Is the For Public Purity campaign a hoax?

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Leaflets distributed in Manchester calling for a ban on dogs in public have caused upset and controversy. Some locals and Muslims have dismissed the leaflets. But are we looking at a hoax? Sources close to Tell MAMA believe so.

There is a trail of online evidence that point to a possible hoax. The 4publicpurity.org website was created on March 29, 2016 in the United States. Its generic template, called Solid State was created by HTML5 Up, is accessible when viewed in a text-only cache.

A metadata analysis of the website images reveal that a majority were created on April 2. The user dominichancock7 had created one image. The Arabic text in the main logo appears to spell ‘lolz’.

For Public Purity created a Vimeo account on April 13, 2016, at 4:42am EST. It contains a single video, uploaded six minutes later. It has gained just 4 views, despite it featuring on the website. Nor do any external links on the website work.

A post on March 21 sought to justify their stance from an Islamic perspective. It quotes a single hadith on three occasions. A curious omission is the lack of religious reverence for the Prophet Muhammad.

For Public Purity (March 21):

A Haidth to start us off, showing the place of dogs in Islam:
Muslim (2943) narrated from ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Umar: “Whoever keeps a dog, except a dog for herding livestock or a dog for hunting, a qiraat will be deducted from his good deeds each day.”

For Public Purity (May 9):

Muslim (2943) narrated from ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Umar:

“Whoever keeps a dog, except a dog for herding livestock or a dog for hunting, a qiraat will be deducted from his good deeds each day.”

Do not forget, dogs have their uses but being pets is not one of them. Keep our public space pure, and let the light of Allah shine.

For Public Purity (May 23):

Muslim (2943) narrated from ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Umar: “Whoever keeps a dog, except a dog for herding livestock or a dog for hunting, a qiraat will be deducted from his good deeds each day.”

Make sure you get the good deeds you deserve each day, help preserve the purity.

Yet on the website islamqa.info, a key source for For Public Purity, offers a different summary:

Muslim (2943) narrated from ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Umar (may Allaah be pleased with him) that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever keeps a dog, except a dog for herding livestock or a dog for hunting, a qiraat will be deducted from his good deeds each day.”

The inconsistency of religious reverence appears on its printed leaflets. It quotes a separate hadith yet makes no reference to the Prophet Muhammad. The word itself is written in lowercase, nor does it say ‘peace be upon him’ or (PBUH). This hadith also appears on its webpage and on Facebook page; but with the added ‘peace be upon him’ and (PBUH).

On June 6, For Public Purity made a plea for mutual tolerance. It attached a heavenly image, when ran through a reverse image search, reveals its Christian origin. This image appeared in a Methodist magazine published in 2012 in an article headlined “The Heavenly City – Old and New Jerusalem”.  A Flickr account uploaded this image in 2011 to discuss how the Bible deals with end times and Revelation. The website www.earlychurchofjesus.org uses this image to discuss the idea of a ‘new heaven’. For Public Purity’s use of sunshine and skyline stock images project an almost Christian outlook.

The Public Purity Facebook page wished Muslims ‘Ramadan Kareem’ two days after many had began their fast. The image itself is a watermarked preview of a stolen stock image. It attracted no comments until news of the leaflets had spread.  Nor did the group post a message to celebrate Eid.

Some of its earliest Facebook posts, created on March 16 and March 21, received no comments until April 4 and April 17. The post which began ‘Dogs are well loved pets in the UK, but we must all remember that these animals can cause great distress to a Muslim believer,’ only received a single Facebook share, from a far-right account on July 13.

Some posts did generate shares and comments before July. But a majority of comments, quite often abusive and Islamophobic, came after news of the leaflet spread online.

As evidence of a hoax, some have pointed to 4chan users. The comments alone prove inconclusive. At best, it suggests that some 4chan users helped inflate For Public Purity’s Facebook likes or took credit regardless. An Australian user with the ID EtsbGMz5, wrote: “like the FB page if you haven’t, this needs to look legit, and don’t worry the facebook page settings are such so that people who have liked the page aren’t visible, just the number of people who have liked it”.

On April 14, a 4chan user from the United States wrote: “We did it, lads. Ban the muzzies for the doggers!” in celebration of the story reaching Breitbart.

There are other reasons to question the authenticity of For Public Purity. It offers no contact information outside of its Facebook and website.  Nor did any such organisation exist before March 2016. Its website, images and a bulk of its social media content were hastily created a month later. The poorly written text may prove a product of transliteration but it reflects the rushed nature of content. A committed troll(s), would only need to lift content from a single website to pass it off as ‘authentic’. This may speak to its inconsistent approach of not citing the Prophet Muhammad directly in hadiths.

Some Muslims will endorse the message of For Public Purity and may have created the campaign. But the evidence towards a hoax remains compelling.

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