The risks of misinformation

  • Italiano

“Terrorism is not a characteristic of Islam. It is neither true nor fair. There are fundamentalist groups. For example, there is the so-called Isis, the Islamic State, which presents itself as violent. But I will not talk about Islamic violence because, in that case, I should also mention Catholic violence, paying attention to the newspapers and considering what is happening also in Italy. We can peacefully coexist instead.” These are the words the Pope pronounced during the WYD and they have acquired a special value after last Sunday, when the churches of Europe have hosted Muslims in search of common peace.

It is a strong message, which needs to be enhenced, because there are people here who are trying to pass off Islam as if it were absolute evil, without distinguishing between religion and fanaticism, the faithful and terrorists. And the same happens – with reversed roles – beyond the Mediterranean. Suspicion, misunderstanding, and lack of knowledge are the germs that lead to suspicion and hatred, mother and father of every war, obviously “along” with a good deal of economic interests.

We run a serious risk of global misunderstandings – beyond the phenomena of terrorist extremism -. A recent survey conducted by, the site of the television channel Al Jazeera (in Arabic) bears witness to it. Interviewed people strongly support the terrorist group of the Islamic State.

sondaggio_okThe survey asked the following question in Arabic: “Do you support the victories of the organization of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)?” And it has generated over 38,000 responses. Only 19% of those interviewed voted “No” (with regard to supporting Isis), whereas 81% voted “Yes”.

How do we interpret these data? The television audience of Al Jazeera in Arabic are mainly Sunni Muslims who live in the Arab world. The audience is concentrated mostly in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Besides, there is a large number of satellite TV viewers, especially in the US. is more popular in Saudi Arabia, the United States, Egypt, Morocco, and in Bosnia-Herzegovina, according to Alexa, a site that analyses web pages. Their number reaches about 40 million viewers throughout the Arab world.

The news that the overwhelming majority of the people surveyed by Al Jazeera Arabic supports Isis is not surprising though; both because the TV channel has been long accused of siding with Daesh, and because of the misinformation (or counter-information, if you like) that reigns on both sides.

On a Sunday like the last one, which symbolized a turning point in the human relationship between Muslims and Christians in Western territories, we need to understand the risk of a survey like the one mentioned above. Despite having no scientific value – because of the utter distance between the interviewed sample and the overall numbers -, it leaves the topic of communication intended as the basis of effective integration still open.

Undoubtedly, the Islamic state has followers: it has created a kind of welfare state in the territories under its control, it handles schools, education, health, employment, and assistance. Besides, there is the age-old dispute between Sunnis and Shiites, and given that the operations of recovery of the Sunni cities conquered by ISIS are often entrusted to Shiite troops, it only increases – in a way – the favorable opinion towards the Islamic State there. Yet, proselytizing in the West, to the point of creating “cells of death” is a different story. To prevent the plague from spreading, we do not need bombs nor walls; we need cultural demining in the first place, before starting military interventions. Otherwise it will remain a lost war.

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