Hani Shukrallah writes: I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but I strongly sense conspiracy in the whole sordid “film maligning the Prophet” fracas, which, in a few hours, claimed the lives of three American diplomats and delivered a devastating blow to the Arab revolutionary upsurge and to the new democratic and pluralistic awareness that both lay behind that upsurge and was its most precious product.
Let me hasten to explain, however, that I use the questionable term, conspiracy, not in the sense that everyone from the makers of the film to the hysterical demonstrators that attacked the American missions in Cairo and Benghazi are in cahoots; nor do I base my argument simply on “who benefits most”, which almost invariably is the conspiracy theorist’s most crucial analytical tool.
WhatI really mean by “conspiracy” here is that the Prophet Muhammad is in fact wholly secondary to the real motives of the various parties to the ugly and bloody brawl. Yet, somewhat like the conspiracy theorist, I base my argument here more on a reading of the events and their context, rather than on concrete, tangible facts.
To use detective story parlance, what I present below is largely “circumstantial” evidence, leaving it the readers to judge for themselves whether it is sufficiently compelling.
My first suggestion in this respect is that the makers of the film had deliberately set out to goad Muslims into just such violent and irrational reactions as we have seen in Egypt, Libya and elsewhere.
It’s been tested many times before, and even if we can’t blame the penchant of certain influential political and ideological forces among us for ignorance and stupidity, we can still argue that those who would set out to trigger such responses are in possession of a very clear manual setting out how to do it, and the broad outlines of expected outcomes.
We need only recall the 2005-6 Danish cartoons episode. The insignificant Danish newspaper that triggered the hullabaloo had been transparently out to trigger a reaction from Muslims, and a reaction it got. I personally have not the least doubt that the Christian fundamentalist preacher who publicly set a copy of the Qur’an on fire was also deliberately out to goad Muslims into a reaction.
The obvious, outward motive of such attempts is not difficult to discern: to show Muslims as irrational, violent, intolerant and barbaric, all of which are attributes profoundly inscribed into the racist anti-Muslim discourse in the West.
And, it’s a very safe bet that there will be among us those who will readily oblige.
I can guess at two additional motives, one of an immediate, specifically targeted nature, and the other considerably more general and strategic in nature. America is hurtling towards presidential elections in which Barak Hussein Obama is running for a second term. For large sections of the American Christian Right (closely allied to rightwing Zionism), Obama is, if not the anti-Christ, than at the very least a Muslim mole planted in the White House.
For his part, Obama, from the very start of his presidency, had set out to douse the fires of the “clash of civilizations” then still raging curtsey of Messrs Bush and Bin Laden, among others. An editorial in the New York Times commenting on Obama’s famous address to the Muslim world from Cairo University, lauded him for having “steered away from the poisonous post-9/11 clash of civilizations mythology that drove so much of President George W. Bush’s rhetoric and disastrous policy.”
To reignite “the clash” in some form serves to bolster the American Right as a whole, the American Christian Right (which is a mainstay of the Republican Party) specifically, while at the same time undermining Obama, who at best had acted to bring it to an end, and at worst is “a bloody Muslim” himself.
A much broader motivation, which does not exclude Obama as target, is to tarnish, even to deny the very existence of an Arab Spring. [Continue reading…]