Above: Romelu Lukaku celebrates a goal for United. Credit: AP.
A few months ago, we ran a series that exposed the most heinous examples of fake news on the internet. It was fun for a time, but after you’ve spent several weeks actively looking for headlines like ‘BARACK OBAMA IS AN ILLUMINATI SPACE SERPENT’ it starts to weird you out. Basically, it got a bit sad, so we stopped.
But with all former series on Ummahsonic, we like to pull them out of the ashes if a real corker makes its way across our timelines. Last week, a slam-dunk stonker of fake news popped up on our screens, so we figured we needed to tell you about it.
According to Mail Online (and the print edition of Daily Mail), The Mirror and The Sun, Romelu Lukaku, Manchester United’s new striker, was ruled out of contention for man of the match after a recent preseason game due to his ‘Muslim faith.’
The Mail Online’s headline.
The match, which took place in Texas, was sponsored by Heineken, meaning the winner of MOTM would be required to mug for the cameras with a big bottle of beer. Seeing as Lukaku’s faith means he’s ‘unable to pose with alcoholic gifts’, Heineken made sure he didn’t win – even though he put in a goalscoring performance worthy of the prize.
A screengrab from The Sun’s article, which has since been removed.
The thing is, Lukaku is not Muslim. In fact, he’s visibly Christian. Here he is crossing himself in the same preseason tournament:
And here he is crossing himself following kick-off in a game played one week before the Manchester City match in question:
Unless he happened to convert in the four days that followed, it looks as if some major British tabloids made a pretty big mistake.
So, what’s going on here? We had a bit of a brainstorm in the Ummahsonic team and we came up with a couple of theories.
Maybe they mistook Lukaku for his teammate, Paul Pogba, an actual Muslim. This is problematic in itself, but not beyond the realm of possibility for the media outlets in question.
It’s just incredibly lazy journalism. Perhaps they saw a snippet of misinformation on social media or a press release and just ran with it, which is actually fairly common practice in the breakneck world of online journalism. However, the story’s appearance in the Daily Mail print edition is inexcusable. That means something that would’ve taken about three seconds to debunk crossed the desks of numerous people.
When we saw this story, we’re not gonna lie, we laughed. The absurdity of the blatantly incorrect facts coupled with the inherent jokes of a preseason Manchester ‘derby’, sponsored by a Dutch beer, played in Texas could make anyone chuckle.
But then we thought ‘nah’, this is actually pretty messed up. Inaccurate stories like this only further the dangerous perception of Muslims being different from the rest of society, which simply isn’t true. Sure, alcohol is prohibited in Islam, but then a lot of non-Muslims don’t drink either; and like non-Muslims and people of all faiths or none, we love football. Some of us even play it. Some of us even play it professionally, like United’s Paul Pogba, and City’s Yaya Toure and Samir Nasri.
There’s nothing wrong with mocking online rubbish like this Lukaku story, but it serves as another reminder to be wary of fake news. Remember: be critical of what you read online and if it looks too ridiculous to be true, it probably is.