A video published on Facebook on October 24 has gone viral on Arabic-speaking social media platforms. The post says that it shows huge crowds gathering in Istanbul to defend the Prophet Muhammad, after French President Emmanuel Macron’s declaration that he would protect the right to publish potentially offensive cartoons. However, the video actually shows a celebration of the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, in November 2019 in Sana’a, Yemen.
The Arabic-speaking page Watar Net (which is supposedly a Jordanian news website yet to be officially launched) published this video, which soon racked up more than 2,000 comments and was shared more than 15,000 times.
“We will never give up our cartoons,” Emmanual Macron announced on 21 October, during the national tribute ceremony for the French teacher Samuel Paty, who was murdered for having shown a class a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad. Those words were met with anger in the Muslim world, particularly in Turkey, where President Recep Tayyip Erdogan immediately called for a boycott of French products.
Why it’s false
There are several visual clues in the video that help us decipher where it comes from: the logo on the top left-hand side of the screen refers to, in Arabic, the “Media center of Ansar Allah.” Ansar Allah is the official name of a Houthi armed religious movement based in Sa’dah in the north of Yemen, and which has had control over the capital Sana’a since 2015.
According to the Arabic fact-checking website Fatabayanou, a search in Arabic for the keyword ‘prophet’ on this movement’s YouTube channel brings up the original video, published on November 10, 2019, with the following caption: “Yemenis are supporters of the great Prophet during the birthday celebrations on 10-11-2019 ”. Here is the video, which can be found on YouTube.
There’s one more clue: part of a huge mosque is visible in the top right-hand corner of the video. According to Fatabayanou, it’s identifiable as the Essaleh Mosque in Sana’a, Yemen’s largest mosque, which was inaugurated in 2008. A quick online search confirms these details.
So this video actually dates back to 2019 and was filmed in Yemen during the ‘Al-Mawlid’ celebrations for the birthday of the Prophet, and has no link to the current protests in the Muslim world against France.
Article written by Omar Tiss.