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Did Italians take to the streets to ask for Allah's help against COVID-19?

by Maxime Dubé - June 18, 2020   443 Views   3 min
Did Italians take to the streets to ask for Allah's help against COVID-19?

Claim

A demonstration was held in Italy in which the participants sang the Shahadah to invoke Allah against COVID-19

Verdict

Inaccurate (no factual basis; unacceptable margin of error)

In April 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in Italy, a video circulated on social networks that claimed Italians had asked for Allah's help by singing the Shahadah in the streets to save Italians from disease. This claim is inaccurate and misleading.

In this video, which first appeared on Twitter on April 7, 2020, it is implied that Italians demonstrated against COVID-19 by asking for Allah's help. In the tweet in question, it is written at the top of the video that Italy sang the takbir. "Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar Yaa Allah, please help us... "...at a time when the country's hospitals were overwhelmed by the disease.

A demonstration in Hamburg, Germany

In fact, this video was shot on January 11, 2020 in Hamburg, Germany during a demonstration against abuses against the Uyghurs in China, as its title "Uyghur demonstration in Hamburg" indicates. The demonstration was organized by Generation Islam in response to the New York Times' unveiling of secret Chinese government documents concerning the detention of the Uighur Muslim minority. Three German newspapers, the Suddeütsche Zeitung, MOPO Hamburger Morgenpost and the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger report that about 2000 people gathered on January 11, 2020 in the district of St. Georg and in downtown Hamburg. These newspapers report that according to the police, there were no incidents during the demonstration.

Visual clues from our initial search

During our methodical search for false news and misinformation, this video quickly caught our attention because it contained several elements that were indicative of a misleading contextualization.

First, there was a glaring error in the video's infographic: the word "start" was spelled "strat". This type of error is rarely made by managers of reliable sources and often made by questionable sources. Second, the tree in the video was leafless, even though in April in Italy, the season is sufficiently advanced for most trees to have leaves; some species are even in full bloom. Finally, the quality of the image was poor. When we suspect a video to be fake, we pay special attention to these details. In this case, the poor visual quality made it difficult to identify details, which is not insignificant. Indeed, the use of this kind of video or blurred photo is a technique used by creators of false information: when the environment cannot be seen clearly, the images can be used to in any context.

A multi-pronged check

After flagging the deception, we undertook a reverse image search on the Google search engine with the help of a screenshot of the video. On the second page of the search results, we found that the video had been posted on the AfD Hamburg Facebook page on January 18, 2020, proof that the event had taken place in Hamburg, Germany, and not in Italy, as claimed by the Internet users who had shared both the video and the story.

In the context of fact-checking, one reliable source is not enough. We clarified the context of the video by triangulating journalistic sources related to the event. Various media such as the Suddeütsche Zeitung, MOPO Hamburger Morgenpost and the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger all reported that a demonstration organized by the association "Generation Islam" took place on January 11, 2020 to denounce the oppression of the Uighur Muslim minority in China.

We went further in our research, as none of the photos taken by the journalists showed the exact scene in question. After searching the Getty images website using the phrase "a demonstration against the oppression of Uighurs in Hamburg", an image was found that showed the buildings appearing in the video.

A clear verdict

Our conclusion is clear: it is inaccurate that citizens demonstrated in the streets of Italy invoking Allah to help them against COVID-19. Certainly, there was a demonstration. But it took place in another country and for another cause. Moreover, to attribute it to Italy in the context of COVID-19 is misleading.

In most cases, an Internet search on a particular subject is enough to find newspapers and official sources denying a dubious statement. However, when the false news or information is still fresh, it is more difficult to fact-check it. Fortunately, there are advanced search tools and analysis techniques available to further determine the context.


Our goal is to provide you with fact checks that are as accurate as and up-to-date as possible. If you think we've made an error or missed crucial information, please CONTACT US.

  • August 12, 2020

    Modified the claim's origin to be from "A Twitter user" to increase clarity.

  Claim

A Twitter user

Organization
A demonstration was held in Italy in which the participants sang the Shahadah to invoke Allah against COVID-19

Verdict:

Inaccurate (no factual basis; unacceptable margin of error)

 June 18, 2020


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