Can’t a Muslim just mourn?

24 Sep

Here’s the picture a friend e-mailed me:

The text of the e-mail read (in large italicized, multicolored and bolded letters):

IN CASE YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THIS.
READ CAREFULLY……….. This is so “Unbelievable”…..

In Houston, Texas

Harwin Central Mall: The very first store that you come to when you walk from the lobby of the building into the shopping area had this sign posted on their door. The shop is run by Muslims.

Feel free to share this with others.

“We will be closed on Tuesday, September 11, 2012 to commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Ali”

Imam Ali flew one of the planes into the twin towers.

Nice huh?

Try telling me we’re not in a Religious war!

My first reaction? I think not. Why?

  1. It was one of those e-mails forwarded through various people. You know, read and forward, read and forward, read and forward–because the people should know!
  2. Any e-mail that is written in red, blue and black text that is randomly left-aligned and then centered on the page in no less than 24 pt font is immediately suspicious to me, as to the merit of its message.
  3. The abuse of the ellipsis (…) completely undermines any reliability the writer aspires to. Holding down the button does not make this punctuation any more serious, folks.

So I did some research. I typed “We will be closed on Tuesday, September 11, 2012 to commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Ali” into a search engine and… bing!

Up popped snopes.com, about.com’s “Urban legends” page and truthorfiction.com: three sites dedicated to debunking e-myths. Here’s the scoop:

The mall in Houston is real (it’s actually known as the Harwin Central Mart), the store in the mall is real (it’s called Perfume Planet), and the sign pictured above was real (it said, “We will be closed on Friday, September 11, 2009 to commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Ali (A.S.)”).

However, the email text contains a very conspicuous falsehood, namely the claim that “Imam Ali” was one of the terrorists who flew planes into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. He was not. None of the 9/11 hijackers identified by the FBI went by that name.

In fact, Imam Ali — whom Shia Muslims revere as Muhammad’s successor and Islam’s First Imam — died more than 13 centuries ago, in 661 A.D. His martyrdom is commemorated on the 21st day of Ramadan each year, which in 2009 happened to fall on September 11.

Update: A new (and obviously false) version of this rumor began circulating in September 2012 claiming that the store closing sign was posted in 2012 (http://urbanlegends.about.com/od/socialpoliticalissues/ss/sign_in_harwin_central_mall.htm).

According to snopes.com:

Store manager Imran Chunawala was stunned [by the reaction] because the holiday had nothing to do with 9/11 [and the store has closed every year to observe Imam Ali’s martyrdom].

Then he realized what happened. Imam Ali died on the 21st day of Ramadan in the year 661 AD. It’s a somber and significant holy day for Muslims. [in 2009] it coincidentally fell on September 11.

“We did not explain enough in the sign because that is the exact same sign we put up every year on this particular day for this particular reason,” said Chunawala.

He apologized for the confusion and put up a new sign thoroughly explaining the martyr they were honoring died in 661 AD.

“If people thought that that’s what this was about, I apologize,” Chunawala said. “That was not what this was about. I’m clarifying once again and I seriously am sorry for any misunderstanding that this caused”  (http://www.snopes.com/rumors/photos/martyr.asp).

Note the profuse apology. No matter how sincerely Chunawala may regret that people were offended, I can’t help but think he must also be motivated by fear of what other people’s misunderstanding and lack of information might mean for him and his business.

Sadly but predictably, despite the public apology and clarification, the store’s owner, a US citizen, has been accused of being a terrorist and threatened in person and by mail.

So what? As about.com has pointed out, this rumor, which started in 2009, has been resurrected in 2012. So I’ve spent the past hour researching, responding to the person who e-mailed me (and cc’ing the person who e-mailed him) and writing this post because it’s time this hate legend went extinct.

I’m asking you to take the time to stomp out this and other hate legends, if they reach your inbox. Unlike other fabrications that just contain silly misinformation, hate legends perpetuate ignorance to justify intolerance, violence and inhumanity toward a group. And it’s not enough just to delete a hate legend: we have a responsibility to “reply all.”

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