Contentious “fact-checker” and inveterate fake news peddler Alt News has a habit of dishing out clean chits and making presumptions based on flimsy evidence. It recently did so during the Congress toolkit fiasco when it presumptuously declared the document to be fake without offering substantial evidence to prove it.
Recently, it tried to pull off a similar stunt by unequivocally concluding that posters that were put up in Uttar Pradesh’s Pratapgarh and which bore incendiary quotes attributed to prominent Muslim leaders were not installed by the members of the Muslim community.
A controversy had erupted after posters carrying pictures of eminent Muslim leaders with vitriolic messages for non-Muslims were found raised in many areas of Pratapgarh. Among leaders whose posters were put up in Pratapgarh included AIMIM leader and MLA Akbaruddin Owaisi, Syed Ahmed Bukhari, 13th Shahi Imam of the Jama Masjid, Azam Khan, founding member of the Samajwadi Party, Noor ur Rahman Barkati, former Shahi Imam in Kolkata and Islamic hate preacher Zakir Naik.
Soon after the posters were found to be installed on the boundary wall of Uttar Pradesh-based TP Inter College in Kunda, the Altnews rushed in to defend the Muslim leaders and paint them as victims of insidious propaganda. It cited tweets posted by random social media users to claim that Muslims were being unjustifiably vilified and accused of putting up the inflammatory posters.
It cited the police statement in the case to absolve Muslim leaders and members of the Muslim community of any culpability. The Pratapgarh police in its statement said that the investigation is still underway to locate the “mischievous elements” responsible for putting up the contentious posters. The Alt News used this police statement to opine that the claims that Muslims had erected the posters were baseless.
It is worth noting here that the police had not discounted the possibility that the posters may indeed have been put up by rabble-rousers belonging to the Muslim community. Yet, Altnews, in their bid to exculpate Muslims, jumped the gun and concluded that it is unlikely that Muslims will put up the posters and draw negative attention to the community.
According to Alt News, Muslims would not make patently anti-Hindu comments on the posters because it would bring unfavourable attention to the community. If this is the case, then why do the prominent Muslim leaders in India don’t hesitate from hurling anti-Hindu slurs, rationalising the destruction of temples by Muslim marauders, glorifying the Islamic conquest of India in the medieval centuries?
Controversial statements made by prominent Muslim personalities where they glorified Mughal marauders, Islamic plunderers and threatened to persecuted Hindus
Two years back, Maulana Ansar Raza of Gareeb Nawaz Foundation, one of the influential voices among the Muslim cleric community, hailed Mughal ruler Aurangzeb on live television. In a news debate hosted by late Rohit Sardana, Raza said he is proud of being a follower of Aurangzeb and that the Mughal emperor should be praised instead of being denigrated as plunderer and traitor.
A few years back, Maulana Ansar Raza had refused to denounce Mohammed Ibn Qasim, a Muslim ruler responsible for carrying out large-scale slaughter of Hindus. In a debate with Tarek Fatah on Zee News, Raza not only refused to decry Ibn Qasim, but he even hailed Mahmood Ghaznavi as his hero. Ghaznavi or Mahmud of Ghazni is infamous for raiding the Somnath temple 17 times and destroying its revered idol into four pieces, an affront meant to show Hindus their place and establish the supremacy of Islam.
Then there is Samajwadi Party’s motormouth leader Azam Khan who has often made controversial statements. In July 2019, Khan stirred a furore by asserting that the ‘mob lynching’ incidents are Muslims getting punished for not going to Pakistan in 1947. Khan, however, did not mention anything about scores of Hindus who have been killed by Muslim mobs in the country.
Islamic hate preacher Zakir Naik has a bunch of outrageous remarks against his name. Naik, who is regarded by scores of Muslims as a reliable authority on Islamic hadiths and Holy Quran, had glorified Islamic terrorists, including Osama Bin Laden, and justified their jihad against non-believers. Naik had said that Islam is superior to all other faiths. He even said that non-Muslims should not be allowed to have places of religious worship in an Islamic country.
Naik cited Islamic verses to justify Muslim men’s right to have sex with their female slaves. He also advocated using violence against a disobedient wife, quoting Quranic verses to justify that wife bashing is not a sinful deed. Based on the teachings of the Qur’an and Sunnah, Naik said the killings of homosexuals is justified.
Delhi MLA Amanatullah Khan recently called for the decapitation of the chief abbot of Dasna Devi Temple Yati Narsinghanand Saraswati. He later brazened out his stand and defended his call for the beheading of the Hindu priest.
Akbaruddin Owaisi is another controversial leader known for his anti-Hindu tirades and incendiary speeches. In 2012, Akbaruddin Owaisi, the younger brother of AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi, made the infamous ’15-minutes provocative phrase’. In his highly inflammatory speech, Owaisi had asked the administration to remove the police for 15 minutes so that he could finish off 100 crores Hindus. Cases of hate speech were registered against him but this did not deter him from making the same inflammatory remarks yet again in a public meeting in 2019.
By Alt News logic, either all the aforementioned instances are fake news or all the personalities mentioned above are not Muslims, since their generalised conclusion says that Muslims cannot make rash statements as it would draw negative attention to the community. Or perhaps, Alt News does not consider the statements made by prominent Muslim leaders listed above as inflammatory or condemnable.
When there are so many highly objectionable comments made by prominent Muslim leaders, a generalised conclusion that Muslims won’t make inflammatory remarks to attract unfavourable attention does not hold water. And since Muslim leaders have not shied away from making such threatening and disparaging remarks against Hindus, how could the Alt News conclude that Muslims were not behind installing the posters in Pratapgarh? Instead of waiting for the final outcome of the police investigation, the portal has already passed a verdict that Muslims are not behind the posters.
Dubious method used by Alt News to absolve Muslim leaders for making inflammatory remarks
Besides, Alt News also reached out to AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi to ask him if the quotes printed next to his picture on the posters found in Pratapgarh were indeed made by him. As expected, Owaisi rubbished them as fake and alleged that he would soon file a complaint with cyber cell. The Alt News said they carried out searches of comments mentioned in Owaisi’s posters to claim that such instigators statements attributed to the AIMIM leader have been doing the rounds for the last many years. Similarly, the far-left “fact-checking” website conducted that searches of other posters to conclude that the remarks made in them were old and in circulation for a long time.
One of the posters that were found in Pratapgarh bore the image of Zakir Naik along with an incendiary remark made by him. Alt News, in its analysis, said it could not find the remark made by Naik in its online search and therefore, the remark was fake. A Twitter user who goes by @BefittingFacts pointed out that just because the google experts at Alt News could not find Naik’s controversial remarks doesn’t mean he did not make it. The user shared the gazette notification issued by the MHA which mentioned the provocative remarks made by Zakir Naik and which was printed on the posters.
This is Gazetted Notification from Ministry of Home Affairs. Just because your google expert didnt find anything that doesnt mean its fake. pic.twitter.com/Ix3Bimhrbe— Facts (@BefittingFacts) August 18, 2021
By conducting a search of the comments, one can determine the provenance of the quotes. The method doesn’t prove that the statements were not made by the leaders in question. Neither does the search of posters yield information about the religious identity of people who may have put up the posters. And as we have seen in the above case, search engine searches are not entirely reliable and its result cannot be treated as gospel truth. Therefore, Alt News’ claim that Muslims may not have put up the posters is highly untenable.
Past instances when Alt News resorted to questionable methods to further its propaganda
In fact, Alt News has often resorted to using devious methods as a part of its modus operandi to give a boost to its propaganda of keeping the Muslim victimhood narrative alive. It has mastered several methods to further its narrative while disproving a contrarian worldview. Besides using reverse search images for its propaganda purposes, it has also emphasised nitpicking about petty and irrelevant details of an incident to muddle the readers and sow doubts about the narrative around the incident.
For instance, last year, when the videos of Muslim vegetable vendors applying saliva to their produce had gone viral, Altnews tried to water down the act by alleging that the video of a Muslim vegetable vendor spitting on the vegetables was not from April but from February, as if spitting on the vegetables in February was totally in accordance with the prevailing societal norms.
The question here was, on what basis did Altnews fact-checked the article? Firstly, it is astoundingly ludicrous to premise one’s fact-check not on the event itself but the date and timing of the event. They had no qualms if the person spat on the vegetables and fruits. They were primarily concerned with exculpating the Muslim vegetable vendor. Fact-check as to when and where the incident happened held more importance than the unscrupulous act committed by the man. The fact that the man may have applied saliva to the vegetables did not scandalise them. They were preoccupied with their propaganda of salvaging Muslims, regardless of their culpability.
The same continued with the Tablighi Jamaat episode where Altnews went on an overdrive to whitewash the hoodlums of the Muslim seminary, whose unhygienic practices powered the inexorable rise of coronavirus cases in the country in March-April 2020. However, However, slanted ‘fact-check’ website was then so engrossed in their Muslim salvation that they could not bring themselves to acknowledge the fact that the cases in the country had indeed skyrocketed because of the Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Delhi.
The recent clean chit to Muslim leaders and members of the Muslim community and declare that they had no role in putting up the inflammatory posters in Uttar Pradesh’s Pratapgarh is yet another shoddy attempt at Muslim appeasement even as the city police claims it is still investigating the case and the identity of the miscreants is not known yet.