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If it’s on the internet, it must be true. Right?

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[Because of a technical problem, last week’s post was compressed and difficult to read, and so I’m publishing it again.]

Do you remember the State Farm ad, where a young woman talks to a friend about meeting her date, a French model, on the internet? As it turns out, the woman’s date is neither French nor hardly a model, but, hey, that’s what she was told about him on the internet, so it must be true. Right?

The obvious point of the ad is that what we see on the internet isn’t necessarily true. We sometimes confuse the ready availability of internet information with fact.

A real world example of the need to be a cautious about what is presented to us comes by way of an op-ed piece by Cal Thomas concerning the need for the U.S. to examine itself.  While Thomas’ focus was the (supposed) moral decline of the West, he also wrote about the growing Muslim population in Scandinavia and how imams “call for the decapitation and/or jail for those who reject Islam.”

Scary stuff. Could something that outrageous really be going on?

NBC News reported last July that Dearborn, Mich., has the largest Muslim population in the U.S., but we don’t we hear about Muslims in Dearborn spewing such hatred. According to USA Today, four of Dearborn’s seven city council members are Arab, and two of them are Muslim.

This got me thinking.  Why the difference between Fairborn and what is supposedly happening in Sweden?

Thomas was relying on a piece written by Bethany Blankley in the Washington Times, “As Christianity exists Europe, criminal Muslims fill void with rabid violence.”  In addition to writing about supposed cries from imams for decapitating non-Muslims, Blankley’s piece also referred to a “rape crisis” in Sweden that “is a direct result of an influx of Muslim asylum seekers.” Blankley contends that Muslim immigrants account for five percent of Sweden’s population but commit 77 percent of its crime.

Let’s think about that. Five percent of the population is committing 77 percent of the crime? That’s a tough statistic for me to accept—and difficult to verify—but Blankley made another statement that gave me something I could track: Amnesty International places Sweden as the no. 1 country in Europe for rape. I checked. She’s right—almost. In 2012, the BBC put Sweden at no. 2 for rape in Europe and reported a rate of 60 rapes per 100,000 inhabitants.

Wait a minute—the FBI reported that the rate for rape in 2012 for the U.S. was 26.9 per 100,000.  What’s going on here? Isn’t Scandinavia a safe place?

The explanation is in how crimes are reported. Klara Selin, a sociologist at the National Council for Crime Prevention in Stockholm, explained to the BBC that Sweden’s policy is “to record every case of sexual violence separately, to make it visible in the statistics.” This means that if a woman reports that she has been raped by her fiancé “almost every day during the last year, the police have to record each of these events, which might be more than 300 events. In many other countries it would just be one record—one victim, one type of crime, one record.”

Having confirmed one significant error with what Blankley has written, I have to ask, how accurate is the rest of her article? I wish I had the time to find out.

But wait, there’s more. What about Sharia Law in the U.S.? Did you know that Dearborn is the first city in Michigan and perhaps the U.S. to implement Sharia law? That’s what the National Report published last year.

Actually, the National Report was just playing a joke, but the story didn’t look like a joke, and you may not have been able to discern it was a joke unless you are appropriately skeptical and cared to investigate further. According to the Huffington Post, a number of readers swallowed the hook and voiced their anger about Sharia Law gaining a foothold in America. The city was Dearborn was not amused.

What’s the point here?  Let’s be wary of what we read or watch on the internet. Outrageous pieces in the news should cause us to question whether we’re being presented with the truth.  The more outrageous, the more skeptical we should be.

Second, let’s be cautious about engaging in religious profiling, which is what Blankley was doing. While radical Islam is responsible for a long and growing list of atrocities—from the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center to the recent killing of the Charlie Hebdo journalists in Paris—blaming Islam as a whole is makes no sense.

As New York columnist, Nicholas Kristof, pointed out in his column last Wednesday, “The vast majority of Muslims of course have nothing to do with the insanity of such attacks—except that they are disproportionately the victims of terrorism. Indeed, the Charlie Hebdo murders weren’t even the most lethal terror attack on Wednesday: A car bomb outside a police college in Yemen, possibly planted by Al Qaeda, killed at least 37 people.”

Kristof reminds us that some Muslims “read the Quran and blow up girls’ schools, but more read the Quran and build girls’ schools. The Taliban represents one brand of Islam; the Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai the polar opposite.”

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Jack D’Aurora writes for considerthisbyjd.com

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