A photo has been shared hundreds of times in multiple social media posts alongside a claim that it shows dozens of Muslim families who had converted to Hinduism in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh after the religious conversion of a local Islamic leader. However, the photo has been shared in a false context. It has circulated since 2016 in news reports about a Muslim community in Uttar Pradesh protesting a fatal attack on Indian soldiers in Indian-administered Kashmir.
The photo was posted on Facebook here on December 13, 2021.
It had been shared more than 490 times before it was removed.
The picture appeared to show a Hindu priest surrounded by a group of men, with some wearing taqiyah caps, which are often worn by Muslim men.
Screenshot of the misleading post, taken on December 22, 2021
The post's Hindi-language caption translates to English as: "After the return of Waseem Rizvi to Sanatan Dharma, Muslims are growing more fearful and [converting] to Hinduism voluntarily. 34 Muslim families in Uttar Pradesh return to Sanatan Hinduism. Hail Shri Ram."
Rizvi, former chairman of the Shia Central Waqf Board of Uttar Pradesh, changed his name to Jitendra Narayan Singh Tyagi after he converted to Hinduism in early December 2021, Indian news agency the Press Trust of India reported.
"Sanatan", or "Sanatana Dharma", is a Hindi-language expression generally used to denote Hinduism’s central idea of life and duty.
"Shri Ram", also known as "Rama", is a widely worshipped Hindu deity.
The photo, however, has been shared in a false context.
A reverse image search, followed by keyword searches on Google, found the photo was published in this report, published by Indian newspaper Amar Ujala on September 24, 2016.
Translated to English, the report's Hindi-language headline reads: "'Down to Pakistan': Slogans Raised at Jama Masjid".
Jama Masjid is a mosque in Vrindavan, a town in Mathura district, Uttar Pradesh state, northern India.
The report's first paragraph reads: "The Muslim community of the town has expressed anger against Pakistan after 18 Indian soldiers were martyred in the terrorist attack on the Uri military headquarters in Jammu and Kashmir."
AFP reported on the attack in Uri, a town that is near the Line of Control (LoC) dividing the disputed territory, on September 20, 2016.
Below is a screenshot comparison of the photo in the misleading post (L) and the photo in the Amar Ujala news report (R):
Screenshot comparison of the photo in the misleading post (L) and the photo in the Amar Ujala news report (R)
Amar Ujala also published a video of the protest here.
Rajeev Agarwal, the Vrindavan correspondent of Amar Ujala, told AFP that he took the photo and covered the protest in 2016.
Azaad Qureshi, chairman of the Jama Masjid Management Committee, told AFP the protest was staged in response to the attack on Indian troops.
AFP located the Hindu priest pictured in the image, Naval Giri, who said he encouraged local Muslims to protest against the 2016 attack on Indian soldiers.
"I know people are sharing false information that 30-40 Muslim families converted to Hinduism, misusing that old photo," he said. "These false claims are being shared after Wasim [Rizvi]'s conversion. However, we do welcome people seeking to embrace Hinduism with open arms".