The danger of emails

How many times a day do you get emails requesting you forward them to all your contacts to raise funds for a child that is dying of cancer? Or an email stating that you will get bad luck if you do not forward it to at least 20 people. But how often do you get an email like the one below, sent out by a reputable company pleading for a assistance?

Assalamualaykum fellow muslims,

Muslim Indian and Pakistani brothers and sisters stranded in Cape Town needs our help!

The Indian trade fair was organised to take place at the WP expo in Epping, it was not a success due to poor advertising and location (industrial area). They didn’t make any money and are now in a position where they can’t get home. We appeal to you to support them. They are trading at the Schotse Kloof  Civic centre in Bo-kaap from 11am-8pm daily from the 1st to the 5th of September in an attempt to sell their goods and get home before Eid.

Al-Isra has made it their mission to help these muslims in need in any way possible. Please support them by forwarding this e-mail to as many muslims out there!

Bargains galore on original Indian Eid clothes, linen, carpets, pots, jewellery and more.

Enquiries: Contact Rishkah @ 0729953388

Ramadaan Mubarak

Al-Isra

Islamic Network

I received this email several times yesterday, emphasising the desperation of the people mentioned in the email. A colleague received the very same email a few times too and so did my mother, a few other family members and colleagues. This email was spreading like wildfire, and the desperate call for help was made very clear. And evidently people were trying to get the message out there so that the Indians and Pakistanis could get help.

My immediate reaction to this was “ok, this could be a good story for me”. I nearly dashed out of the newsroom to go and check out for myself what was happening. But my gut stopped me in my tracks because a couple of things about this email didn’t make sense:

  • poor people do not travel half way around the world for exhibitions. They are businesspeople. They have money.
  • Why go to another country for a short period of time without booking a return flight?
  • Bargains galore on original Indian Eid clothes, linen, carpets, pots, jewellery and more” made it sound like a ploy to get people to the location to purchase their goods in an effort just to make money.

So I did some poking and prodding, called Rishka to find out more before going on a wild goose chase. Rishka’s phone was off. Since the email had reference to Al-Isra, I phoned the owner, Thaamir Moerat to get an alternate number for Rishka or perhaps some information from him. In the meantime I thought that Rishka worked for Al-Isra. Thaamir wasn’t available and I left a message for him to call me back. He didn’t return my call for a long time and Rishka still wasn’t availble. This made me even more suspicious.

Eventually I got throught to Rishka but someone else answered, who was very evasive and rude and refused to give me her name. She said Rishka was unavailable. I told her why I was calling and she said “well this whole thing was actually blown out of proportion”.

I was like whaa-aat??? I couldn’t make sense of it all. Eventually Thaamir returned my call and he was so enthusiastic about doing his part to help, saying that if we can all do something for our stranded Muslim brothers and sisters it would be so great. I said to him that I was a little bit confused because of what Rishkah’s friend had told me. I was told that I should understand that she is an 18 year old who might not know how to relate the situation properly.

So I took his word for it and prepared to go out to the civic center where these people were stranded when I got another call from Thaamir. He was fuming!

To cut that enire conversation short, this is the story: Rishkah made the entire email up. Yes there are people trading at that civic center but they are not stranded or anything. Thaamir didn’t know this girl from a bar of soap. She approached him for help for the supposedly stranded people. And of course, as a Muslim or any other decent human being, you would respond to a call for help. One wouldn’t think that another would go so far as to make up such a terrible lie and have it sent out to many, many people. Thaamir sent out this email too his contacts, clients, business networks. And so it just spread, leaving his own reputation and image tainted. It is not clear why this girl made up the story. My thinking it was just a silly high-school prank that she didn’t think would receive so much attention. She just wanted some sort of kick and thought she would get it this way. Even television news stations were on this “story”.

I tried calling Rishkah again afterwards but her phone was off and when it was on someone else kept answering, saying she was unavailable. She is a stupid, sick girl.

Next time we all receive such emails we might not be so willing to be believe it even though it may be true.

However, a couple of eyeopners have come out of this:

  • we shouldn’t just forward on emails without being certain about the facts first, as this could cause so much panic.
  • when unknown people approach us for help, we have to check the validity of the plea first. There are so many people out there waiting to pounce on and abuse our kindness
  • and we should be careful who we approach about anything, as the story could become exaggerated and turned into something it isn’t without it being your fault.

All the negativity set aside, I was amazed by the response this email had gotten in such a short space of time, and it also made me see how generous and helpful our Muslim community is. We would do anything to help our Muslim brothers and sisters who may be in distress, and this is a quality I think we should treasure and be very grateful for.

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