MONTREAL—A Toronto-area imam is warning of the dangers of what he calls “fake news” after his photo was used in an article that was widely circulated online.
Ibrahim Hindy said on Sunday that his picture was used to accompany a story that said a Texas mosque turned away hundreds of non-Muslim victims who were seeking shelter during hurricane Harvey.
The story claims a group of flood refugees kicked down the door to the mosque outside Houston and confronted its imam, whose name is given as “Aswat Turads.”
Hindy took to Twitter to point out that he is not the imam in question — who he said he believes is fictional—and has never been to Texas.
His response drew a flood of support and has been retweeted over 170,000 times.
“Honestly I just thought it was so bizarre,” the Mississauga-based imam told The Canadian Press in a series of Facebook messages. “Why would they choose my picture? And the story made no sense to me.”
“Later on I began to think about how these stories using my actual image could actually be dangerous and felt I should call it out.”
Hindy, who is currently in Saudi Arabia for the hajj, or pilgrimage to the Islamic holy city of Mecca, says he is consulting a lawyer on legal avenues to “try to stop and shut down hate.”
One of the websites carrying the article did not immediately respond to an email about Hindy’s concerns.
However, the same site’s “About me” section described it as “a satirical publication that may sometimes appear to be telling the truth.”
“Names that represent actual people and places are purely coincidental and all images should be considered altered and do not in any way depict reality,” reads the message on the site, which calls itself “America’s last line of defense.”
The origins of the article are unclear.
Hindy says he decided to speak out because he wants to confront those who use false stories to divide people and to prey on their fears.
He’s encouraging people to instead focus on the real and positive stories in their communities, including those of the many mosques that have helped out during the hurricane.
Several news outlets, including the Associated Press, have reported on Houston-area mosques that offered to be temporary shelters for the Harvey evacuees.
“These are beautiful stories that can help build the social fabric of society,” Hindy wrote. “If we do more of that, there wouldn’t be a market for these fake articles.”