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Sarkozy ‘Do Ramadan the French way’ spoof infuriates Mideast

By Michael Cosgrove     Aug 24, 2010 in Internet
An innocent Internet joke by an unknown Moroccan blogger suddenly found itself on CNN before being picked up by the Middle East press and turned into news headlines decrying the “Fatwa” issued by the French President.
It should have been a dream day for Ahmed, an anonymous blogger who was overjoyed when he learned that CNN had picked up his blog about Nicolas Sarkozy, Muslims and Ramadan, reports Rue89.
Little by little however it began to dawn on him that CNN were taking his story seriously, and he started to worry. His worries proved to be well-founded, as he soon found himself being touted as the person who had just released a scoop about the French president’s declaration that Arabs in France should follow Ramadan in the French way, with café and croissants.
Things then spiraled out of control with the blog flashing virally across the Middle East like wildfire before ending up on the front pages of several national newspapers, all of which caustically attacked Sarkozy for his “attacks on the Muslim faith.”
But none of it was real. His blog, posted on Alash? (‘Why?’ in Arabic), was a spoof intended to demonstrate his disagreement with Nicolas Sarkozy on issues concerning Muslims. It consisted of a fake speech by the president in which he ‘said’;
“My dear fellow citizens, a French Muslim is French first and a Muslim afterwards. This is why the old French tradition of breakfasting on coffee and croissants should not be abandoned (during Ramadan.)”
The president ‘added’ that “In virtue of the Fatwas issued by al-Azhar University and their jurisprudence for Muslims, French Muslims have permission to begin the day with coffee and a croissant just like all the other French people do, at 8 in the morning before going to work.”
Ahmed’s imaginary Sarkozy goes on to exhort Muslims to read the Koran in French and pray in French too in order that Islam become a French religion.
Then, as his spoof was beginning to be reported as news but without a link to his blog he decided to edit the blog to include a disclaimer. “This article is a satirical story about an imaginary event. The aim of it was to discuss the relations between Sarkozy {…} and the Muslim minority in France.”
CNN also became cited as a primary source for the “news” and then reactions from the Arab world became more virulent.
The Egyptian Muslim Brothers movement put up an article on its site condemning what it called “ aggression against the Muslim faith” before going on to call upon the “Erudites and leaders of Arab and Muslim regimes to express their opposition to these futilities and take Sarkozy to court for an attack on religious freedoms.”
Iraqi site used a more ironic approach, announcing that “Master Sarkozy, the Mufti of Paris, has issued an ultramodern Fatwa which authorizes French Muslims to take coffee with a croissant at dawn during the sacred month of Ramadan in order not to depreciate the value of their citizenship!”
Jordanian paper Adustour published an article headlined “French Ramadan, Sarkozy-style” and Moroccan daily al-Alam’s front page article carried the headline “President Sarkozy presents the French version of fasting and prayer during Ramadan.”
The Kuwaiti paper al-Dar published in a similar vein and the pan-Arab TV station Al-Arabia featured a report on it.
Ahmed says that he has been shocked by all the plagiarized and satirical versions of his spoof, although he is not opposed to freedom of expression. That said, he formulated “a bit of advice” for those who copy and use information and news on the Internet. They are;
1. Read the information or articles you use at least twice before hitting ‘Publish.’
2. Mention your sources and add links to them.
3. Inform readers of any possible misinterpretation which may occur.
In other words, be rigorously professional.
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