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How to start a riot out of Facebook: Yousuf Saeed

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...

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AUGUST 13, 2012

Guest post by YOUSUF SAEED, http://kafila.org

I am utterly shocked and pained to read about the violent rally that many Muslims took out at Azad Maidan in on 11 August 2012 in protest against the recent communal carnage in Assam and Burma. More than the accidental death of two men and 50 injured in yesterday’s protest, what alarmed me was the public anger targeted on the media for “not reporting about the violence against Muslims in and Myanmar”. Several vans of TV channels and their equipment were smashed or burnt besides a number of police vehicles destroyed. Of course, the authorities are still probing as to who really began the violence in an otherwise peaceful rally (and we are open to the results of such a probe). But my worst fear came true with this assertion of one of the protesters in a newspaper report: “Why is the media not covering and ? We learnt about the incidents from videos posted on the Internet.” This seems to be a very disturbing statement on various accounts. Of course, the media can sometimes be biased, and the Muslims do feel victimised by it all the time. But are the random videos and images posted on the Internet any less biased or misleading?

Some of you may have recently noticed a number of gory and blood-soaked images being forwarded and shared on various social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter that claim to show the dead bodies of “20,000 Muslims butchered in Burma in the hands of Buddhists” along with the assertion that the world’s media is silent about the plight of Muslims in Burma and so on. Most of those images are really disturbing, capable of making anyone’s blood boil. Some show mounds of rotting dead bodies and a few Buddhist monks standing near them. Some even looked digitally tempered with to enhance their anti- violence. But there was no sign of where these images were sourced from. A couple of them even had Jama’t-e Islami, Pakistan, stamped on them. But if, as the people posting them claim, the world’s media is silent about the carnage in Burma, how did these images and the disturbing news come from Burma in the first place? Where did they find them before posting? I asked this question to many friends sharing these images and they didn’t have a clue. They simply believed in what they saw. In fact, from the Internet these pictures were picked up by many Urdu newspapers from Mumbai, Hyderabad and Delhi and printed with inflammatory titles and headlines. Many new caricatures and info-graphics started appearing on ridiculing the “peaceful” image of Buddhists or the “silence” of Burmese leader Aung Suu Kyi on the carnage of Rohingya Muslims and so on.

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