We love a good argument. We can debate the correct length of a beard with the best of them. We can rip into each other over whether Muslims are allowed to vote. We will accuse fellow Muslims of committing shirk and bid'ah and being kafir. We can tear ourselves apart over whether it's OK to celebrate Milad. Argument is keeping us in a perpetual fight with each other.
But nothing unites Muslims like a good conspiracy theory. The crazier the better. At the first mention of Freemasons we'll put aside differences in aqidah. We'll forget about haazir or naazir at the first hint of a subliminal message. As long as something is thrown in about how this was all foretold in the Quran and Hadith, we'll hear you out.
Tell us that America is run by Satan's minions and we'll start believing you. Tell us about how Muslims are the innocent victims in a global intrigue and we're all yours. We'll be putty in the hands of anyone who can pump out the craziest mind-numbingly weird drivel about how everyone is out to get Muslims.
This is where "The Arrivals" comes in. An eight-hour internet-based video supposedly telling Muslims that they need to wake up and realise that they are the victims of a satanic conspiracy to destroy Islam by making children watch Disney's Alladin and having Beyonce do some weird stuff in her music videos.
The Arrivals tells us how a secret group of people run the world and how they are trying to control our minds through television and other media. Symbols of their influence and power are everywhere from the Starbucks logo to those little drawings on the side of a Weetabix box. The ultimate aim of this group is to lay the foundations for the arrival of Dajjal – the false prophet who will be defeated by a united Muslim army led by prophet Isa (as) and the Imam Mahdi.
Some parts of The Arrivals have been taken down from Youtube. The film-makers are making a big deal of this because they believe that they are being censored for telling the truth. But no, that's just more of the spin and lies. Only clips that use copyrighted material have been taken down by Youtube. The film-makers have used clips from films and music videos without paying royalties. It's a copyright issue - not a heroic Muslims being suppressed by the system issue.
There are a few video clips in The Arrivals. One of the extended video clips is a dream sequence from Disney's Dumbo. Most of the “documentary” is a collage of still images of symbols taken from obscure websites, pictures of celebrities and stills from Hollywood films. This is occasionally interlaced with text slides rather than an actual narration. Any narration that is used is taken from a similar project produced a few years ago called “Shadows”.
This "documentary" has generated a craze (literally) among young Muslims. Whether on a fag break or on internet discussion forums, it's apparently what we're all talking about. And as ever, we've been adding things to the story. The makers of the film are supposedly in hiding. It's anybody's guess who they are actually hiding from. Because they quite easily came out of hiding to make their video available to the idiots at Pakistani digital channel ARY.
The film-makers claim that their documentary is based on the work of three non-Muslims – David Icke, William Cooper and Tex Marrs. David Icke believes that the Queen is a lizard in disguise. William Cooper was an American militiaman intent on overthrowing the US government. Tex Marrs is an extremist Christian who likes nothing better than to accuse other Christians of “going Jew”. Hardly the kind of people who have in interest in saving Islam and Muslims from the “global masonic conspiracy”. Truth is, these people are out pushing their own paranoid view of the world. But just because they don't like their own governments does that mean that we can start mixing their views with revelations from Islam?
The only Muslim scholars who are mentioned as inspirations for the The Arrivals are Imran Hossein and Hamza Yusuf. Imran Hossein regularly speaks about the Dajjal and the end of times. But you won't hear him talking about lizards in disguise like David Icke does or taking up arms to defend the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms like William Cooper did. Hamza Yusuf has made no endorsement of The Arrivals and his message of spirituality and political engagement is at odds with the freakish paranoia of this “documentary”. So, here we have the crazy political opinions of British and American conspiracy theorists mixed in with the views of Muslim scholars.
Islam has a narrative about the end of the world. Life on earth is only temporary and we will return to Allah (swt) to be judged for our conduct. The Ahadith tell of several signs that will herald the end of the world. These signs include the arrival of false prophets and the arrival of the Imam Mahdi. However, there is disagreement among scholars about the interpretation of these signs and whether or not some have already occurred. But what The Arrivals does is mix together Islamic and Christian ideas of the end of the world. What we are left with is something that could make sense but actually contradicts Islamic teachings.
Yes, the end times are near. They always have been. We are always getting closer to the end. The end of our jobs, the end of our lives, the end of everything. But should we have to rationalise our politics with the end times at the forefront of our thoughts? Life is too short to be thinking about the end of the world. When it happens, you won't be able to do anything about it. No matter how many of the 50 depressing episodes of The Arrivals you manage to watch or however many people you share this "well-proper knowledge" with. Instead, be a better Muslim. Use the Quran and Hadith to better yourself rather than let it be mixed in with such crazy conspiracy stuff.
There are more immediate things that affect you than Satan's minions paving the way for the arrival of the anti-Christ. Drugs are destroying Muslim communities more than Beyonce's dance moves. If you want to save Muslims from Dajjal then tackle the drug dealers who are peddling their poison on your doorstep to your children. An honest living is more important for most Muslims than Mickey Mouse cartoons. Help your fellow Muslims get a good education and a good job. That will raise us from our slumber. Forget David Icke. Listen to Salma Yaqoob if you want empowerment and political strength.
The Quran and Hadith should not be fodder for fuelling our political ignorance. We should be better Muslims as a result of the lessons we learn from reading the Quran and following the Hadith. Yet here we are mixing the tenants of our faith with the insane ramblings of old non-Muslim men sitting in their pyjamas typing out onto the internet whatever comes into their heads.
We all have a need to rationalise what is happening in the world around us. We want to understand it and be able to handle what it throws at us. But that should not lead us to believe whatever we see or read on the internet or allow our religion to be mixed in with whatever racist, paranoid and prejudiced narrative appeals to our most basic levels of thought. We should think for ourselves and not rely on David Icke or Tex Marrs to tell us that we should be afraid, very afraid.
We know that the Quran is the word of Allah (swt). We know that it is relevant for all time. But we don't need to have it mixed into a Youtube video with dramatic music and a scary voice over to appreciate it's significance.
The Arrivals does not use purely Islamic sources and is heavily influenced by radical non-Muslims. It is a hodge-podge of emotive images, dramatic music and disconnected narratives of various ideas about the end-of-days. It is more of a schizophrenic conspiracy theorist's wet dream than a serious documentary. This film should not be taken seriously as a source of information on Dajjal, Imam Mahdi or the place of Muslims in world politics.