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How to start a riot out of Facebook: Yousuf Saeed

August 13, 2012

Guest post by YOUSUF SAEED

I am utterly shocked and pained to read about the violent rally that many Muslims took out at Azad Maidan in Mumbai 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 Assam 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 Burma and Assam? 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-Muslim 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 Muslim 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 Facebook ridiculing the “peaceful” image of Buddhists or the “silence” of Burmese leader Aung Suu Kyi on the carnage of Rohingya Muslims and so on.

Many of us were sceptical of these images and knew something was wrong. Some images do show the facial features of the victims to be Mongoloid, but that doesn’t prove they are from Burma. In any case, most Rohingya Muslims are not clearly Mongoloid – some look like Bangladeshi. With some investigation it was revealed that almost none of the gory images titled “Muslim slaughter in Burma” were actually from Burma. They came from different sources, mostly showing people killed in natural disasters in China, Thailand and even self-immolation attempts by Tibetans. The best investigation of these fake pictures was made by Faraz Ahmed in a blog of the Express Tribune newspaper from Pakistan (“Social media is lying to you about Burma’s Muslim ‘cleansing’”), where he busted the myth about 3-4 of the most circulated of such images, tracing their origins in China, Thailand and Tibet. One image actually shows Buddhist monks cremating thousands of people killed in a Chinese earthquake. In fact, a few images of dead bodies or people escaping from violent situations are clearly from places like Syria or Africa. The only authentic images of the affected Rohingya Muslims are those showing them in the boats waiting to enter Bangladesh. Nevertheless, many of our Muslim friends in India, Pakistan and other places continued to post and share such fake and fabricated images, adding more and more vitriolic comments on them to spread hatred against Buddists. I and a few friends even tried to bust these postings by warning them about the fake pictures, but our efforts had little impact.

The screenshot above shows an image of Thai protestors being tear-gassed in Bangkok. This was one of the images falsely used to portray the persecution of Rohingyas in Myanmar

I must clarify that I am not denying the killing and persecution of Muslims in Burma. I did some research as to what exactly happened and how many Muslims were really affected. Contrary to the popular belief that the world’s media and human rights fraternity is silent about Burma’s Muslim carnage, I did find a lot of detailed reporting and analysis of the human rights violation (including from Al Jazeera, BBC and New York Times, though very little from India), which ironically very few protesting Muslims may have read. The most comprehensive report on this has been brought out in August 2012 by the American organisation, Human Rights Watch, titled, “The Government Could Have Stopped This – Sectarian Violence and Ensuing Abuses in Burma’s Arakan State” (.pdf here). This 57-page report states that it was communal violence between Rohingya Muslims and ethnic Arakan Buddhists which took the life of 78 people (according to government figures) – a number that includes both communities. Many villages of both communities were torched and over 100,000 people were displaced from their homes. But there is clearly no mention of 20,000 or more Muslims butchered as claimed by many on Facebook.

Of course, none of the protesters read these detailed and balanced reports. For them the fake pictures of blood and gore were provocative enough to come to the streets. This is not the first time that social networking has been used to a large extent to bring people on the streets. We have seen more revolutionary uses of Facebook in the case of overthrowing of regimes in Egypt and other Arab countries. But to start a communal riot using visual rumours is not the most desirable uses of the Internet. If you study social networking sites deeply, especially if you have a wide range of ‘friends’ including the possible rumour-mongers, you may find postings that are deliberately trying to provoke in one way or the other. Just yesterday I found on Facebook a photo showing cut-up and mutilated body parts of two dead women lying in a forest, with a caption saying “Wake-up Hindus. These are bodies of Hindu girls who were raped and killed by Mullahs”. Of course, this image has been “liked” and shared by thousands of people throwing choicest of abuses on Muslims. But no one tried to reason out that there is no proof that the picture actually shows dead Hindu girls – there is not even any indication of where and when this picture was taken. But for a new generation of net-savvy youngsters (some of whom may have come to Mumbai’s streets yesterday), simply seeing on Facebook is believing. I shudder to think that such rabble-rousing use of the Internet might increase especially when some people realise that such an action can have practical repercussions. We have seen that in almost all communal riots, people deliberately initiated nasty rumours just to “have some fun”. But in the past, rumours spread in localised areas by word of mouth, whereas today it is possible to spread hate-filled messages over large areas of the world within seconds. The spread of Burma’s fake images has even allowed the Tehreek-e Taliban of Pakistan to issue a threat to Burmese people, and it needs to be taken seriously.

We don’t know if there is a ready solution to this menace. Censorship of the Internet as suggested by some (especially in the Indian government) is clearly not the answer since that may suppress even some of the harmless content. But what is definitely required is advocacy amongst net-users on how to read online content more critically. Unlike in the more conventional media such as newspapers, TV or radio, its possible today for anyone to ‘track-back’ any content posted on the Internet to see where it originated from. For instance Google’s reverse image search allows you track who may have originally posted a certain image and who manipulated it later. Just a few days ago an Austrian newspaper Kronen Zeitung published a photo showing a Syrian couple with a baby escaping from a bombed building. Later, it turned out that they had cut-out the couple and the baby from an earlier photo and morphed it on the image of a ruined building, just for the effect! Hence, media manipulation by big and small players is here to stay. The only way one can avert possible riots and violent mobbing is to stop believing (and forwarding) everything that is posted online and investigate how true a picture is, and most importantly, where it came from.

(Yousuf Saeed is a Delhi-based independent filmmaker and author, working on themes of peace and shared cultural traditions in south Asia.)

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70 Comments leave one →
  1. August 13, 2012 2:29 AM

    Dear Yousuf, I liked your post and agree with it. People are often quick to jump to conclusions because of suspicion and preconceived ideas about themselves, their identities and each other. While there is no denying of the fact that Muslims have been a target of persecution by the society and the media, but I have observed that often the media, especially newspapers, sometimes some self styled activists and groups and now
    internet also play on these fear and security and create a siege mentality. Similarly, anti-Muslim feelings are fanned by unnecessarily exaggerating certain actions whose contexts were not at all communal. However, I was wondering are the Assam violence anti-Muslim or an ethnic conflict? i stand corrected but I feel it is the latter and efforts are made to give it a communal colouring.

    • August 13, 2012 12:33 PM

      Glad to see some intellectual discussion finally hovering the internet. It is sick how political goons color every conflict as ‘communal’ and spread hate. We as educated individuals should be more responsible in sharing stuff online or reacting to one posted.

      Also, everyone reading this post should share it ahead. Thanks,
      Intekhab

    • August 13, 2012 11:48 PM

      I think Ranjeeta is absolutely right to ask whether the conflicts in both Burma between the Arakanese and Rohingya as well as in Assam between Bodos and Bengali Muslims are really ‘religious conflicts’ or in fact ethnic ones. In both contexts you have primarily indigenous tribal people coming into violent conflict with migrant settler communities. In Burma the conflict is at least a century old with the early Burmese nationalists, in the period of British colonial rule, demanding a ban on marriage of Buddhist women to non-Buddhist men because of their perception that a large number of women in the Arakans were being married to migrant Bengali men and then left behind as single mothers. In 1938 such an act was indeed passed, marking the first major ‘victory’ of the nationalists during colonial rule. The history of violent clashes between the Arakanese and Rohingyas is also at least a century old and nothing new. The irony of it all of course is that the Rohingyas (who are comprised of those who can today be called ‘Bangladeshis’ along with a large population of those born to Bengali Muslim fathers and Arakanese women) are not welcome at all in Bangladesh where local folk have often burnt down their refugee camps and hounded them out of the country.

      The problem with both mainstream and social media is their depiction of the confict as being between Buddhists and Muslims whereas it is really a clash between natives and migrant settlers. Such a clash would have happened irrespective of the religious beliefs of the two groups involved. In Assam before the recent clash with the Bengali speaking Muslims the Bodos had a severe conflict with the migrant Adivasi populations who comprise bulk of the tea garden workers in the area. The media’s lazy labelling of populations in terms of their religious denominations, irrespective of the relevance of such identities in a particular context, should be condemned. It is unprofessional, unethical and as we know now from the recent Mumbai experience needlessly provocative.

  2. nishi permalink
    August 13, 2012 2:36 AM

    I realy apreciat ur eforts on d research.Just hope,Allah aman wapas le aye!

  3. Nityanand Jayaraman permalink
    August 13, 2012 6:54 AM

    Dear Yousuf
    Very thought provoking piece. I do think there has been a resounding media silence in India on the issue of the Rohingyas, although less so on Assam. I too was shocked to see the images on Facebook, but did not forward any of them as I was in doubt about its veracity. This doubt was kindled by the clearly inciteful messages that accompanied the pictures. However, while I see your piece as an excellent demonstration of the lies that are easily spread through social media, I’m not sure if it is convincing where it comes to demonstrating that the Mumbai Riots version August 2012 were fuelled by social media. But thanks for the article.

    • August 13, 2012 12:45 PM

      Interestingly it was recently sighted on Facebook picture of a random woman sitting and preparing cereals to wash them before cook and someone had morphed Ms. Pratibha Patil’s face on her, with a caption saying she actually was a maid in the Gandhi family and rose to ranks to finally become the President. It was shocking and clearly fake as this creative designer of ours has also attached Ms. Patil’s original picture that he has morphed. Silly how people promote such propaganda and dumb junta just ‘likes’ or shares it ahead.

      Also the migration of Orkut junta to Facebook (which ultimately had to happen) further distorts the view online.

  4. August 13, 2012 9:39 AM

    Very Good Article Yousuf I wish you also had added a few other fake pictures which are making rounds on Fb. There is one picture where some Buddhist monks are shown around dead bodies that picture is of Earth quake and is passed of as dead Rohingas killed by Buddhists.

  5. krishna permalink
    August 13, 2012 11:14 AM

    Thank you Yousuf, an apt and much needed article to put things in perspective. I completely agree that all the incidents of violence, Assam, Mumbai, Burma …and all others should be condemned and ‘Justice’ whatever that means should be ensured to the victims. The effects of such online behaviour of spreading forwards, is being felt in Pune also where students and professional from North east are being attacked by street mobs. and an environment of fear and unease being spread.
    In this I also sense a very strong voyeuristic pleasure that people derive from forwarding such ghastly untruths apart from the insidious motive of spreading fear, anger and emotional upsurge.

  6. Sajan permalink
    August 13, 2012 11:46 AM

    “But to start a communal riot using visual rumours is not the most desirable uses of the Internet”.” That, surely, is the understatement of the week.

    It is true, as Nityanand says, that one can’t be certain if the Mumbai Riots of August 2012 were fuelled wholly by social media, but the pernicious role played by internet fora, social networks, microblogs etc in fanning the flames of hatred whenever possible is well documented. (Anticipatory Bail Alert: Social media doesn’t kill people. People kill people).

    Do you really need to “study social networking sites deeply” to find postings that are designed to provoke? I could suggest a few search keywords (which, out of deference to our readers and IPC 499, I won’t) that will bring forth a googol of postings that could make your blood boil, or run cold, or your hair stand on end like quills upon the fretful porpentine. While the evil scum that infests the net should, of course, have their comeuppance, it’s the attitude of the ‘intermediaries’ — google, facebook, twitter, youtube et al — that really amazes me. They stand around gazing innocently into the middle distance, twiddling their thumbs and whistling short snatches of Article 19, while disclaiming all responsibility for the vile but profitable crap that fertilizes their pages.

    How long, I wonder, before a malevolent jerk with an internet connection unleashes carnage somewhere in India. By the way, Yousuf, if a new generation, some of whom may have been on Mumbai’s streets last week, thinks that “simply seeing on Facebook is believing”, they aren’t what we call ‘net-savvy’. They are what we call ‘brain-dead’.

    • ysaeed permalink
      August 13, 2012 1:20 PM

      Dear Nityanand, Sajan and all others
      Thanks for your comments. Just wanted to add that I didn’t go too much into detail about how this particular incident in Mumbai may have been a direct result of Internet-rumours, although I did mention the quote of a protester who saw the internet videos. I should have emphasised that there is a Muslim public sphere comprising of discourses like Urdu newspapers, Friday sermons from mosques, Muslim mailing lists, and casual conversations in Muslim public spaces, some of which I have been observing for some weeks, and they are discussing these pictures. From there what one overhears about Burma Muslim carnage are exact descriptions of the purported photographs: “The Buddhists put 20,000 Muslims in a row on the ground and simply slaughtered them in one go – you can see in the photos”. The second statement is always about the “inability of the mainstream media to properly investigate and reveal the real facts about Burma and Assam”. You can see these exact comments on Facebook as well as yesterday’s sound bytes in the news. I think these days the appearance of any content “on the Internet” provides a new sense of credibility to it among a large number of people. But of course, for this incident there may have been a lot of past baggage – disgruntlement of Muslims with media and the war-on-terror etc. which brought them to the street to indulge in violence. One should also note that the organizers of the rally (Raza Academy) have been surprised and upset by the turnout and violence. They had arranged chairs for people to sit on and listen to the speeches. According to them the violence was unleashed by some uninvited miscreants.

      • Tazeem permalink
        August 13, 2012 4:27 PM

        I still can’t understand why the media is not covering this? They just covered the violence near Azad Maidan and those burning flames of police and media vehicles!!!

  7. August 13, 2012 12:22 PM

    Dear Yousuf, thanks for starting this really well timed debate and thanks for the article. I am on your side as far as questions of harmony and communal well being go. But I am still trying to grapple with a series of questions- the critique reminded me of the magic bullet theory of communication I read many years ago at MCRC and as soon as we studied it, we also saw its pitfalls-that we can deduce behavior of any group based purely on what media images do to people. And images have been mediated even before the age of photoshop arrived. To begin with, the very act of producing an authentic image is a mediated act. To say that certain groups are posting images that can catalyze riots is to say that there is a direct cause-effect relationship between the image and the viewer when actually there could be innumerable other factors.
    To begin with, why is it that the problematic narrative of fundamentalism, victimhood and Islam become a global narrative? Why is it that images of other disasters are feeding into this? What are the other images that have marked this narrative before we came to inhabit this point? I don’t think some facebook pictures could spark a riot in a world where resources were adequately distributed, civil systems of social securities and liberties worked to ensure adequate representation and inclusion. In that case, these images would have stood out for their pure fictiveness- which they actually are and partially are not.
    But again, I feel a strange guilt because even though I have my reasons, I am equally unsettled with the idea that those images are constantly being made and uploaded and someone is watching them.

    • ysaeed permalink
      August 13, 2012 2:08 PM

      Dear Ambarien, thanks for your comments. I have made a quick clarification above (in reply to Sajan etc.) that I do see a connection between the purported images and the Mumbai rally, especially if you have been observing the Urdu newspapers from Mumbai and Hyderabad that printed the facebook pictures without verifying them. They definitely helped in the rabble-rousing of some kind. But of course, I also mentioned earlier that for this incident there may have been a lot of past baggage – a simmering disgruntlement of Muslims with media and the war-on-terror etc. which brought them to the street to indulge in violence. The pictures may have only put fuel to that disgruntlement.

  8. sonia jabbar permalink
    August 13, 2012 1:06 PM

    Many of the images floating around on FB of the so-called slaughter of Burmese Muslims by Buddhists are actually not of Burmese but of Tibetans doing what they call a sky-burial for dead Tibetan Buddhists. There is no wood available in the Tibetan highlands so they dismember corpses and, like Parsis, feed to the vultures.

  9. Subhash Chopra permalink
    August 13, 2012 1:48 PM

    I don’t know if its wise to ban “provocative” images on the internet, but one can at least “report” them to Facebook admin or whichever site they are posted on. Facebook does take action if many people report these images. Also, it is the duty of many of us who see things critically to stop the passage of such nasty content on the net by simply making interventions on postings, discussions and forums and change the tide.

  10. krishika permalink
    August 13, 2012 2:51 PM

    When such incident happens because ignorant people, an entire community will be blamed.
    Anyways even if they any one has to protest, they should do it in a peaceful way.
    If they damage public properties here or violently kill few more causing a havoc here, did that make any justice to anyone? what can be achieved by killing, injuring some other people who are not even responsible for all these in our country. These people embarrass the normal people of that community in front of the world.

  11. shyam permalink
    August 13, 2012 3:15 PM

    Thank God some one has guts to bring out truth. It is high time people don’t play in the hands of politicians since they are only interested in power game and least bothered about the welfare and improvement of any individual.

  12. August 13, 2012 4:07 PM

    Sometimes it is wise not to be a ” Begaani shaadimein Abdulla diwanaa ! “

  13. internet athiest permalink
    August 13, 2012 4:09 PM

    if that is the ugly impact of social media on our socio-political structure then sumthng substantial must be done to “enlighten” people!

  14. Anonymous permalink
    August 13, 2012 5:32 PM

    I Just feel bad what happen is against the humanity and lawlessness i just pray god that we to bring the peace in the world

    BTW this media and politicians are biggest corrupted
    they just know to play the double standardize

  15. Anonymous permalink
    August 13, 2012 5:33 PM

    Just pray to bring peace all over the world

  16. Sadique permalink
    August 13, 2012 6:27 PM

    I just don’t believe the police version that the fire arms were stolen from them. Also what was the need to open fire on the mob which were ransacking public properties which were only a handful 10 – 15% of the total crowd gathered in azad maidan.

    • malaydeb permalink
      August 18, 2012 3:53 PM

      Dear Sadique,
      What do you suggest police to do (instead of opening fire) when the mob starts ransacking public properties? \’Crawling on their knees with folded hands and begging for mercy\’ from these brain-dead hominids?
      And what % of miscreants in a crowd would be acceptable to you for the police to open firing at them?

  17. August 13, 2012 8:40 PM

    Thanks Yousuf, & congrates for clearing the air which is very polluted with all type of communal news these days.The islamic flag waving boy during that Mumbai Morcha is shown as that they are waving Pakistani flag, busy spreading hatrate only..where all the messanger of LOVE & PEACE have dissapeared…?

  18. Nasir Ahmed permalink
    August 13, 2012 11:02 PM

    Ur compilation is need of the hour to doze off the hatred spreading on social networking. I too show yesterday a pic where a man is being laid on a railway track with head and body on each side of the track separated and and captioned as killed in Assam. I never believe in such things and never like it. We need to investigate before jumping to any conclusion as Yusouf said. Thanks a lot brother.

  19. virendra dubey permalink
    August 14, 2012 2:15 AM

    Dear Yousuf,
    Just to inform how even people spread rumors. I was on street on he fateful day at far off place in Mumbai, one Muslim guy cam on a bike and started informing the garage guy to shut down the shop since there is police firing on Muslims at5 azaad maid-an and many have been killed, I just asked him. how did you come to know he said he has just heard, When I informed him the police firing was just to disperse the MOB how were violent, and it is not the same as you are portraying. The guy was un educated but definitely will be the one who will come on street when someone calls for the sake of the religion, may be not knowing the exactly cause of the call.

    May peace be on earth

  20. Shajith permalink
    August 14, 2012 11:11 AM

    No body has a right to act rioting act based on assumptions(fb post or twitter posts)… and looks justifying the act by it is based on the rumours… need to give a rigourous punishment whoever it may be minorities or majorities….

  21. ysaeed permalink
    August 14, 2012 11:25 AM

    This news is useful: “Morphed images used to garner support, says CJP”

    http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article3765708.ece

  22. Shaikh Faiz Ahmed permalink
    August 14, 2012 11:27 AM

    Thnx for the information Yousuf .
    As you have said that the images are manipulated and you have even posted one image so it would be kind of you, if you can post the links to that photos so that people can see what is the truth behind those images.

  23. August 14, 2012 7:11 PM

    YOUSUF SAEED,
    i am a tibetan and here on behalf of all tibetans in and ouside tibet i would like to
    thank you for your analytical piece which,i believe , may clear up the doubt and suspicions in the minds of people who were previously blown length and breath just seeing those fabricated gory and blood-soaked images on internet.

    its heartbreaking to hear that muslims are being killed by buddhists but it is more heartbreaking when people trying to create rumours by which a communal violence may likely happen on the basis of the very fake information.

    recently a guy called Khan Pervez https://www.facebook.com/khan.pervez.92 also gives some disturbing comments on His Holiness The Dalai lama and incriminates our leader by bringing the fake information about killing in Burma. i am sure he must have read this article http://www.habibies.com/technology/social-network/social-media-is-lying-to-you-about-muslims-killing-in-burma/ but he still refuses to accept the fact and continuous to accuse the dalai lama, responsible for the killing in Burma.

    i hope dear Muslim brothers and sisters will observe thoroughly the information spreading on social media.

    May peace prevail on earth/////

    • ysaeed permalink
      August 15, 2012 11:05 AM

      Thanks Mikchutashi for your comments. Its unfortunate that some people are criticizing His Holiness The Dalai Lama for not doing anything for Muslims in Burma. Many are also ridiculing Buddhists in general for mass murder of Muslims. But at other times the same people would say that “all Muslims should not be blamed for the act of one terrorist” and so on. These Muslims probably forget the saying of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon HIm) that “Treat others in the same way as you would expect them to treat you”.

  24. Thrishala permalink
    August 14, 2012 7:42 PM

    Totally agreed. I really appreciate the concern and work behind this article to show the truth for the people. Really wonder why people are so foolish and loose the capacity of thinking

  25. johng permalink
    August 14, 2012 8:52 PM

    Was there really a ‘riot’ in Bombay? I thought some of the twitter about this was as misleading and disturbing as the misreporting documented above. Burning vehicles in connection to protest is so common in Mumbai that I can remember a judge ruling that police firing on demonstrators burning a bus was unjustified as it was a kind of political ritual. I found the hysteria generated itself communal in flavour.

    • ysaeed permalink
      August 15, 2012 11:12 AM

      Dear Johng. To your question, we probably need to see how one defines a riot. According to one definition “riot is a form of civil disorder characterized often by what is thought of as disorganized groups lashing out in a sudden and intense rash of violence against authority, property or people…Riots often occur in reaction to a perceived grievance or out of dissent.”
      I think we have enough authentic reports from Mumbai (not simply twitter) to suggest that it was a serious incident of rioting. In any case, the use of the word riot in the title does not refer only to this particular incident – you may take it as a warning for what’s to come in the future.

  26. Mohammed Shahid permalink
    August 15, 2012 3:55 AM

    Thank you for this article Mr. Yousuf Saeed. Please do let me know if I could be of any service in spreading peace.
    As you mentioned, these images definitely have an effect of ‘boiling the blood’ of young Muslims, including me. However, as you did, me and many of my friends did our research before jumping to conclusions.

    * We made all our efforts to spread that these images were fake and no way related to the violence against the minority community in Myanmar. We also tried to explain it to them that it is an issue of a minority community being persecuted and discriminated in a nation. We were categorically spreading that we should stop saying that Buddhists are terrorists. Just like a suicide bomber has nothing to do with Islam similarly these people have nothing to do with Buddhism. When we don’t want the world to call all Muslims as terrorists due to some mindless acts by a handful of criminals in the name of Islam, lets be faithful to our principles, and lets not call Buddhists as terrorists and be careful with the use of our language. *

    The second thing I wanted to bring to light is that somehow this whole riot has shifted the focus from the sole purpose of the protest to issues like violence, the Muslim mind etc.

    *Let’ s be faithful to our principles. Yes, the citizens of this country and in this case Muslims, have every right to come out in peaceful protests against issues which make them restless. Lets acknowledge that there are genuine reasons for them to come out in peaceful protests as they did in Mumbai. I am justifying the protest not the violence in the protest. Maybe as you mentioned if right facts where presented this would have been a peaceful protest and not a violent one. However, we have to be cautious and not lose our focus due to the violence in the protest and discard the legitimacy of the protest itself. We have to acknowledge that there are genuine reasons behind this protest and unless they are acknowledged and attended to there will so called leaders taking advantage of the masses and spreading this propaganda of “Us vs. Them”.

    *Yes, unfortunately, due to social media there is a growing level of intolerance among all the communities as you pointed out many instances. A growing divide of “Us vs. them” is taking over all minds and it is surprising that even seemingly educated people fall into such traps. The only solution is people who know the facts come forward. More often than not, people tend to keep quiet when they see such intolerant pictures. It would have been so much better if a few people did their research and come forward and refute such images and bring the truth to light.*

    *Lastly, as I said earlier, lets be faithful and be consistent with our principles. Regardless of the religion, people who are involved in violence are criminals and they should be brought to court of law and dealt accordingly. Lets not discriminate against Muslims or minorities or for that matter any community. Let’s acknowledge that there are genuine reasons for grievances among the Muslim community/ minorities and address them. And, if we all are serious about a peaceful co-existence then lets start to stand up against the human rights violations! There is a serious humanitarian crisis in places like Myanmar, Syria, Palestine, Kashmir, Tibet, among many others and its not just Muslims who should be protesting against it but the entire human race!. Similarly, Muslims should not just protest about Muslim rights violation but every human right violation!

    ~ Peace

  27. Vijay Kashyap permalink
    August 15, 2012 11:04 AM

    Why should images of atrocities on Muslims in Myanmar cause violence in Mumbai?

    The author is implicitly condoning the violence by dodging the responsibility for the violence. He is charging the perpetrators of the violence with gullibility rather than communalism. There will *always* be material to inflame passions, some real, some doctored. That is no excuse for arson and murder.

    • ysaeed permalink
      August 15, 2012 2:39 PM

      Dear Vijay Kashyap. What you’re suggesting is a perfect chicken-or-egg situation. How can you say that I am “dodging the responsibility for the violence”. Of course there is communalism involved. But you have to see how it gets directed to Mumbai police and media rather than its perpetrators in Assam or Burma. Maybe because the Muslims carried a past grouse against Mumbai police which they got a chance to exhibit this time? Why is it that the 2002 anti-Muslim riots took place in Ahmedabad and not in the villages near Godhra which had actually triggerred them? And by the way, gory and violent photos are used in many other social institutions to arouse hatred against other communities. If you are unaware, I could provide specific examples.

      • Vijay Kashyap permalink
        August 15, 2012 4:24 PM

        Maybe because the Muslims carried a past grouse against Mumbai police which they got a chance to exhibit this time?

        Dear Sayeed,

        We all carry past grouses. I’m not sure it is a good idea to lend legitimacy and credibility to this violence by playing up past events. Every episode of violence by every community can be linked to some past grouse, real or imagined.

        The fact that the pictures were doctored is immaterial. What if they had been factual? Does that lend legitimacy to violent protests by Mumbai based Muslims?

        Must the rest of us live in constant fear for our lives because some people react with violence on account of incidents that have nothing to do with us?

        This fixation on religious identity to the detriment of your relations with your neighbours ought to be discouraged.

      • Saikat permalink
        August 17, 2012 10:57 AM

        Yousuf – I commend your warnings/due diligence against the information distributed via social media. But I would like to read your response to the critique from Vijay Kashyap – at what point does a community deemphasize its communitarian identity to maintain relations with its neighbours and for the benefit of society at large. Within the context of this discussion, this question seems a bit loaded but I believe this discussion applies generically to all communities within a society. Your comments please.

  28. Prativa Thomas permalink
    August 15, 2012 1:27 PM

    This article is an eye-opener & what I treat as responsible journalism! Thank you

  29. Danish permalink
    August 15, 2012 3:03 PM

    Yousuf, thank you for the eye opener.i did share one of these pics but i tried to verify the content but didnt find much info so i shared the image with the wiki link that gave info of communal voilence..i think the reason i didnt find anything is because i was looking for something that dosent exist.

  30. August 16, 2012 1:17 AM

    Tibetan government in exile appeals that doctored images of Tibetans not be used to show Rohingya persecution http://tibet.net/2012/08/14/press-release-on-usage-of-misleading-photos-of-tibetan-monks-in-media-reports-on-myanmar-conflict/

  31. Mohammad Varas Khan permalink
    August 16, 2012 2:09 AM

    Dear Yousuf,

    I Appreciate all your efforts to get the truth come out and find our the root cause for this issue. Still there are lot of people who are getting confused and misunderstanding others.
    Thanks a lot for your article, also thanks a lot to Ysaeed , who is actively participating in this converstaion.

    I am very happy to see all here discussing about peace and to bring the people out of mis-conceptions. Hats off to you all .

    Lets bring back the peace to the Human Kind, lets try to participate to spread humanity .

    I am sure that, the efforts of everyone here for a peace full world will come true…

    Aaameen.

  32. Abdullah Dalal permalink
    August 16, 2012 11:44 AM

    And what about the videos we saw?
    u have an explanation?
    i really wana know n educate masses

  33. August 18, 2012 1:23 PM

    Hi. Good post must say but I really feel you’re being unfair to the protesters. i for one myself don’t believe the death tolls mentioned on facebook and other social networking sites, but somewhere bang in the middle of your essay I read about American Human rights Activists and Al-Jazeera and the likes making report and telecasting the news of Burma killings. You yourself mentioned that the Indian media is absent.

    Now, my point is being a muslim you would know that the masses are still not the uber cool and tech savvy like the youngsters of the generation. Maximum of them still read the locally printed newspaper in Urdu or local languages! I agree education is on the rise but the old generation still swears by the local urdu newspaper. Now, in a fair situation if,IF, main stream newspapers actually had done the ground work and actually reported about the exaggerated death tolls and morphed pictures and fake stories it would create a fine balance. My house, for instance, has the Times of India, Hindustan Times, DNA and the Urdu Times delivered. As a third person you please tell me what will be your re3action when you see gory pictures in the Urdu daily and Zilch in the better papers?

    So, the thing is that your essay, although with a noble ideal, is making a joke of the temperamental muslim, who we both know, are largely dependent and influenced by world news that cat call all muslims!

    I’m not saying that what happened at Azad Maidan was right. i’m only saying that the second class treatment made sure that it happened.

    • August 18, 2012 1:56 PM

      TRUE!!! The comment above by Faysal is valid and very simply puts the point across. We on this forum are educated, uber and well informed citizens we know the international media is covering the Burma killings (even the author linked the Human Rights report) but why the hell is the INDIAN MEDIA silent? Are we the Muslims in this country not significant enough to be made aware of the correct situation in our neighborhood?

      And then WHY blame the regional or Urdu dailies who are not governed by large corporate houses to be sustained financially. They picked up pictures (some correct and most incorrect) and published in the papers. Why create a situation and to provoke the Muslims, when all we expect that we are taken seriously. You the government and the social allies (be it the media, police etc.) WHEN will you open up your eyes? A Muslim from India is proud to be Indian but the rotten unfriendly atmosphere is not to be tolerated. What happened at Azad Maidan is shameful but it is shameful too that inspite of having the largest number of news channels in the world, the media in this country could not give a fair reporting from Burma or highlight the issue enough that our government expresses strong reactions to the Burmese government.

      I request the author here not to leave the effort half, it will only be complete when you also post another article or a complimenting thought that is targeted towards our deaf (but not mute) media.
      Let them know that their ignorance is no body’s bliss. May peace be on earth, Amen!

      • sai permalink
        August 19, 2012 2:37 AM

        You complain about mainstream media not taking the Burmese issue. But the apathy has little to do with it being a muslim issue. How much coverage does the plight of Bangaldeshi Hindus (with whom Indians have much greater cultural/historical affinity) get in our media? The constant and systemic harassment of the BHs has arguably been an important factor in the alarming shift in religious demographics in Bangaldesh, and im talking post-1971. As a specific example, BHs have been facing a much worser level of injustice (compared to the Ayodhya dispute) with regard to one of their most famous temples, the Ramna Kali temple which was demolished during the 71 war. But an average Indian would be blissfully unaware of all this.

        I seriously think you should stop this whining about media bias. There are close to 20 crore muslims in India. If the matters of the muslim world really matter to the community, the onus on the latter to ensure that balanced and reliable news is disseminated to its members.

      • August 19, 2012 1:09 PM

        Dear Sai,

        I am ashamed to admit that I too did not know about the ’71 war ramification that you mentioned!

        But let’s get a little bit more nearer home! It’s better for the thread not to be opened up towards Ayodhya or other destructions that have happened in the past. The point raised now was whether there was any justification about the way the Muslims reacted. Answer: There was no justification but if you do look deeply it shouldn’t surprise one.

        The masses that congregated at Azad Maidan were mostly from the lower strata of society. Looking at the middle class and the rich you will find that maximum of them do not accept the events violent turn. The lower strata, like i have mentioned above, takes its dose of news from the local dailies.

        I might be wrong but the tone of your post suggests that BECAUSE the media ignored the ’71 temple issue it is ok for the media to do so now too. Also, BECAUSE we are 20 Crores so it is our onus “to ensure that balanced and reliable news is disseminated to its members”?

        C’mon now, is that a fair statement? Hindus are much more in number but that didnt stop the media from NOT reporting the ’71 issue, did it! So does that mean that it’s not the fault of the media and that Hindu groups should’ve taken responsibility?

        News is supposed to be from a neutral source, Sai. By doing this we ourselves would be inviting trouble. By giving the power to religious groups would we not be making it worse. Aren’t there enough anti-social elements already permeating society to prevent such a thing from happening?

      • sai permalink
        August 19, 2012 2:25 PM

        Dear Siddiqui

        Firstly, the idea was not at all to turn this into a fight over Ayodhya issue. I just brought up the Ramna Kali issue because it would have a good resonance given what Indian muslims have gone through due to Ayodhya. And BTW, the Ramna Kali issue is still an unresolved one, despite 40 years having passed since the demolition.

        Secondly, I am not trying to defend the media. I am just saying there is no anti-muslim bias in their reporting. As can be seen from they way the atrocities against BHs or the Sri Lankan tamils (predominantly Hindu, and oppressed by a Buddhist majority) go largely unreported.Therefore, I believe its not just untrue, but patently outrageous to impute that the media is deliberately ignoring the Myanmmar issue because it is related to muslims (which is what Inthikab’s post suggests).

        Where I completely disagree with you is in apportioning a part of the blame for the violence on media’s omissions. Here, your question ” that Hindu groups should’ve taken responsibility?” does not hold good because there have been no violent protests by them on the BH issue. But, rest assured, if such violent protests did happen, I would unequivocally hold the Hindu groups squarely responsible for the same. And I would proffer the same advice to Hindu community – ensure that the awareness about it is spread in a responsible and balanced manner and take up the cause through democratic means.

    • ysaeed permalink
      August 18, 2012 2:26 PM

      Dear Siddiqui Fayesal, I am not against the protest – people have the right to protest if they are angry about something. But if you are as violent in your protest as the violence you are protesting against, then it looks like you are out to take ‘revenge’ against that violence, and that too on people who have nothing to do with it. Do you agree?

      I understand the anger of the people (“temperamental muslim” as you call them) who are depending only on Urdu newspapers and fake images (which they didn’t know were fake). But the people running the Urdu newspapers, and those who morphed the pictures on their photoshop software, and created fake youtube videos, were either very stupid or very smart. They knew very well that these images and videos can easily provoke people and bring them to streets. Should we stop blaming them too? If you are running a newspaper (in whichever language) and don’t know the basic code of ethics, of how to authenticate a piece of news, then you are simply fooling people and fooling yourself. Of course, I must accept that most Urdu newspapers run on shoe-string budgets, do not have enough ads and very little staff. So you can’t expect their staff to go to far locations to get original news. But I am sure its very much possible to do responsible journalism within limitations.
      Dear Siddiqui Fayesal, I would simply ask you how do you see the future of such situations? What do you think should be done to avoid this kind of rumour spreading and violent protests among Muslims. Or do you think they will be right if they do the same in future?

      • August 19, 2012 12:54 PM

        Sir Ysaeed,

        You misunderstood me, sir. Never will I accept that the situation, whether politically motivated or not, at Azad Maidan was good. It only did more damage to the already damaged pride of the Muslim population. It only made it worse for the muslims to be taken seriously. I agree a peaceful protest was what it should’ve been! My point in contention was only the the most obvious reason why it happened. It’s not rocket science to see the shift in paradigm of the media.

        Maybe in my hurry I didn’t make myself clear. Again, you are absolutely right when you point fingers at the rascals who actually did the ground work like morphing the pictures and surely pushing it slowly into the social media where it was bound to be recognised.

        Sir, looks like i have incurred your anger. No No NO. The thing that happened should never ever happen. I’m not only speaking as a human but as a muslim who really abhorred the tense hour that I experienced. The post which I put up was to point out not my support (there is non) but my two pence worth of reasoning.

        About the journalism bit that you said is again right. There is really nothing that we disagree upon to tel the truth. Now, when you ask what can e done. My reply would really not be taken seriously but I’ll say so anyways. To start with we muslims can just start being real muslims. Honestly, nothing is beyond the power of my faith that cannot correct these things. It pains me when I ride across the Bhindi Bazar stretch and see the criminal disrespect of traffic rules and the mind numbing cacophony that the honking generates!

        To a third person it might just seem like a normal acceptance to traffic rules but i know, and i hope you know too, that it is the first step towards educating the masses. Islam, by itself, teaches to give more than to take. Isn’t honking an equivalent to saying, “You there in the front get out of my way!”

        Trust me we have become something that we were supposed to shun!

        I’ve written some lines a couple of months back saying just this. Peruse it if you have the time, Sir!

        http://loquaciousscribbler.wordpress.com/2012/07/18/the-call/

  34. S. K. Sinha permalink
    August 21, 2012 2:14 PM

    Dear Friends,
    I have read several of the comments posted on this pagee. I am happy that we are doing healthy debates. One thing I can say with surety that Indian muslims are much more matured than the muslims of other countries as I have visited several muslim countries and interacted with them. Hindus in India are basically, tolerant and have by birth learnt to live with other religion in harmony. Barring a few incidents, we are a good society and world is jealous of us that inspite of all these diversities we are a united nation and secular democracy. The need of the hour is to maintain calm and watch very closely any effort aimed at disturbing our unity.there are several elements in every community who care for their personal interest at the cost of nation and our unity. We have to discredit their effort. Let us make a resolve that in every celebration we participate jointly. I remember, in by schooling days during Nabi-ul Milad (barawfat) we used to serve water and sharbat to our muslim brothers when they used to take out their procession in the evening. I used to wait for Id and Bakara ID as these were festive days for us also where we used to visit our muslim friends to share the dishes and offer good wishes. That time radicalisation was not there and we used live in a gentle way. It is high time we should be careful of the radicalisation as it will serve the few only. Regards

    Raman

  35. Narayan permalink
    August 21, 2012 5:51 PM

    The case of the Rohingyas is tragic; as tragic as the Kurds or the Palestinians, a nation of 8 lakh without a country to live in. In 1982, the Burmese Junta stripped them of the rights of citizenship and owning land. They have been living in a limbo since then. Both Thailand and Bangladesh, the neighbours of Myanmar, have refused to allow Rohingyas refugees from entering their territory and have resorted to the usage of extreme force to eject them.

    It is interesting to note that when the British PM tried to pressurise Sheikh Hasina into admitting Rohingyas into Bangladesh, she politely but firmly told him to apply pressure on Myanmar and not on Bangladesh.

    Highly disappointing that misguided Indian protestors have blamed the Indian state and the media for the plight of the Rohingyas and have conveniently ignored Bangladesh, which is the best position to do anything for the Rohingyas, who are ethnically and linguistically close to them.

Trackbacks

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  3. How to start a riot out of Facebook: Yousuf Saeed « kracktivist
  4. Mumbai violence: Reinventing the Muslim victimhood stance « Janamejayan's Weblog
  5. Are North Eastern People Safe in Bangalore?
  6. Rogue rage on social networks « silence before the storm
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  8. How Delhi paper ‘Sahafat’ fell for fake images of violence in Burma « Kafila
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  11. Analysis Of Webpages Blocked By Indian Govt Till August 21st 2012: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube - MediaNama
  12. An Analysis of the Latest Round of Internet Censorship in India (Communalism and Rioting Edition): Pranesh Prakash « Kafila
  13. Rogue rage on social networks « silence before the storm
  14. Freedom of Expression in India « Temel Nosce
  15. No communication without culture and No culture without communication | Inside Story
  16. (Abstract) All That Was Solid Melts Into Digital Noise: Towards a Theory of the Fragment | CTCS 510
  17. amarx.org – இணையத் தளத் தணிக்கை சரியா? சாத்தியமா? ஒரு குறிப்பு அ.மார்க்ஸ்

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