Many examples of conspiracy theories, inshallah-fatalism, and sheer craziness have been on display in the Muslim Middle East, as it tries to make sense of the coronavirus. A recent roundup of voices from Turkey at Memri.org offers views often contradicting one another.
Here is Memri’s summary of what the Turkish press and public have been saying:
Members of the Turkish press and public have reacted to the global spread of COVID-19, colloquially known as the Coronavirus, blaming it on Jews and other unspecified political actors and saying that the virus cannot be transmitted in mosques. On March 13, Turkish medical doctor Dr. Yavuz Dizdar claimed that 60% of the population of Turkey was already infected with the virus and that the Ministry of Health, in order to hide this fact, was not providing test kits.
If the Ministry of Health is not providing test kits, on what basis does Dr. Dizdar insist that 60% of the Turkish population is already infected? Is his dim view of the Ministry of Health warranted? Could it be that the Ministry does not have enough test kits due to the sudden explosion of the coronavirus, as has happened in many countries, and is merely incompetent, not malevolent, in failing to have enough of them? What Dr. Dizdar’s claim does show is a deep suspicion of the authorities, the belief that they would not hesitate to hide facts about spread of the virus if they felt it in their own interest to do so, by appearing to be more competent than in fact they have been.
“This Virus Serves Zionism’s Goals Of Decreasing The Number Of People”; “Anyway The Jews Are A Cursed Race”
Fatih Erbakan, who is the head of Refah Party and the son of late Turkish Islamist politician and former prime minister Necmettin Erbakan, who is generally thought to have been President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s political mentor, said of the virus in a speech reported on March 6: “Though we do not have certain evidence, this virus serves Zionism’s goals of decreasing the number of people and preventing it from increasing, and important research expresses this. [Necmettin] Erbakan said: ‘Zionism is a five-thousand-year-old bacteria that has caused the suffering of people.’”
Fatih [“The Conqueror”] Erbakan says that “though we do not have certain evidence” – meaning, “we have no evidence at all” – nonetheless he can state with confidence that the coronavirus serves “Zionism’s goal’s of decreasing the number of people.” But why would the Zionists be served if the world’s population were to decrease? Why is that good for them? No hint of an explanation from Erbakan. No hint that an explanation is even needed. Do Jews possess a special antibody that renders them impervious to the coronavirus? Obviously not, because hundreds of Israelis have been stricken, and the number of cases in that country increases ever more steeply, though Israel is in lockdown.
As for his father’s comment, that he deemed worthy of repeating, that “Zionism is a five-thousand-year-old bacteria that has caused the suffering of people,” Fatih Erbakan needs to be reminded that Zionism, as a movement, began in the 1890s, not 5000 years ago. But in the crazed world of the anti-Zionists, who’s counting?
A video recently appeared on social media showing a Turkish bus driver saying that all the epidemics in recent history, from AIDS to Ebola, had been created by pharmaceutical companies. The bus driver then asked: “And to whom do most of the pharmaceutical companies belong? To the Jews.” A passenger said: “[The Jews] will do anything to end the lineage of the Turks.” Another said: “Not only Turks, sister, they will do anything to bring the world to its knees.” The bus driver then said: “Anyway the Jews are a cursed race.”
One malevolent and idiotic claim after another is presented. First the bus driver, who insists on the basis of no evidence whatsoever that pharmaceutical companies have created AIDS, Ebola, SARS, the coronavirus, in order to profit by selling vaccines. None of the main pharmaceutical companies in America and Europe — all of them publicly owned and traded, with tens of thousands of owners – belong, as he claims, “to the Jews.” To add another dose of idiocy, a passenger insists that “the Jews will do anything to end the lineage of the Turks.” How would they do that? The coronavirus has been especially virulent in China, Italy, and Iran, not in Turkey. Right now there are more cases of coronavirus in Israel than in Turkey. Besides, why would “the Jews…do anything to end the lineage of the Turks”? Why should they have it in for the Turks? For many decades, Turkey and Israel were allies; it was only after the arrival of Erdogan that that relationship turned sour. Israel and Turkey have not been hereditary enemies. Isn’t Iran a much more dangerous threat to Israel today than Turkey? Still another passenger chimes in with the news that the Jews “will do anything to bring the world to its knees.” How? Why? To obtain what? Crazed claims are made, one after the other, each more bizarre than the next, and instead of evidence we get a series of baseless assertions.
A Virus Cannot Spread In Allah’s House – Also, The Quran Has Healing Verses, We Recite Them Continually”
On March 10, Abdurrahman Dilipak, a columnist for daily Yeni Akit, wrote: “Look how some people today have rolled up their sleeves to bring the Nazi dream to life. This is a fascist plan. Once they have finished their work with the gays and lesbians, of whom they appear to take ownership, their plan for their ‘removal’ is ready on the table, and this is an ordinary and easy task for them. It’s as if for them a woman is just a bionic robot doing its incubation duty on a human farm. But of course, they think that the population of the world must first be greatly decreased. The most cowardly example of this is the subversion and sterilization of the family! This is what they want to do. Maybe tomorrow they will present the vaccine for Corona as a medicine, and they will add something sterilizing to it. And you know how the virus can spread on money, so that’s good for Bitcoin.”
Who are “some people” who are determined to “bring the Nazi dream to life”? Clearly, it is the Jews (as Memri’s experts have concluded), for it is they who “think that the population of the world must first be greatly decreased.” How do they do this? First, they encourage homosexuality, both for men and women, which naturally leads to a decrease in heterosexual couples and hence of births. Then they encourage, within the family units that do exist, both sterilization of women and vasectomies for men. They may even try, according to Abdurrahman Dilipak, to present a coronavirus vaccine “as a medicine” (which is of course exactly what it is), but will sinisterly add an agent to it that will sterilize patients.
We still don’t understand why “the Jews” would want to decrease the world’s population, and Dilipak does not offer any guidance. Is it sheer malevolence? A belief that the Jews alone will be immune to the coronavirus and so it is they who will inherit the earth? There are certainly many more Israelis who have fallen sick with the coronavirus than Turks. Did the Jews miscalculate? Or was there never such a plan, to kill off only non-Jews, in the first place?
Turkish journalist Seyhan Avşar interviewed some Turks in a mosque on March 16. One woman, asked if she was concerned about coming to the mosque while the virus is spreading, said: “A virus cannot spread in Allah’s house. Also, the Quran has healing verses, we recite them continually. As our president said: ‘Cleanliness comes from faith.’… Also, if the virus is going to spread in the place where I came to read the Quran, then let it spread.” An older man said: “No one dies before their time. I would come to the mosque even if I knew I would die [because of it].” The same day, Turkey’s Ministry of Religious Affairs announced that, in order to limit the spread of the virus, prayers would not be performed in groups in mosques throughout the country.
Several aspects of Islam are on display here.
The first is inshallah-fatalism. For many Believers, it is Allah who knows – who decides — when each of us will die. As the older man quoted above says “No one dies before their time.” So there is no need, in his view, to take precautions against the coronavirus. Our stories are already written; the days of our deaths are known to Allah. The Turkish Ministry of Religious Affairs, fortunately, is not filled with inshallah-fatalists, and has forbidden group prayers in mosques.
The woman who is interviewed about going to the mosque claims that the coronavirus cannot be spread “in Allah’s house.” But for extra protection, she admits that she continually repeats “healing verses” from the Quran, just in case her first belief, that the virus can’t be spread in mosques, turns out not to be true. The belief in these two different ways of preventing coronavirus infection – being in a mosque, where the coronavirus cannot be transmitted, and reciting “healing verses” – bespeak a deep credulity.
In sum, there appear to be a disturbing number of devout Muslims in Turkey who believe the spread of the coronavirus is a plot by “the Jews” to destroy those of “Turkish lineage” or even worse, it’s a Jewish plot to ensure that “the population of the world must first be greatly decreased.” No evidence is presented for these assertions; they are tossed off as if “everyone knows” these claims to be true. Nor has anyone tried to explain why the Jews would wish to decrease the world’s population in the first place.
This much is clear: first, some Turks have vivid antisemitic imaginations, and are not bothered by their lack of logic or their failure to produce evidence; second, Israelis are becoming infected with, and dying from, the coronavirus no differently from, and at the same rate as, all other peoples.