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In Burma, false claims of French rally 'to kick out Muslims'

By Team Observers
November 25, 2015            

In just 24 hours, this Facebook post in Burmese has been shared more than 5,000 times, and “liked” nearly as much. Two photos of massive protests are captioned “a hundred thousand French people protested on November 22 to kick Muslims out of France”. In Burma, where Islamophobia runs rampant, this seemed believable to many.

The post was spotted by Aung Aung, a Burmese Observer living in France. It was published by a popular Facebook page whose name translates to “Knowledge Digest”. Apparently aimed at young people, this page shares all types of news and opinion, including a lot of anti-Muslim and anti-Rohingya rhetoric. In the past few years, the rise of extremist Buddhist nationalists in Burma has led to growing Islamophobia and persecution of the Rohingyas, a Muslim ethnic minority. 

Of course, anyone who pays attention to news from France knows that there have been no major anti-Muslim protests since the November 13 Paris attacks. A quick Google Images search shows that the two photos used in the post are not at all what the caption claims they are. 

Neither photo was taken on November 22. They were taken on two different days, November 17 and November 21. Both were taken by AFP photographers in the southern French city of Toulouse, where marches were held to honor victims of the attacks. There was no rallying cry of “kick out the Muslims” – quite the contrary. In the second photo, you can see a giant banner on which is written, in French, “For freedom and peace, against barbarity and conflations”. Conflations, used in a French context, means mixing up terrorists and Muslims, a mistake many French citizens - including France’s president - have warned against. 

Unfortunately, this message was lost on the thousands of Burmese Facebook users who shared the post. According to our Observer, about three-fourths of the comments expressed anti-Muslim sentiments. Some of them were even written in English, like these: 

A small minority was more suspicious, and at least one person said they reported the post to Facebook. 

We’ll stay tuned to see if the post ends up being taken down – or continues to spread.

Article written with Gaëlle Faure, Journalist

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