Myths aren’t just annoying – they promote hatred

I have long been passionate about debunking urban legends, and that I’m very concerned at how easy online and phone-based tools, from email to Twitter, are making it to promote rumors and myths. Five to 10 years ago, I was blogging on this subject regularly. The web host where I published these blogs is long gone, and I’m now trying to find my many blogs on the subject of how folklore, rumors (or rumours) and urban myths Interfere with development work, aid/relief efforts and community health initiatives, so I can republish them here. I’ll be publishing these every Saturday until they are all back online. 

This blog originally appeared on a different blog host on 13. August 2009.

myths aren’t just annoying – they promote hatred

I worked in Afghanistan for six months in 2007, and I maintain a lot of contacts there. One of them forwards emails to several people, including me, regarding warnings or calls for protests, and all of them have been urban legends — not one has been true. The latest was this:

In the business area of MID TOWN MAN HATTAN in New York a new BAR is opened in the name of APPLE MECCA which is familiar to KAABA MAKKAH. This bar will be used for supply of Wine and Drinks. The Muslims of New York are pressurizing Government of USA not open this BAR.

Accompanying this myth is a purported photo of the “bar” — here’s an example.

Ofcourse this is all a lieThe picture is not real. It is a doctored image of the Apple Computer store on Fifth Avenue in New York City (which, indeed, has a bar — a genius bar — where knowledge, rather than wine and beer, is served). It is a clear block, not a black box, and is not at all a rendering of the holy Ka’ba. But many people forward the message via their phones or computers to all their friends and relatives, and they not only keep the lie alive, they also generate hatred and misunderstanding by Muslims against the West.

In the USA, we have a variety of online resources that debunk myths and rumors, such as the Straight Dope column by Cecil Adams, truthorfiction.com, President Obama’s Reality Check, and the popular but politically-framed snopes.comAre there any efforts in Arab-speaking countries and countries with large numbers of Muslims that are actively, engaging in myth-busting? If you know of such, please contact me. If not — please, someone, get busy!

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