Monday, 5 January 2009

spreading lies & hate

so it's like this. i come from my holiday to the screeds of emails in my inbox, which i sat and cleared through last night. in amongst these, two different people forwarded me a set of photographs, purporting to show an eight year old iranian child having his arm crushed by a car, for the crime of having stolen bread. preceding the awful photographs are two slides which read thus:

An 8 years old child was caught in a market in Iran for stealing bread.

In the name of Islam he is being punished, his arm will be crushed by a car. He will lose forever the possibility to use his arm again.

Is this a religion of peace and love?

underneath, is a translation in a script i don't recognise (it's definitely not arabic, farsi, urdu, hindi, tamil, greek or russian). then follow the graphic photographs of a young boy having his arm run over by a car. it really is gruesome. the first person to forward this had the courtesy to send it only to me and to ask:

I felt sick at heart to receive this. Please look at it and let me know what you think. Does this actually happen in Iran? It surely can't be a mock-up.

the second person to send it to me was an acquaintance who had included me in a long list of others and had merely forwarded on the email. in both emails, i could see the lists of people to whom the photographs had been forwarded. all in all, counting up the addresses in both emails, there were 178 people who had received this message.

last night i wrote to the first person questioning the authenticity of the photographs, and in my mind the following questions arose:

1. are the photographs real or could they have been photoshopped?
2. if we assume they are real, is there any proof from the photographs that this happened in iran?
3. if it did happen in iran, is there any proof provided that this activity was in any way state-sanctioned?
4. is there any proof that the people in the photographs are muslims?
5. is there any proof provided that muslims around the world would agree with such an abomination, and that this is somehow representative of islam?

but none of the people who had forwarded the photographs had bothered to ask such questions (except of course the first person to send it to me). i also forwarded the photographs to a couple of muslim friends, one of whom sent me this reply today:

The pictures are real, but the description is FALSE. They are actually street performers who do this for a show. Both and websites confirm this is the case. (Snoops and Truthorfiction are both excellent sites that independently check all types of rumours). You can see the boy with his arm intact and in good condition sitting after the performance.

The descriptions can be accessed here (Please read the explanations that are included after pictures):

It is unfortunate that this is circulating again. It started in 2005 and gets brought up time and time again where there is some conflict or issue with Muslims in the world.

Would you please send this back to your friend and provide the information, and also ask that she send the information on to the person who forwarded it to her and that she ask that person to do the same etc so that this sad rumour that is spread to cause turmoil and distrust is put to an end.

so there you go. the whole thing is a fake. some nasty person decided to malign iran and all muslims by creating this message and sending it around. but what sickened me was that so many, many people were receiving this, and not only accepting it without question but forwarding it on to scores of their friends. in just 2 emails, there were 178 names.

which means that the people who forwarded this hated muslims enough to believe it was true, without even questioning the authenticity or accuracy of the message.

needless to say, i got very little sleep last night thinking about it all. i received a similar hate email doing the rounds towards the end of last year, which left me crying most of the day. prior to that, i had an email from the editor of indian newslink, telling me he had received letters to the editor complaining that local muslims leaders had been silent about the attacks in mumbai. one of these letters mentioned me by name, so i was given a right of reply. i'm truly grateful to venkat raman, not only for giving me the opportunity to reply, but for allowing me the luxury of 500 words to do so. i'll post that piece up tomorrow.

but this stuff affects me, and it affects me badly. i find it increasingly difficult to deal with all the hate in the world directed towards muslims. i find myself frustrated and feeling powerless and helpless to fight it all. i hate having to bite down on my anger and to continue to be diplomatic when all i want to do is scream in rage and frustration. it's so much easier to respond in kind, and i could have done it, but i'm lucky that i have some very good friends who gave me excellent advice and helped me to control my temper. i know it's all for the greater good, but every time i have to swallow my anger, i feel like i lose a little piece of my soul.

added to that was the death of my good friend raewyn and the depressingly bad policies being put in place without consultation by the new government, and i found that i just didn't want to face the world. hence the withdrawal from blogging, and from every social interaction that wasn't completely necessary.

the holiday has done me a world of good, but to come back to the crap above and to the mess in gaza is just disheartening. still, i'll do my best to keep on fighting (metaphorically speaking, for you suspicious types), if not for myself then for the sake of my children. in the hope that one day the world really will be a better place.


Deborah said...

the news from gaza is making me weep in frustration, for all the people who are suffering, especially the children.

Anonymous said...

I also recieved this terrible message and I will do my best to spread your valuable information. Thank you! // Anders Johansson/Malmoe, Sweden.

stargazer said...

i really appreciate that. every little bit helps!

Synthpopalooza said...

Hi ... I read your comment, and I felt I needed to share something as well. My wife is an ex-pat kiwi who moved here to be with me here in the states, and she also received the same e-mail you did. Needless to say, this e-mail had the same effect on her as what it had on you, probably more so because the Unitarian Universalist church we go to was recently the target of a deadly shooting which was in part motivated by hate speech. She really wrote an eloquent response to this e-mail and forwarded it back not only to the sender and those whom it was originally sent to, but also the majority of our friends and family. I would really love to forward on to you what she wrote (as it's too lengthy for me to write here) so please e-mail me and let me know if you'd like to see. My wife says she was also very touched by what you wrote, you expressed much of what she was feeling when she read the e-mail.

stargazer said...

i can't find an email address for you from your blog (either!), so i'd really appreciate it if you could email me at kiwistars at gmail dot com.