A friend sent me a disturbing e-mail talking about and depicting an Iranian boy being punished for stealing bread by having his arm crushed by a car. This is the text (Please ignore the photo captions, they were not part of the original mail):
and they say Israelees are hurting children, you can't trust your own protectors
This isn’t human….
VERY TRUE & DISGUSTING...BUT TRUE
You guys have to see this….
& you thought we had it bad…
Unbelievable, It cannot be true....Take a look
THERE ARE NO WORDS TO DESCRIBE THIS!!!!!
MAY GOD HAVE MERCY ON US!!!
No religion can ever justify such hideous crimes
Pass it on ......let the world know what's happening in the name of Islam...
Pass this to all, for public awareness.
It must be sent WORLD WIDE!
Even if this message is sent to you more than once, just keep on passing it on!
This is surely disturbing, but is it true or is it simply a misinterpretation of something completely different? It turns out to be one more Internet hoax.
When I saw this, I couldn't help but think of a simple street performers' trick and, sure enough, I found several that nicely illustrated the point, as can be seen in the videos, including one by the world-famous duo Penn and Teller.
However, the simple fact that tricks like this are done, is not enough to affirm that the event described in the article is indeed a trick. I needed something more substantial to dispute the veracity of this e-mail. So, I set out to find more information.
It turns out that the original pictures were taken from a 2005 Iranian weblog on peykeiran.com
. They are credited to "Siamak Yari" The two-part article is no longer on line, but some sniffing around turned it up nevertheless (a good reminder that whatever one publishes on the Internet is potentially there forever!):
contained the first four pictures.
contained the last four pictures.
The second part contained three pictures that are omitted from the e-mail. These are those pictures:
It seems clear why these pictures were not included in the e-mail that was sent to me. That casts a lot of doubt on the honourable intentions of the unknown author. Furthermore, to the best of my knowledge, children would not be punished in such a severe way in the name of Islam. If this would have been the case, we would probably see more Iranian children without hands than normal children, and that doesn't seem to be the case.
Does that mean that such thing would never happen? Of course not. We know that there are parents who do horrible things to their children. We also know that the holy books of the Abrahamic religions command the believers to mutilate their children and to go even as far as to kill their children as a punishment in certain cases. And that's another point. This e-mail expresses hatred for Islam, and it uses elements of truth to demonstrate an untruth.
Besides that, the e-mail contains the classical elements of the Internet hoax e-mail:
1. Badly written
2. Funny and rather tasteless formatting with different font sizes and colours
3. Urges to send it to everyone
The conclusion seems clear: this is a series of pictures of a street magic performance, nothing more. It has been perverted into a propaganda e-mail to vilify Islam.
I believe it is important to talk about this type of urban legend or Internet hoax, because many naive and credulous people actually believe them. While believing this particular e-mail may not actually harm anyone, I believe it contributes to a general atmosphere of malaise, suspicion and hatred towards a culture of which we know far too little in the West, and this can in turn lead to hate-crimes, something we absolutely do not need.
Information about this series of pictures (with other text) can also be found here:
I also have the original text of the article in which the photos were originally published. It is written in Farsi (Persian). Unfortunately, my knowledge of Farsi is non-existent. That is a shame, for it is the language of one of the great cultures of our planet, a language of science, and literature. But there it is, I don't know it. If you happen to know Farsi, and would like to translate it, please contact me, I'll send you the text.