Why is it that two people can look at the same world event and come to fundamentally different conclusions about it? Sometimes the difference in perspective stems from one’s worldview.
However, people who share the same worldview and faith sometimes come to profoundly different interpretations about significant events. The variances at this secondary level may reflect strongly held specific political or religious differences.
Even groups that share a radical commitment to a particular religious ideology can clash over explaining a major world event. A good example is the growing divide among those committed to radical Islam concerning the events of 9/11.
While more than a third of the American public believes 9/11 was “an inside job,”1 this controversial conspiracy theory has sparked a bitter controversy among radical Islam’s Jihadist groups.
In September 2011, Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations, stating that the U.S. government was responsible for the horrific events of 9/11. Ahmadinejad claims America orchestrated the 9/11 attacks to suppress Muslims, to prop up US ally Israel,2 and to have cause for starting wars in the Islamic countries of Afghanistan and Iraq.3
In protest, many UN diplomats (Americans as well as others) walked out during Ahmadinejad’s controversial speech. However, the strongest condemnation came later, from the terrorist organization founded by Osama bin Laden—al Qaeda. In the Fall 2011 issue of Inspire (a magazine reportedly published by al Qaeda), Abu Suhail writes:
The Iranian government has professed on the tongue of its president Ahmadinejad that it does not believe that al Qaeda was behind 9/11 but rather, the U.S. government. So we may ask the question: why would Iran ascribe to such a ridiculous belief that stands in the face of all logic and evidence?4
The article also pits the two major branches in Islam (Sunni versus Shi’ite) against one another by proclaiming proclaiming that “Iran and the Shi`a in general do not want to give al Qaeda credit for the greatest and biggest operation ever committed against American because this would expose their lip-service jihad against the Great Satan.”5
Al Qaeda is outraged at Ahmadinejad for diminishing what they call (in the same issue) “the greatest special operation of all time” and for undermining their legacy as the world’s most notorious terrorists.
Straight Thinking on Conspiracy Theories and Islam
This 9/11 controversy powerfully illustrates the critical importance of logical thinking and worldview reflection. Christians have an intellectual and moral responsibility to pursue truth and to represent other people’s beliefs fairly and accurately (Acts 17:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:21).
There have been actual conspiracies in history that have affected major world events (e.g., President Lincoln’s assassination). But to perpetuate unsubstantiated, if not refuted, conspiracy theories that undermine the moral character of other people, even governments, is to commit the serious offense of bearing false witness.
For more on the logical analysis of conspiracy theories including 9/11 and their prevalence in the Islamic world, see my articles “Thinking Through Big Government Conspiracy Theories” and “Ideas, Ideology, and Islam.”
- Thomas Hargrove, “Third of Americans Suspect 9-11 Government Conspiracy,” Scripps News (August 1, 2006).
- Ed Pilkington, “Ahmadinejad Accuses US of ‘Orchestrating’ 9/11 Attacks to Aid Israel,” The Guardian (September 23, 2010).
- Christopher Torchia, “9/11 Conspiracy Theories Rife in Muslim World,” Huffington Post (October 2, 2010)
- Abu Suhail, “Iran and the Conspiracy Theories.” Inspire 7 (Fall 2011).