I cannot express in words how much I hate chain letters. Even during the halcyon days of the internet, when gopher was a legitimate protocol and Pine was the email client of choice, there loomed the plague of the chain letter: an abomination born of pipe dreams, superstition and ignorance. By preying on humanity’s most mundane hopes and fears, these cursed entities propagated themselves throughout mankind’s digital memory and wasted precious moments of our lives that could have otherwise been spent productively (on endeavours such as Facebook and Angry Birds).
To eradicate evidence of their existence, I’ve set up elaborate email filters that algorithmically detect and sent into digital purgatory any incoming mail that vaguely resembles a chain letter. For the low price of £10 (S&H not included) and occasionally losing an email of actual importance, you too can achieve protection from chain letters.
To my chagrin, a chain letter of the sneaky variety circumvented my security measures and infiltrated my inbox on September 12th. Beyond the knee-jerk reaction of wondering how much I owed myself in damages, I couldn’t help but to notice the chain letter was overtly Islamophobic. The crux of the email is that a store owned by Muslims in Houston, Texas posted the following sign on its door: “We will be closed on Friday, September 11, 2009 to commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Ali”. The malicious email then went on spew out two inflammatory falsehoods: 1) Imam Ali was one of the terrorists responsible for the September 11 World Trade Center attack and 2) schools in the UK ceased teachings on the Holocaust for fear of offending Muslims.
Cursing under my breath over the amount of Angry Birds study time I’d be losing out on, I decided to investigate what the blazes really happened. The removal of the Holocaust from the educational curriculum is just hogwash and not even worth addressing.
It turns out that the sign and picture are real. However, Imam Ali is actually a 7th century religious figure, the first Imam according to adherents of Shi’a Islam and wasn’t alive for the Gunpowder Plot, much less the Sept. 11 attacks. Imam Ali’s death occurred on the 21st day of Ramadan, and his contributions are thus celebrated on that day by Shi’a Muslims. The lunar calendar is used to figure out when Ramadan occurs, and because there’s only 354 or 355 days in the lunar year, it occurs roughly 11 or 12 days earlier every year when marked on the Gregorian calendar. It just so happened that the 21st day of Ramadan fell on September 11 in 2009.
The shop owner went so far as to apologize for the confusion and added a blurb about who Imam Ali was for future signs. Islam is Peace after all.
What is worth contemplating is how ignorance and fear are being used to propagate chain letters. The only weapons we have against these abominations are the light of reason and earnest attempts to understand those who we may fear. Only then can we slay the foe that are chain letters.