Millions of Muslims Didn’t March Against ISIS, That Was Fake News
Trending topics are known to be a trigger for spreading fake news. Recently as “ISIS attack Muslims during Ramzan” started trending, Alternative News Network wrote a piece on an instance that – ostensibly – happened in 2016.
The piece titled, ‘20 Million Muslims March Against ISIS and The Mainstream Media Completely Ignores It’, writes about “tens of millions of Shia Muslims who made an incredibly heartening statement, by risking their lives to travel through war-stricken areas to openly defy ISIS”.
The article that was published on 10 June 2017 writes about the March taking place on Sunday and Monday.
The original story was published by American Herald Tribune on 21 November 2016. The publication is reportedly owned by a Canadian professor and conspiracy theorist named Anthony Hall. The story was then picked up by MintPress News the next day. Soon, several small and big news publications published it, seemingly without verifying.
The Washington Post , International Business Times, The Independent and Reuters published articles that debunked the news put out by American Herald Tribune. The actual story was that millions of Shiite Muslims were marching together, but not against ISIS. Rather, they were a part of a march that is organised every year in Arbaeen, one of the world’s largest pilgrimages in Iraq, to honour a famous Muslim martyr. The people were marching in locations that is controlled by the ISIS, but it was not a march against the group.
Additionally, the report about the mainstream media not covering the issue was also proved to be fake.
Millions of marchers participate in the annual Arbaeen procession in Karbala. Each year, Sunni Muslims and followers of other religious groups such as Christians join the journey to mourn the martyrdom of Imam Hussein. Arbaeen, or mourning, is a Shia Muslim tradition to mark the anniversary of seventh-century social justice leader Imam Husain.
Coming back to the Alternative News Network’s piece, the report is factually incorrect as the march did not take place on Sunday and Monday, that is 10-11 June. In fact, the march usually takes place in the month of November. The headline also is as misleading as the original piece published by American Herald Tribune.
Interestingly, apart from the news reports, cleverly placed links in the story lead to e-commerce website such as Amazon and eBay. Looking at the trending keywords and searches, it seems the publication capitalised on certain keywords like ISIS, Muslim, etc.
Google and Facebook have been working on algorithms to check the spread of fake news facilitated by trending topics. Hopefully, the insidious spread of these fake events will be checked.