By Irfan Jalil
This is an online exclusive article added to the website for Issue 14.
From the death of Jesus and World War I to the death of Tupac and 9/11, Jews get the blame for anything that goes wrong and everything that is bad. It's as if they control the world and whatever they say goes. All perfectly plausible you might think. But this idea that a group of people secretly plot major events and manipulate political happenings from behind the scenes is called a conspiracy theory.
Conspiracy theories about Jews are often pushed by far-right racist groups and such theories have gone up since September 11th 2001. However, since 9/11 conspiracy theories about another group of people have also gone up. This new group of people follow a "medieval belief" which "oppresses women" and seeks to "enslave the world". Who are these new dark overlords? Why, it's Muslims!
Whilst we have our irrational fears about Jews, other people seem to be developing irrational fears about us. Muslims now find themselves in the same boat as Jews. Muslims are blamed for wars, the collapse of Christianity and are accused of wanting to enslave all non-Muslims. Hmm… It's as if conspiracy theories about Jews have been recycled and applied to Muslims.
So, what's the truth behind all this? Is it Jews or is it Muslims who are the secret evil rulers of the world?
Conspiracy theories are often based on prejudice, racism and ignorance and are supported by forgeries, half-truths and lies. They can give the illusion that you are being informed and educated but in reality conspiracy theories are used to divide people and pit one group of people against another.
Jews have been accused of allsorts for almost two thousand years. It is alleged that Jews killed Jesus, poisoned wells and killed Christian children to make flat bread. Many of these tales started out among European Christians. Jews were a minority in Europe and had few rights. Conspiracy theories gave Europeans an excuse for persecuting Jews and eventually kicking them out of Europe.
Today Jews are accused of "making up" the Holocaust and plotting to control the world. However, today there are also conspiracy theories about Muslims. Minor stories in tabloid newspapers fit into a bigger theory about Muslims wanting to take over Europe and destroy Christianity.
Newspaper stories about Muslims wanting to ban Christmas (Daily Express), Muslims spreading diseases (Sun), and al Qaeda operatives in the police (Daily Mail) support some people's views that Muslims want to impose "Islamo-fascism" on Europe and turn all non-Muslims into their slaves.
The internet is full of conspiracy theories about Muslim infiltrating European and American governments and destroying Western civilisation from the inside. Apparently all Muslims are terrorists and they're just waiting for the right moment to take over.
Muslims themselves are not immune to believing conspiracy theories either. "9/11 was an inside job", "the Holocaust didn't happen", "the media is run by Jews" and "they're out to get us" are phrases which are not uncommon among Muslims.
To say that 9/11 was an inside job is to say that George Bush is clever enough to have done it and to have gotten away with it. In all honesty, you and I both know he's not that bright. He almost choked to death on a pretzel. An evil genius he ain't. What's more, 9/11 was a serious failure on the part of the US government. They are to blame for not preventing the attacks. But if people focus on conspiracy theories nothing will be done to hold the government accountable for its failings.
Almost twelve million people, including six million Jews, were killed by the Nazis during World War II. But today you get people who say "not that many people died" or that "it didn't even happen". Shaykh Hamza Yusuf urges people who deny the Holocaust to look at the evidence: "Tens of thousands of Jewish and other individuals who survived the death camps and other horrors of Nazi Germany lived to tell of it. Nazis were brought to trial, evidence was presented in court, and they were convicted. Mass graves were found, and gas chambers were discovered, which were clearly not delicing rooms as some callously claimed." 
There might be a lot of Jews working for media organisations but does that mean they "run" the media? There are a lot of women in the media – do they "run" the media? The media has a massive impact on public opinion. But if we believe that it's all run by the Jews and is out to get Muslims then we won't be able to use the media to benefit us and project positive images of Islam and Muslims.
So, Rupert Murdoch, a Jew, owns the Sun, the Times, and Fox News. These media outlets are pro-Israel and they regularly report false anti-Muslim stories as fact. Aside from the fact the Rupert Murdoch isn't actually a Jew, just because a media outlet is often anti-Muslim doesn't mean it is anti-Muslim because it's run by Jews.
Prejudice and ignorance is something we all share. To be prejudiced against Muslims doesn't mean it's because you're a Jew. You can be prejudiced because you don't know any better or maybe because you haven't had any good experiences of the people you are suspicious of. If we started having good opinions of others, others would have good opinions of us. If we saw the humanity in others, they would see the humanity in us.
What's more, if you find yourself denying the Holocaust and saying that Jews run the media, then you find yourself agreeing with the likes of the BNP.
Also, are they really "out to get" us? If so, who is "they"? Isn't this just a way of getting out of making an effort to educate ourselves about the world around us and deal with issues such as extremism, gangs and deprivation? Rather than be paranoid we need to be informed, engaged and actively making a positive difference in our own lives and our local communities.
The world is a complicated place and conspiracy theories provide an easy way of getting around this complexity. Conspiracy theorists bend reality to suit their own ends and cut themselves off from anything that challenges them. But this is not to say that people don't plot and conspire and that governments don't keep secrets from their publics. They do. But this does not mean that there is a grand plan to oppress and enslave the world drawn up by Jews, Muslims or Freemasons. Nor does it mean that ET didn't go home or that Bruce Lee is still alive.
Conspiracy theories also hold people back from progress. Abdal Hakim Murad says that Muslim leaders don't understand modernity and its intricacies and so "they burble on about the 'International Zionist Masonic Conspiracy', or 'Baha'ism', or the 'New Crusader Invasion', or similar phantasms. If we want to understand why so many Islamic movements fail, we should perhaps begin by acknowledging that their leaders simply do not have the intellectual grasp of the modern world". 
If we then go in for conspiracy theories that reveals more about us than it does about the people we are making accusations against. Rather than engage and try to challenge injustices and wrongs some people prefer to sit around and think up elaborate conspiracy theories. By thinking more and more elaborately people believe they are making a difference. In fact conspiracy theories have little or no positive outcome and prevent people from getting involved in activism, politics and community organisations.
Nor does believing conspiracy theories help when we try to challenge stereotypes about Islam and Muslims. How can we explain to people that Muslims gave the world astronomy, algebra and hospitals when we believe that a fizzy pop logo backwards looks dodgy? You can't do it with a straight face.
In the Quran Allah (swt) says:
Say: "Nothing will happen to us except what Allah has decreed for us: He is our protector": and on Allah let the Believers put their trust.
Everything that happens, whether it seems good or bad, happens by the will of Allah (swt). We need to have enough faith to be able to see a wrong and believe that Allah (swt) will help us to put it right. But if we think that the wrong is being committed by a secret all-powerful cabal then we are left powerless. We put ourselves in a position where whatever we do doesn't make a difference to the evil plans of Satan's minions.
As far as conspiracy theories exploit racial and cultural prejudices they have the potential to pit people against each other and cause conflicts. We need to believe that we can make a real and positive difference to the world. To do that we need to first understand that making rash judgements and false allegations makes things worse not better.