Daily Mail image of “ISIS forces” is actually Iraq national army

In early June 2014 a jihadist group known as the ‘Islamic State‘ (formerly known as ISIS) led a Sunni militant offensive in Iraq, putting the group in the headlines across the world. The offensive saw them capture several cities, primarily in the north and west of Iraq, and severely challenged the government’s ability to administer Iraq as a single entity.

Following these events the Daily Mail, on 25 June 2014, reported on a local militant group merger in the town of Albu Kamal. Depicting a series of images from the conflict, the article claimed that membership of the group could double as a result of the merger. True or False? looked at the photographs and it became clear that in one of the images featured, three men sitting in the back of a pickup truck were wearing army issue fatigues bearing Iraqi national flags. This appeared inconsistent with the beliefs of a group determined to establish a proto-caliphate spanning eastern Syria and western Iraq. The photograph carried the caption: “Masked: ISIS forces (pictured) seized Iraq’s main northern city Mosul on June 10…

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Claim: ‘boko’ in the name Boko Haram comes from the English word ‘book’

Abubakar ShekauBoko Haram, Nigeria’s militant Islamist group, has caused mayhem through bombings, assassinations and abductions, in an effort to overthrow the government and create an Islamic state. In April 2014 the group made worldwide headlines when it abducted more than 200 schoolgirls during a raid in Chibok, Nigeria.

The name Boko Haram, hints at the group’s motives and core beliefs – at least this is what we learn from a recent Telegraph article in which Boris Johnson comments that boko “appears – on at least one interpretation – to be a kind of pidgin word for the English ‘book’. ‘Haram’ means forbidden, religiously prohibited, … . The gist of their manifesto is that Western education – reading a boko – is haram.”

We looked into the meaning and origins of the words boko haram. There is little doubt about haram, a word borrowed from Arabic into the local Hausa language, which refers to things forbidden in Islam (as opposed to things halal, or permitted). The language is spoken by the Hausa population (predominantly Muslim) in the northern half of Nigeria. Dan Murphy in The Christian Science Monitor points out that the history of the word boko is less clear. He discovered the answer in a paper on the etymology of boko, by Professor Paul Newman, an expert on Hausa.

True or False?

The Hausa word boko does not come from the English word ‘book’, so claims that it does are false. The similarity between boko and ‘book’ is coincidental.

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Claim: £1m a week in child allowances paid to children living overseas

On 4 February 2013, Sky News, The Telegraph and the Daily Mail said that £1m a week in child allowances was being paid to children living overseas. This claim surfaced again in the latest debate on immigration and benefits. In January 2014, The Telegraph and the Daily Mail reported that David Cameron wants to stop paying child benefit for children living abroad in countries such as Poland, whose parents work in the UK. Nick Clegg supports the policy, but both the Vice-President of the European Commission and Poland’s foreign minister have criticised it.

True or False?

The claim is largely true but we found that this represents only a fraction of total UK spending on child allowances.

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Claim: “European Commission: UK’s 600,000 benefits tourists no problem”

The Sun newspaper on 21 October 2013 published a headline claiming that a European Commission report had revealed there to be around 600,000 “non-active” (unemployed) migrants in the UK (611,779 “non-active” EU migrants were living in Britain in 2012, up from 431,687 in 2006). The Telegraph newspaper added that this was costing the NHS alone a total of £1.5 billion. Similar reports emerged that prompted heated debate and rhetoric on the subject of “benefit tourism”. The Conservative backbench MP Douglas Carswell commented, “…the European project has debased and debauched the original, noble idea of the welfare state. These figures show that the wave of benefit migrants has become a tsunami of economic refugees fleeing the eurozone crisis to try to find jobs here”.

True or False?

The assertion that there are “600,000 benefit tourists” in the UK, and, that the EC argued they were “no problem”, is considered to be false. Moreover, The Sun newspaper eventually printed a retraction of it’s claims and admitted there was “no evidence” of 600,000 “benefit tourists” in the UK, and that Brussels had not said that this was “not a problem”.

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