NEW DELHI: A video of a religious ceremony has been viewed more than one million times on Facebook posts alongside a claim 350 people “accepted” Islam in New Zealand after last week’s deadly mosque shootings.
The posts are misleading – the video is from an unrelated Islamic event in Germany available online since 2007 – and contain no other evidence to back up the claim of 350 people accepting Islam in New Zealand in recent days.
The 90-second video starts with a bearded Caucasian man wearing a skullcap passing a microphone to another man, who then speaks in Arabic. It continues with a ceremony spoken in Arabic and German.
The video was viewed more than one million times in 48 hours after being uploaded on Monday to the Facebook page of Sajid Hashmat, who identifies himself as a “senior leader” with a regional political party in India that represents Muslims.
The caption alongside the video in the misleading Facebook post states in English: “50 Muslims were killed on Friday in New Zealand & 350 people accepted #Islam today in #NewZealand.”
AFP created an archived version of this false post (1).
The post was published after 50 worshippers in two mosques were shot dead in the southern New Zealand city of Christchurch on Friday. An Australian man has been charged over the murders.
AFP found dozens of other posts with the same video and misleading caption on Facebook and YouTube, some of which had been viewed tens of thousands of times.
Through an investigation using video analysis tool InVid and multiple keyword searches, AFP established the video appeared on YouTube on November 24, 2007 (2).
The German-language caption in that post translates to: “Five people adopt Islam.”
Through further searches, AFP identified the man wearing the skullcap as Pierre Vogel, who describes himself on his verified Facebook page as “the most famous preacher in Germany.”
AFP contacted Hashmat to ask why he posted the video alongside the caption, and whether he had any proof to back up his claim that 350 people had accepted Islam in New Zealand after the attacks.
Hashmat said by phone: “That video is symbolic, a reference. There is a news link below that video from where I got the information.”
The link he referred to was a blog post that similarly made the claim of 350 accepting Islam, without citing any evidence or sources.
AFP published a blog post on Wednesday that gives an in-depth report on its investigation into the misleading posts (3).
AFP found more than 70 posts on Facebook that had the same video and caption, with similar posts also on YouTube and Twitter. Comments on these posts indicated many people believed the 2007 German video was a recent one from New Zealand, and they did not understand Hashmat’s stated nuance about it being “symbolic.” --AFP
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