There’s always that point somewhere in my day when I see something pop up in my feed that just makes me do the facepalm, Picard style. Today, I wasn’t even out of bed yet when I saw that a friend had shared a link claiming that Muslims were trying to force the military to change their dress code so that they could wear turbans and beards.
This isn’t an isolated incident, as we all have at least a couple of friends or family members who tend to forward on easily debunked articles or memes without taking the time to use a little critical thinking – or the wonderful tool known as Google – before hitting “send.”
In fact, I still see the same people falling for the same hoaxes over and over again. How many of you are still often the recipient of emails forwarded to you with the title “FW: FW: FW: FW: FW: FW: FW: FW: FW: FW: FW: FW: FW: FW: FW: FW: FW: FW: FW: FW: Obama’s Secret Agenda EXPOSED!!!” and a rant from an angry acquaintance of your cousin’s neighbor’s uncle who spends all night watching Infowars online? Well, these stories are the 2014 version of the chain emails we used to get all the time back before Facebook.
Here’s what the site had to say:
The Department of Defense released regulations on Wednesday to protect the rights of service members to wear a turban, scarf, or beard, to display their religious beliefs—as long as the practices don’t interfere with “military discipline, order, or readiness.” (Source)
Sounds kind of “meh, whatever” to you, right? So since I hadn’t heard anything on the news about this claim, I decided to Google the chunk of text above to see what came up. One of the links that came up was an identical article, from April 2014 with the exact same wording. Seriously, like word for word and the only thing that was different was one word in the headline (Sikh instead of Muslim) and the website which calls itself “The US Patriot.”
When I ran the WhoIs on the two domains, both theuspatriot.com and americannews.com came up with the same private registration through an Australia-based company. Private registration is often used when a website owner wishes to protect their identity, especially when they’re owned by a private citizen and not a traditional media entity like The Washington Post or New York Times. Offshore registration is used when a website not only wants to protect the identity of the website owner, but also to avoid legal action taken against them for things like plagiarism and other forms of content theft.
It seems that both sites, running the same story with the exact words, almost identical headlines, with the same Australian private registration, are owned by the same person(s). What’s more, they don’t use any kind of sources to back up their claims – because anyone who would read those would also likely realize that the entire story (like many others on their sites) was bogus. The kicker is that if you are using an ad blocker, you can’t even read the stories which are sandwiched in between giant ads that they want you to see since making easy money is really the sole purpose of these sites.
So here’s the fact-check. The image is actually of a Sikh soldier, not a Muslim. The original story was from January when the Pentagon announced that they were easing some dress restrictions for ALL religions, not just Sikhs – or Muslims as these conservative clickbait sites would have you believe. This is especially disgusting considering that far too many Americans do not know the difference between a Sikh and a Muslim, and as a result, many Sikhs have been the targets of violence by ignorant individuals.
Sikhs have suffered from a spate of attacks in recent years based on prejudices against their religion. A recent Stanford University survey showed that 70 percent of turban wearers in the U.S. are misidentified as Muslim (48 percent), Hindu, Buddhist or Shinto.
Sikhism is a monotheistic religion founded in the Punjab region of India in the late 15th century and has no ties to Islam. (Source)
There are only 3 religiously observant Sikh soldiers in the United States military currently, but Sikhs have been known throughout history as great warriors. In the Battle of Saraghari in 1897, a small detachment of just 21 Sikh soldiers held off a force of 10,000 Pashtuns for hours. When offered the chance to surrender, they chose to fight to the death rather than abandon their post. In fact, they fought against greater odds than Leonadis in the famed battle of Thermopylae in the movie “300.” In other words, these are guys we want in the ranks of our military, right?
In closing, I know I have talked time and time again about fact-checking before blindly reacting to something you’ve seen on the internet. What’s more, we also need to gently point out to our friends or family who do share this kind of rubbish where the real story is and what the facts are. In the story above, we could point them to this story from The Army Times, this story from Fox News, or even this one from Breitbart. Seriously, how crazy is it when you can use Fox or Breitbart to debunk a junk article?
We aren’t going to be able to stop the flood of junk, hyperbole and fear-mongering sites like these use, but we can try to take away some of their audience. We won’t end ignorance in America, but every heart and mind reached counts.
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