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VERIFY: False claims try to tie the Notre Dame fire cause to Muslims

The investigation into what caused the Notre Dame fire is still underway, but on social media you’ll find posts falsely claiming there’s evidence Muslims are to blame.

As the investigation into the fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France continues, social media users are coming up with their own answers and explanations. 

The following three claims all come from popular social platforms and all claim that Muslims were involved in the fire in some way. 

We dug into the claims and the facts to find out what’s really true.

CLAIM: Man wearing garb seen walking around Notre Dame during fire?  

This claim is false. Social media users have shared a clip of someone walking around the Notre Dame towers during the fire. Claims with the video insinuate that the person caught on camera was an arsonist with some even jumping to the conclusion that the person was an Islamic terrorist.

The video shown in these clips is blurry and the color is distorted. However, a clearer shot can be seen of CNBC’s live stream of the fire. The man, who can be seen around the 42:08 mark, is clearly walking around in a yellow vest and hard hat. 

While the blurry, low-resolution version being shared in the posts above may lead to speculation that the person is not supposed to be there, the higher-resolution video shows that it is clearly a worker of some sort.

CLAIM: “Muslim Jihadis” were arrested in Paris three days before the fire for a planned attack on the Notre Dame.

This claim is also false. 

A tweet was sent by user @FaithGoldy on April 15th that claimed “Muslim jihadis” were arrested in Paris just days before the fire for a planned attack on the Cathedral.

The tweet was screenshot and posted to Facebook by the page Freedom From Tyranny.

The posts linked to an April 12th article in “The Journal.” While the article was posted three days before the fire, it’s content referenced an event that took place in 2016. That’s three years before the fire. 

The first sentence of the piece reads:

 “ONE OF THREE women allegedly involved in a foiled plot in 2016 to blow up a car packed with gas canisters near the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris was today sentenced to eight years in prison by a French court for earlier offences.”

The posts reference the 2019 article but fail to mention that they took place in 2016.

CLAIM: A photo from the fire shows two Muslim men smiling while the Cathedral burns in the background.

This claim lacks any concrete evidence. 

The photo has been shared in numerous Facebook posts. Many, like the following, suggest that the men are Muslims. 

Muslims laughing while Notre Dame is burning...

The photo also appeared outside social media in live reporting by Sputnik. (Scroll down to the 21:29 update)

Fact-checking site Politifact called the photo “doctored.”

Verify looked at the photo in multiple photo-editing programs and didn’t find concrete proof that the image had been doctored. As of the writing of this article, the team was also unable to trace any previous usage of the two men’s image on other sites or in other contexts. 

While the photo could be doctored, we cannot definitively prove that it is. 

It’s important to note though, that there’s zero evidence linking these men to the Islamic faith at this point or indicating what their reasons for smiling may have been.

Put simply, anyone sharing this image with claims about the political or religious affiliation of these men needs more evidence to support their claim.

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