy theorist sans research, their ‘expert’ will be the only one they accept. This is, I guess, a step up from the home grown theorist, for this person at least attributes authority to someone other than themselves. The contempt for ‘experts’ is now given an exception in the form of a single expert, whose claims they likely will not have independently verified.

3. The ancient wisdom. Scholarship may have moved on long ago, but to the wearer of this Tinfoil headwrap, you wouldn’t know. It is possible they think Freud had it right, and ‘new’ Psychology is jibber jabber. Maybe they think the real medicine was with Aristotle, Francis Bacon’s last name is haraam! The contempt for intellectual endeavour now moves from an individual expert to a bunch of former, probably long dead, experts. This happens in a range of different disciplines, from farming to medicine, where the changes in the understandings of the scholars are frozen at a specific point and taken as gospel. This kind of Tinfoil Turbanist must completely ignore the critiques of the New School, in order to maintain the coherence of the Old.

4. Fight the Power/to the people. This type of Tinfoil Turbanist reverses the trend, it isn’t dead theorists now, nor is it a fringe expert, rather the scholarship they take faith in is that of those who are not scholars. This is a common tactic in Australian politics, the most blatant appeal to anti-intellectualism. Essentially the authority lays with the lay people, for the scholars are too educated, too removed from the real world (whatever that means). This could manifest itself as a privileging of ‘a mother’s wisdom’ over a medical professional, or an appeal to the ‘common sense of the people’ in contrast to academics in their Ivory Towers. It is an interesting appeal to populism and one that I have been coming across relatively frequently.

These four are the main characters, and, despite being relatively mutually exclusive, may well be found in the same individual.

Of course these classifications come with some caveats. To start with there is a distinction between following a minority opinion within scholarship and privileging a fringe position. Difference amongst scholars is the norm in any discipline, and thus schools with mutually exclusive claims arise. There is a gaping chasm between following the Shafii madhab and following some brother that had a dream he was the Mahdi and has come to abrogate the Sacred Law. The former retains a respect for scholarship, a respect for ones ignorance, the latter much less so.

The Mahdi analogy certainly follows though. One finds within these movements a kind of Messianic quality, that sense of an abrogation of established authority, of the norms of the world. One can certainly understand the appeal! Indeed we know well that once in a while there have been those whose revolutionary claims have rung true, and they have come and become the law themselves. However ‘once in a while’ remains the operative term.

Importantly, the authority of Prophethood was backed up with a range of things. It was not simply an appeal to authority and neither is this argument. At the core of a respect for scholarship is the acceptance that the collective work of learned individuals has fundamental value, and that challenging such a thing requires at least a comparable level of knowledge. This collective scholarship can and is wrong, but that in itself lends no credibility to a challenger who has even less weight behind them. Galileo was right because he was right, not because he challenged authority.

When challenged on fringe beliefs you will find yourself constantly confronted with a claim that the person presenting them has intellectual courage, that they are a free thinker, someone who looks outside the box. However when a person unlearned in any particular field is unable to accept their lack of knowledge, and, from that position of ignorance makes wild claims, it speaks to something else. An inability to accept one’s ignorance does not speak to intellectual courage, it rather points towards arrogance at worst and deep ignorance at best, usually it seems an unpleasant combination of the two.

Scholarship may be flawed, but forced to choose between that and the above, I’ll usually go with ‘those who know’ over those who think they know better!

And Allah Knows Best.



The Distinction between Skepticism and Paranoia

In General Discussion on July 20, 2011 by tinfoilturban Tagged: , , , , , , ,

Bismillah iRahmen iRaheem

Asalaamu Alaykum Wa Rahmetullahi Wa Baraketahu ๐Ÿ™‚

Insha’Allah this finds you all well! As the title hints at, today I wish to discuss the distinction between be a skeptic and being paranoid. This distinction I will illustrate through two examples, one is past and the other is occurring at the moment.

The first incident occurred in the Ukraine, and received widespread coverage. It was a story that a number of Muslim youths had stoned a 17 year old girl for appearing in a beauty contest. It was reported in various news outlets, both in the Ukraine and later throughout the world. Now I was immediately skeptical of the story, not only because the idea of someone being stoned for entering into a beauty contest, when no Sheikh I have come across has ever cited an example of a hadud punishment for lack of hijab, but also because I had never heard of any similar extrajudicial punishments occurring in the Ukraine.

Another thing that sparked my skeptical senses was the fact that the story quoted no police sources, only quoting local media. So, long story short, it turned out that my suspicions were confirmed. The uncritical repetition of the story in the local media had led to a beat up. The actual story turned out to be no less horrific. A boy at the girl’s school had an obsession with her and appears to have raped her and then bludgeoned her to death with a rock. He was known to have a history of mental illness. He also happened to be Muslim, but was not affiliated with any extremist groups and the police stated that religion apparently played no role in the crime.

Now what this highlights is that, in some media sources, there is a tendency to err on the side of sensationalism, rather than accuracy. This exists in general, but is significantly the case with ‘Muslim stories’. Another example of this bias would be a drive by on a Perth Mosque during ramadan, where a shot hit the sisters section, passing over the heads of the women and children who were in sujud (prostration). This story was not reported in the local papers. What was reported however was a story about a bank in the UK removing piggy banks for fear of offending Muslims. Now you and I would both be skeptical of such a story, and again, it would be warranted. The story was false.

Now there is an important line to draw here. Pointing out that some media outlets have this bias is distinct from having a conspiracy theory about all media outlets. It is also distinct from the assumption that the story itself is created by those media outlets, rather than there being selective or inaccurate reporting. Never assume malice, when you can assume incompetence.

So the second example is occurring right now, here in Sydney. To summarise the story, I will quote a brother of mine: ‘Bearded vigilantes breaking in to implement hudud, by themselves, in a non-Muslim state at 1am in the morning!’. Essentially, it seems a strong possibility that a group of individuals broke into the house of a new convert who had apparently gone out drinking, and whipped him. Now, to say that this is in contravention to the idea of the Sha’riah in pretty much every sect or jurisprudence system I have ever encountered, is to state the obvious.

So I am instinctively skeptical, however this skepticism, by definition, cannot rule out the possibility that it did occur as reported. To be blunt, I will reserve my judgement on the case, until all the details come out. Some people have been less cautious. The implication of many of the posts I have seen, on facebook and elsewhere, is to imply a conspiracy. The support or evidence offered for this conspiracy are incidents like my previous examples, which is where we draw the line.

Yes some of the media have a bias, no this doesn’t constitute proof that they are out there making incidents to report, or specifically breaking into converts houses and whipping them. Thinking something is a bit fishy, should be distinct from paranoia.

Again, I hope this finds you all in the best of health and iman, keep me in your dua insha’Allah ๐Ÿ˜€


The Truth about ‘the Jews’.

In Specific Discussion on May 21, 2011 by tinfoilturban Tagged: , , , , , , , ,

Bismillah iRahmen iRaheem

Asalaamu Alaykum Wa Rahmetullahi Wa Baraketahu ๐Ÿ˜€

โ€˜History does not repeat itself, but it rhymes[1]โ€™ is a quote that ran through my head when I read over some old notes of mine today. I was reading a polemic by a German author about the evils of the Jews and I found myself replacing โ€˜the Jewsโ€™ with โ€˜the Muslims’ and then re-reading. This was not because I am particularly fond of discrimination, but rather because if one had have made that substitution, the altered article would not have looked out of place on any anti-Muslim website.

What they said about the Jews then, they say about us now. They are a fifth column. Their loyalty is to their religion, not the state. They are part of a conspiracy to Judaize/Islamisize Christian society. They killed Jesus[2].

Okay, maybe not the last one.

The history of the Jewish community in Europe is rife with conspiracy theories that swirled around them, forgeries like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and viscious accusations. They were plotting, always plotting, seeking to undermine the good Christian states of the day. They were deceitful and you could never know their true allegience.

The truth of the matter was nothing so sinister. Jewish communities in Europe varied from semi-autonomous units within society to being subsumed by the greater culture. This was especially the case in Germany, where many Jews converted to Christianity and adopted German culture absolutely. The Jewish communities in Europe were widely persecuted, banned from wearing certain types of clothes, and through discrimination as much as anything else, were often forced to live in ghettos.

The connection between different Jewish communities throughout Europe was such that these links were ripe for the conduct of trade. This led to many Jewish communities being quite wealthy. However the flip side of this was that such wealth never translated to political power. When the state needed money, and wanted to take it from a community no one cared about, they turned to the Jews.

Now Iโ€™m sure that no one out there would claim that we Muslims are in some great position of influence in Western societies. One would be rare to find a Muslim claiming any conspiratorial stranglehold on the reins of power. Yet it is disturbingly common that people attribute a similar thing to the Jews, who, like us, โ€˜the Muslimsโ€™, become some monolithic identity in the eyes of the ignorant.

If we do not incline towards believing the conspiracies about ourselves, why do we incline towards believing those about others?

Now I am aware that this new found love of Jewish conspiracies does not occur in a vacuum. The creation of the state of Israel for many indicates the greatest aspect of the nefarious Zionist conspiracy. However any decent look at the history of Zionism will show that the Western states were hardly unwilling puppets in a Zionist plot. The United States for example often was on the other side of disputes between the Arabs and the new Jewish state. Similarly the reason that the Zionist movement had to resort to terrorism against the Brits was based in the fact that the British were no more likely to honour the promises they made to the Zionists as they were to honour the promises they made to the Hashemite Arab leaders.

A second important distinction here is that political influence does not equal conspiracy. Saudi Arabia has political influence in the United States, at least on some level. So does the United Kingdom and even Australia. Does this equal a conspiracy? No. The same is true of Israel. That the United States often sides with Israel has far more to do with shared interests in the region than some shadowy Jewish new world order.

We should not be blinded by the political stance we find ourselves taking on the Falastin issue. One can support the Palestinians in their struggle and reject the ideology of Zionism, without falling headfirst into tinfoil turbanist conspiracies about Zionist plots and the evils of the Jews. Such things damage us more than they help us. The fact that Judaism and Zionism are put forth as inseparable is part of the problem, encouraging this gets us nowhere, nor does believing in unsupported conspiracy theories.

In looking at our fellow Ahlul Qitab, we must take the lessons we can. The Jews in Europe managed to on the whole maintain their religion and their culture despite almost constant pressure by states far less liberal than the ones we live in. What is that if not an example for us? We need to avoid falling for the same tactics that are used against us and be sceptical about the kind of conspiracies that if they were describing Muslims we would laugh and mock.

I hope you are all in the best of health and faith ๐Ÿ˜€

[1] Attributed to Mark Twain, though not verified.

[2] Alayhis Salaam


Media Fallibility and OBL

In Specific Discussion on May 18, 2011 by tinfoilturban Tagged: , , , , , , ,

Bismillah iRahmen iRaheem

Asalaamu Alaykum Wa Rahmetullahi Wa Bareketahu ๐Ÿ˜€
Waking for dhuhr on the Monday of the 2nd of May, I was witness to the unfolding news barrage that surrounded the killing of Osama bin Laden. I then began to brace myself for the coming onslaught.

One of the things that I have learnt is that the birthing place of many a conspiracy is the early coverage of an event. The speculations flew left and right, on Facebook, forums and the blogosphere. As we know, speculation and conspiracy stand hand in hand.

If one asks a Muslim what one of our most common sins are, they are likely to answer that backbiting and slander are pretty high up on the list. I have lost count of the number of talks I have attended upon which ‘guarding one’s tongue’ is the primary focus. One of the many wisdoms behind the prohibition of speculative speech about another person is that if you hear something from somebody else, about somebody else, it is probably wrong. The same is true of much of that which follows a breaking news story.

One can find that as the story progressed, the reports swung wildly, first Osama bin Laden was killed while hiding behind his wife, then he was hiding behind a woman, then another man was killed using a woman as a human shield and finally a woman was killed in the cross fire. Especially in the early moments of a story, information is scarce, and the news media are far from above speculation. Unfortunately, this gives rise to many reports which are later shown to be wildly inaccurate. The sceptical mind looks upon such things as a natural function of the media, who are after all, not God, and more than capable of error. It is in this error and wild inaccuracies lay the roots of many a conspiracy theory.

A prime example of this would be the oft cited 9/11 conspiracy theory that one of the hijackers was alive and well, days after the 9/11 attacks. This is based upon a news report focussing upon a single person, who shared a name with one of the people identified as a hijacker. Despite the article being later corrected, and the story being shown to be a mistake, the misconception remains.

The same is often true of other conspiracies, things like UFO reports and other strange phenomena are reported uncritically by some sources, and then later adopted by conspiracy theorists as proof. What this all highlights is that the sceptic must be wary of the dangers of uncritically accepting news reports, especially when they occur moments after an event. A proper evaluation of an incident only comes with time. The best approach is to remain patient and reserve judgement until more is known about an incident. It is an unwise person who jumps to conclusions before all the facts are known.

My apologies for the short post and the lateness in posting, I have been busy over the last few weeks and I thought I should type something up before motivation departs entirely. Keep well insha’Allah.



In Introduction on April 1, 2011 by tinfoilturban Tagged: , , , , , , , ,

Bismillah iRahmen iRaheem

Asalaamu Alaykum Wa Rahmetullahi Wa Bareketahu ๐Ÿ˜€


The spawning of this blog represents the accumulation of my years within the Muslim community, and will initially undoubtedly mainly contain my frustrations and no short amount of ranting. So I apologize in advance.

I love our Ummah, but sometimes we seem to shoot ourselves in the foot. We are presented with a myriad of problems as a world community, Muslim countries are riddled with problems of poverty, corruption and social injustice. Our nations are occupied, our people exploited and the access of the generality to justice in politics and the law severely limited.

Yet, amongst all these issues, we seem to focus upon a few things, none of them important. If it is not Nike making shoes with the name of Allah on the soles, it is the Jews spreading Mosque confusion propaganda. So the purpose of this blog is to call to sagacity, for, as I was told upon my conversion ‘sagacity leads to Allah’.

The intended audience of this blog is you brother, you sister, you frustrated sceptical Muslim or convinced Tinfoil Turbanist. I want to look into these apparent conspiracies and confusions that riddle our community’s understanding of the world and ask if they are truly what we should be worried about.

In this I should probably give my background. I am a 24 year old Muslim from Sydney, Australia. My given name is Will, and a few people choose to call me Zahir. I have studied History and Politics, and continue to do so.

When it comes to justifying the tagline of my blog, ‘the Ravings of a Sceptical Muslim’ I will say this; the tagline is not oxymoronic. In this dunya (the contingent reality we experience) a Muslim can take a sceptical approach. In fact in many ways my stance is driven by my understanding of Muslim ideas of knowledge.

The Messenger of God (sullAllahu alayhi wasalaam) frequently tells the believers to seek knowledge, to seek wisdom.

‘Seek knowledge, even if it takes you to China’

‘Seeking knowledge is an obligation upon every Muslim’[1]

It is my understanding that in this sense as Muslims we should avoid holding beliefs about the world which are not only demonstratively extremely unlikely, but that actually harm us as a community. It is with the intent to uphold this that this blog begins. I pray that I am given success in this, I testify that there is nothing worthy of worship save Allah, and I send peace and blessings upon our Master Muhammed, His final slave and Messenger. And Allah knows Best

[1] These hadith have different gradings according to different scholars, my point in quoting them is as a general impetus I have understood, rather than some foolish attempt to make a statement upon the law, which is beyond me. I am no scholar and please never take me as otherwise. I will attempt to refrain from making any stances on sectarian issues in this blog, as that is not its purpose, but for the purpose of disclosure, I am a Sunni Traditionalist, I follow the Shafi’i Madhab and Ashari Aqidah.