Widely circulated message claims that an attached photograph shows the charred bodies of Rohingya Muslims burned in a massacre perpetrated by Buddhists in Burma.
The photograph is genuine, but it does not show the aftermath of a terrorist attack, but rather the bodies of people burned in a fuel tanker explosion in the Democratic Republic of Congo. While Burma has a long and bloody history of religiously motivated violence, this explosion was a tragic accident and was not the work of Buddhist terrorists. Nor was it in any way targeted at Muslims or Christians. The claims in the protest message have no basis in fact.
According to this message, which circulates via social media sites, blogs and email, a graphic image that travels with the message depicts the charred bodies of Rohingya Muslims (in some versions they claimed 500 Nigerian Christians burned in a religious orientated attack by Muslim terrorists). The message claims that the supposed massacre has been ignored by the mainstream media and that the story and picture were removed from Facebook in an apparent effort to keep information about the attack from being publicized.
However, the claims in this would-be protest message have no basis in fact. The photograph used in the message to illustrate the supposed massacre is genuine but it does not depict the aftermath of an attack by Buddhist terrorists or Islamic terrorists as claimed nor was the picture taken in Burma. In fact, the image shows the bodies of people killed in a massive petrol tanker explosion that occurred in the Democratic Republic of Congo in July 2010. A Reuters news article about the accident noted:
(Reuters) – At least 230 people were killed when a fuel tanker overturned and exploded in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, unleashing a fire ball that tore through homes and cinemas packed with people watching World Cup soccer.
Officials said on Saturday the explosion late on Friday also injured 196 people, adding that the death toll could rise.
They described scenes of devastation in the town of Sange, where houses were burned and bodies littered the streets. Some people died while trying to steal fuel leaking from the tanker, but most were killed at home or watching World Cup soccer in cinemas.
Many articles about the explosion use the same image featured in protest messages. Other news articles show the same scene after the bodies have been bagged and prepared for burial in mass graves.
The explosion was a result of a tragic accident and was certainly not a terrorist attack against the Rohingya Muslims. Moreover, while there has been a long history of religiously motivated violence between Muslims and Buddhists in Burma, there are no credible reports of a massacre like the one described in the above message. Thus, it seems that the creator of the message has taken an unrelated image and simply invented a story to go with it in an effort to further his or her own agenda.
And, the accusation in the message that the mainstream media deliberately ignores terrorist attacks against Christians is unfounded and actually rather silly. Furthermore, while Facebook may well have – quite legitimately – removed the image from its network because it was ‘violent’ or ‘inappropriate’ , the suggestion that the company has some deliberate policy of bowing to Buddhist terrorists is nonsensical.
Telling outright lies to further a particular political or religious agenda is counterproductive and the dissemination of such inflammatory misinformation will do nothing more than add fuel to the fires of religious hatred and intolerance. And deliberately misusing an image showing bodies of accident victims to push a particular world view shows a callous and immoral disregard for both the victims and their families.