Photo of 2015 Charlie Hebdo protest doctored to add call for Nupur Sharma's arrest

·2 min read

An image has been shared over a thousand times by Pakistani social media users that claim it shows Muslims in Russia protesting over controversial remarks about the Prophet Mohammed by an official from India's Hindu nationalist ruling party. However, the picture has been doctored to include references to the official; the original shows a 2015 protest against French magazine Charlie Hebdo for publishing cartoons depicting the prophet.

"Russian Muslims protest against the disrespect of the Messenger of Islam [Prophet Mohammed]. Demands to arrest and punish the woman named Nupur Sharma," reads an Urdu-language tweet posted here on June 11, 2022.

It has been retweeted more than 1,600 times.

An accompanying image shows people raising a banner that appears to read: "Arrest Nupur Sharma. Abuser of the Holy Prophet".

Screenshot of the altered image, taken on June 21, 2022

The image circulated as huge protests erupted in Asia following comments by the firebrand Indian politician Nupur Sharma during a televised debate about the Prophet Mohammed's relationship with his youngest wife.

India's ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has suspended Sharma for the remarks.

The image was shared in similar posts on Twitter here, here, here and here; and on Facebook here.

However, the image has been doctored to insert the message calling for Sharma's arrest.

Charlie Hebdo protest

A reverse image search found this photo in an AFP report published on January 20, 2015 by the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post newspaper.

The photo caption reads: "People attend a rally to protest against satirical cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in Grozny, Chechnya, yesterday. Photo: Reuters".

It can also be viewed in Reuters' archives here, where its photo description reads: "Tens of thousands of people staged the rally on Monday in Chechnya against French magazine Charlie Hebdo's cartoons of the prophet, which the predominantly Muslim region's leader denounced as 'vulgar and immoral'."

Russian-language text on the banner in the photo translates to: "Prophet Mohammed (May God's prayers and peace be with him) is the leader of the sons of Adam and his image is inviolable."

Below is a screenshot comparison of the banner as it appears in the altered image (left) and in the Reuters photo (right):

Screenshot comparison of the banner as it appears in the altered image (left) and in the Reuters photo (right)

Protests had erupted across the Muslim world after the French magazine Charlie Hebdo published a new cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed in its January 14, 2015 edition.

It was the first edition since 12 people were gunned down in an attack on the magazine's Paris offices over such cartoons.

Sharma's comments have led to a wave of misinformation; AFP has debunked false claims linking old photos to recent protests here and here.

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