As most are aware by now, Notre Dame erupted in flames on Monday, April 15th, 2019.
Originally built in 1163 and finished in 1343, there are no official deaths that have been reported. Compromised parts of the stunning cathedral was demolished and the French President, Emmanuel Macron, has promised to rebuild the cathedral. The fire is fully under control, but authorities are still unable to figure out the reason behind the fire, as reported by CBS.
As news of this historic cathedral spread and shocked the world, something more sinister was happening in the shadows: this tragic incident was being pinned on Muslims with absolutely no proof to back up the incendiary allegations. According to coverage by Business Insider, alt-right groups leapt to pin blame for the fire on Muslims, and despite French authorities insisting that this was not a deliberate act of arson, conspiracy theorists were more than happy to manifest damaging and false theories of their own.
A conspiracy theorist named Jack Posobiec even attempted to link the cathedral burning down to the horrifying events of 9/11. In a particularly bold lie, Faith Goldy, an alt-right activist stated, “a Muslim jihadis [sic] in Paris was arrested for planning a terrorist attack at Notre-Dame Cathedral.”
A fake CNN Twitter account (which is no longer active) was even caught spreading false news that the Notre Dame fire was a deliberate act of arson, and that Muslims were behind it:
While Twitter initially refused to take the account down, claiming that it was a “parody” account and therefore had some time to comply with Twitter’s “parody policy”:
“The team is reviewing reports and if they are in violation suspending them per the Twitter Rules,” a Twitter spokesperson informed Business Insider. While the account was eventually removed, it may have been too little, too late. This bout of fake news flooded the internet and right-wingers continued to take pleasure in blaming Muslims for this horrendous event.
Despite the fact that there are roughly 3.35 million Muslims in the U.S. according to The Washington Times, it seems that there are still many who do not know what true Muslims stand for. When tragedies such as this one occur, it is important not to be quick to point fingers because of fear. People fear what they don’t know. However, if individuals would be willing to become more educated on each other’s religions and learn to be more tolerant, we might have a chance of being one step closer to combating racial issues. Additionally, it seems as though social media is still unwilling to tackle harmful and falsified rhetoric. But this can’t go on. With every minute of fake news broadcasted, more and more lives are at risk.
After the events in New Zealand, Muslims received sympathy from the media and various leaders across the world, making it seem as if people were finally becoming more accepting of our community’s trauma. However, after the fire at Notre Dame, alt-right outlets and individuals were permitted to blame Muslims for this devastating tragedy. With this, it has become abundantly clear that Islamophobia is still very much present, and we implore social media platforms like Twitter to play a bigger and more emphatic role in tackling this type of vitriol.