Did you know that Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, raped a nine-year old girl? Did you know that gangs use little children to lure innocent women towards their house so that they can rape them? Did you know that in the US, you can play paintball in the scenario of the Columbine shooting? And did you know that a rich banker in the US killed a child, then bribed his judge and can now no longer be prosecuted? If the answer to any of those questions is “yes” or if you believe my word for it, you might want to read on.
Except for the last, which is completely fictional, these “facts” have made their way across social media and sometimes even into the news. In reality, there is, if any, very little truth to them, yet still, the chances are very great that you believed at least one of those stories. False facts like these circulate around Tumblr at least once a week, and every time thousands of people seem to believe them without even bothering to check the facts.
As an example, let’s have a look at the rumour that Muhammad raped a nine-year old girl. This rumour seems to be known across the globe, and it’s no wonder that an image about it received thousands upon thousands of notes on Tumblr. Interestingly enough, this image actually includes references to Islamic sources, which is where it becomes fun.
See, when you look up the passage in the Qur’an that is referenced, you will find that it doesn’t at all say that Islam allows raping young girls. Instead, it merely refers to a passage in which the Qur’an describes the rules for marriage. Similarly, the girl who Muhammad supposedly “raped” was his wife, actually known as his “virgin wife”, and although some sources do suggest that she was six to nine years old, other sources lead to the conclusion that she was actually around 19. A bit young perhaps for a 50-year old man, but no uncommon practice in the West at that time either, and, oddly enough, still not unheard of today.
That is just how gullible we all are. We read something on Tumblr and start an outrage about the terrible injustice of this world, but none seem to consider that we don’t know who wrote that post. They hardly ever include sources, and if they do, they are badly misquoted or just about completely different subjects, yet still we seem to believe they have some kind of authority.
The same goes for the media. There are many news websites out there that hardly check their sources, and similarly, the larger news websites that do check their sources are definitely not fault free either. They need readers, and for that, they need to write interesting and shocking articles as quickly as possible.
If you look at history, all you can do is conclude that people are too ignorant to learn from the past. Just think about all those times the media gave us a faulty view of an important situation, whether it’s Vietnam, World War I or Iraq, and then consider how easily we all accept that it was indeed the Syrian government that fired those chemical weapons. The trust we put in our media and government is admirable, but whether it’s justified is another matter entirely.
That doesn’t mean that I’m supporting huge conspiracy theories about how the government and the media work together to deceive us. It is, however, important to remember that both our media and our government are biased. For example, the US media kept writing in favour of the Israelis, even when it became more and more clear that the Palestine were victims as well, not because the media consciously wanted to keep us ignorant, but because they were biased themselves.
Right now, in Syria, there seem to be plenty of reasons to believe that the Syrian government would have used chemical weapons, but at the same time, there are also plenty of arguments against it. After all, why would they have done such a thing knowing that it would turn the West fully against them? And why would Russia support the regime if they had no reason to do so? The image people in the West have of Russia is often awfully negative, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t been right before.
Ultimately, we need to be mindful of these issues. It is ignorant to simply believe the rumour that Muhammad raped a young girl just because someone tells you, just like it is ignorant to have a harsh judgement about a situation we might not know everything about. Before we spread those rumours, we need to check the facts and make sure that there is actually a reason to believe any of it. Only then can we live in a truly open-minded world where prejudice and discrimination don’t exist.
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