KOLKATA: Several imams, or clerics, are embracing social media in the hope that it will help them address misinformation and strengthen communities in the virtual world, and also help them contextualise their discourse in changing times.
Shafique Qasmi of Nakhoda Mosque joined Facebook last year with the objective of promoting peace and harmony. “If there is something good in the virtual world in terms of a deed or philosophy which promotes peace, harmony and brotherhood, I share it with others. If I come across any misinformation, I try to rectify it and if I come across something objectionable, I condemn it,” he said.Shia cleric Syed Meher Abbas Rizvi, who’s also the imame-juma Cossipore, feels social media is a good platform to spread the message of peace and brotherhood. “I request everybody to first verify any information before believing it, just like we do not eat anything provided by a stranger,” said Rizvi.Social media news feeds run on algorithms that promote content that draw maximum engagement, and this is where the solution to the online hate campaigns and fake news lies, feels Mohammad Yahya of the Bengal Imams’ Association. “Not all users intend to participate in online outrage and spreading misinformation. But through a structured campaign, they are fed with propaganda over a period of time and then some people start believing in it. A counter-narrative is also needed here. We must rectify all fake news online in a consistent manner. This will prompt everybody to always re-check facts,” said Yahya.