Anti-Muslim conspiracies thrived on social media as Notre-Dame burned

Right-wing commentators have seized upon the fire to spread false anti-Islamic narratives.

French officials have announced the fire that almost destroyed the Notre-Dame Cathedral was an accident - but that hasn't stopped people on the internet peddling false anti-Muslim narratives. 

Alt-right figures took to social media to share a number of hoaxes, including a video which purported to show Muslim people 'laughing' in reaction to a video of the cathedral burning, and another which had unrelated audio of people shouting "Allahu Akbar" edited over the top. 

According to Buzzfeed News, the audio track was taken from the first result that appears when searching "allahu akbar shouting". 

Investigations into the cause of the fire are still continuing, but Paris public prosecutor Remy Heitz said there was no evidence of arson at this stage.

An image shared on Facebook, Twitter and Reddit allegedly showing two Muslim men revelling in the burning cathedral was seized upon by anti-Islamic commentator Pamela Geller. 

The source of the image and identity of the men is unclear. 

Articles relating to a failed terrorist attack near the Notre-Dame cathedral in 2016 have also been widely shared, often with headlines that obscure the original context. 

Controversial Australian Imam Mohammad Tawhidi, who has 382,000 followers, said on Twitter that he was "not buying the 'accident' story" after sharing an image allegedly showing Muslims commenting positively about the inferno. 

At the same time, a new YouTube tool aimed at preventing misinformation incorrectly linked a video of the burning spire to the September 11 terror attacks in New York.

Information boxes purporting to provide context to the footage instead described the 2001 attacks.

According to Buzzfeed News, the error was visible on at least three live streams of the Notre-Dame fire, but was only visible to users in the United States and South Korea.

Nine hours after the fire broke out, it was finally brought under control on Tuesday, with much of the structure still standing.

French President Emmanuel Macron vowed to restore Notre-Dame Cathedral within five years in a televised address to his nation.

Published 17 April 2019 at 9:25am
By Maani Truu