A racist tweet comparing Rotherham to Islamabad and called for violence against Muslims is now the subject of a police investigation, following an investigation by Tell MAMA, after members of the public flagged their concerns.
The racist tweet shared on the evening of October 16 takes a video from a Mawlid (Milad un Nabi) celebration in Rotherham’s town centre in 2010 out of context to push harmful and racialised falsehoods that risk real-world violence to Muslims in Rotherham and beyond.
Another way to verify this falsehood is in its background – namely, the old Alliance & Leicester, which ceased to exist in 2011 after merging with Santander – the storefront has been vacant since 2014.
As of writing, the video accrued over forty-five thousand views, as some tweets in reply called for violence – including statements calling for the army to shoot them, racist conspiracies about ‘trojan horses’, to calls for mass deportations.
The investigation also unearthed a second racialised falsehood posted in reply to the above video and falsely claims to show the “changing face of Rotherham” over forty years, with the second image showing Muslims praying on the street in front of various police officers.
The origin of the historical photo is partly explained once again by YouTube. We traced its origins to a video montage of Rotherham in the 1950s and 1960s, first uploaded in 2014, where the image itself appears at the 2:58 timestamp.
The image would later appear in a 2018 Rotherham Advertiser article about local history from Melvyn Jones and Michael Bentley.
Regarding the second image, that photo, taken on September 5, 2015, by local photographer Luis Arroyo, had captioned it, “Prayer time during the Rotherham Unite Against Fascism’s demo today.” As with 2021, in 2015 also, the image removed from its context became a lightning rod for anti-Muslim and Islamophobic agitators. Arroyo wrote on September 10, 2015, “It is a real shame all those negative comments flying about too.”
The men photographed were part of a broader anti-fascist protest in the town, one month after the racist murder of Muslim pensioner Mushin Ahmed.
That same day, Britain First, the far-right street defence movement arrived in the town, resulting in 800 police officers from forces nationwide attending.
The events of that day also drew attention to injustice and the subsequent acquittal of the Rotherham 12 – Asian men cleared of violent disorder charges for protecting their communities from the far-right in 2016 and 2018, with articles providing further context appearing that year, addressing issues with policing and communities mobilising to support the twelve men.
Its false caption, “College Street, Rotherham, 40 years apart,” appeared on Twitter on the afternoon of October 17, before a day later, appearing with identical language on the social media channels of the far-right agitator Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson).
Tell MAMA has debunked various falsehoods that gained traction on Twitter, notably during the first national lockdown last year.
Update (19/10/2021): Following our investigation, Twitter has since suspended the far-right account holder who published the disinformation and removed a tweet that called on the army to shoot Muslims. It further demonstrates the importance of reporting such violent and harmful content, and we thank those who did.
We will continue to provide updates to this investigation where possible.