How Selective Fact-Checking Is Being Used To Whitewash Real Misdeeds Of Tablighis As ‘Fake News’

Swati Goel Sharma

Apr 09, 2020, 10:27 AM | Updated 12:58 PM IST

A screenshot of RJ Sayema’s tweet
A screenshot of RJ Sayema’s tweet
  • There are videos available of Tablighi Jamaat patients spitting at and misbehaving with healthcare officials, there are eyewitness accounts and there are FIRs registered.
  • A scary number of cases of attendees of the recent Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Delhi spitting at doctors, misbehaving with hospital staff and defecating in hospital corridors have been reported across India in the past two weeks.

    There are videos available of such acts, there are eyewitness accounts and there are FIRs registered.

    Yet, many media publications and commentators promoting the Leftist-Islamist ideology would have you believe that all these cases are nothing but “fake news”.

    For instance, when a Twitter user mentioned these cases to Sayema – a radio jockey with Radio Mirchi and a social media influencer – she called it all “fake news”.

    A screenshot of RJ Sayema’s tweet
    A screenshot of RJ Sayema’s tweet

    Another Twitter user with a significant following posted that “all the stories” of Tablighi members spitting in public are “fake”.

    What makes these false statements believable is that they are powered by alternative facts.

    These users are citing cases where Tablighis did not spit on healthcare officials or did not misbehave with them to discredit reports where they did all this and much more. If you look closely, there is a pattern to how real cases are being discredited and brushed under the carpet by amplifying false cases.

    • A section of the media is ignoring the real cases
    • Ideologically aligned fact-checking websites are selectively picking up only those claims that are similar to the real ones but are false
    • These websites are then ‘busting’ those claims
    • The fact-checks are being amplified by influencers to mislead their readers into believing that there are no real cases

    Take a 3 April report by Time magazine on the Tablighis, headlined ‘It Was Already Dangerous to Be Muslim in India. Then Came the Coronavirus’.

    “Coronavirus fears and religious tension were already at a fever pitch in India, and it didn’t take long for the two forces to intermingle. Videos falsely claiming to show members of the missionary group spitting on police and others quickly went viral on social media, exacerbating an already dangerous atmosphere for Muslims,” the report said, citing an AltNews report.

    The AltNews report debunked a video of an under-trial in Mumbai spitting on the police in February, that is being shared these days with a false claim that he is a Tablighi.

    It is to be noted that the under-trial, named Mohammad Sohal Shaukat Ali, indeed spat at the cops in the police van in February; reports said that was after the police did not allow him to eat home-cooked food brought by his family.

    Note how the Time report, by choosing to mention only the false claim, is misleading the readers into believing that perhaps all such claims are false.

    This is far from the truth. Here are a few of the many reports of Tablighis spitting at officials:

    Now, let’s take a recent tweet by journalist Sagarika Ghose, who has 4 million followers on Twitter, which said, “No, Tablighi Jamat members are not wandering around naked in an isolation ward in hospital, it’s a fake video video from Pakistan”.

    The tweet is accompanied by link of another AltNews report that debunks an old video from Pakistan being now shared by some users as Tablighi Jamaat members roaming naked in isolation wards.

    Ghose’s post appears to be carefully crafted to mislead the reader into believing that all claims of Jamaat members roaming unclothed in hospitals are false.

    This is, again, far from the truth. Not only have the nurses of a Ghaziabad hospital complained in writing that Tablighi patients roamed in the premises not fully clothed, making lewd gestures, an FIR too has been filed based on their complaint.

    India Today, 2 April: Tablighi Jamaat patients making vulgar signs, roaming nude inside hospital: Ghaziabad CMO tells police

    The India Today report quoted the Ghaziabad's MMG District Hospital CMO as saying: “the Jamaati patients put under observation for suspected coronavirus infection at the hospital's isolation ward have been roaming around without their pants, nude, and listening to vulgar songs."

    The Tablighis have not only endangered the health and safety of officials, but also indulged in such misdeeds that have put additional stress on the healthcare system.

    Latest reports say that Tablighis have defecated in hospital premises and on the bed.

    “The housekeeping staff then found that the two men occupying a nearby room had defecated on the beds. The duo asked the staff to clean the bedsheets, and when they declined, got into a heated argument,” the Times of India report says.

    Then there are also multiple reports of Muslim mobs attacking the police for conducting search raids for Tablighi attendees possibly hidden in their areas.

    There is at least one confirmed case where a group of Muslim men killed a Hindu man over a comment made against the Jamaat.

    With such shameful and dangerous behaviour displayed by Tablighis over the past week across the country, at a time when the healthcare system is under great duress, it is expected of public commentators to do a deep dive into the reasons for this behaviour and suggest ways to prevent Tablighi-like disasters in future.

    On the contrary, it’s highly unfortunate that a section is busy whitewashing the Tablighis’ real misdeeds as fake news and campaigning against Islamophobia.

    They would instead do well by listening to dissenting voices from the Muslim community itself, such as filmmaker Abbas Tyrewala who put out a powerful Facebook post recently on Markaz tragedy”. Decrying the tight hold of the Islamic clergy over the community, Tyrewala said that the reason why Muslims are hated everywhere is the hardliner Islamic clergy of most Jamaats.

    “It’s not just about Islamophobia,” he said.

    The Leftists-Islamists should also hear out one of their own — Congress leader Manish Tewari. On 8 April, Tewari reacted to a news report on Tablighi members throwing urine-filled bottles by posting, “why can’t these Tablighi’s just behave themselves?Don’t these people realise that they have done enough damage already...”

    An FIR has been filed in this case against unidentified accused at Delhi’s Dwarka North Police Station.

    There are high chances that in the coming days, a false claim would surface on the Internet of Tablighis throwing urine bottles. Fact-checkers would and should debunk those by all means. However, let not that one false case hide the shameful truth of the Dwarka incident.

    The public has the right to know the truth as it faces real health and safety hazards.

    Swati Goel Sharma is a senior editor at Swarajya. She tweets at @swati_gs.

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