Does Being Grateful for Gratitude Count? (Let’s Go Meta)

Latest little journaling exercise in The Postive Journal is all about gratitude. What am I grateful for? The first thing that came into my mind was gratitude.

I’m grateful for gratitude.

Does that count? It does! Gratitude is one of the most powerful mindsets available to anyone; a near miracle. Gratitude heals, empowers and happifies in one fell swoop.

So, for one, I am grateful for gratitude.

Two. I’m grateful for understanding that I am grateful for gratitude. Going meta or even meta-meta is a sign of intelligence (or so I like to tell myself. The risk here is to come off sounding like a self-absorbed, self-aggrandizing schmuck).

I might be that.

But I sincerely am grateful for being able to go meta.

Entering the context of contexts is a special place. It’s fun and intriguing and I love it! It counts.

Three. I’m both grateful for gratitude and grateful that I’m capable of being grateful for gratitude. And now, I am grateful that absurdity is often humorous because if it were painful, I’d be howling.

When you go too far into meta, life becomes absurd and, for my part, I just laugh. That’s it for today – gratitude journaling done!

This entry reminds me of an article about enlightenment at the iNLP Center called 17 Hard Truths Only the Enlightened Understand.

A Simple but Reliable Sign of Personal Maturity

I just finished a coaching class at the iNLP Center. What a privilege it was to coach a mature person.

How did I know he was mature?

It wasn’t his chronological age. When I asked him questions (life coaches love to ask questions) about what issue he wanted to address in our coaching session, he responded as follows:

My wife and I have been arguing more than usual lately. I want to take a look at my part in the fighting and take steps to go about things differently.

Bravo! I want to take a look at my part. That’s a sign of maturity. You take responsibility for your own actions and feelings. Done.

Of course, when a couple is arguing, both parties share responsibility. A less mature person, however, might start the session like this:

My wife knows just how to push my buttons and I need to get her to stop.

That’s less mature but it’s still 100% normal. Who among us hasn’t longed for others to stop doing things that bug us? Still, in life coaching, the only path forward is for the client to own his or her part and desire to go about things in a new, more productive way.

This client made the coaching easy by allowing us to skip the process of encouraging ownership of the problem. He already owned it.

Are you mature?

No one is 100% mature all of the time. How mature are you in the areas of life that are problematic for you? Save yourself time and expense by sitting down and owning your part in every relationship problem you have.

That might revolutionize your life. It will certainly eliminate much of your suffering.

But it raises a more interesting question as well: What Are you Afraid to See About Yourself?

We Need to Change our Entire Approach to Problems

Problems are inevitable and so it humanity’s immature response to them.

Most people seem to react to problems with one of two tactics:

  1. Blame
  2. Complain

Blaming and complaining do nothing constructive. When you blame, you seek to tear others down. (Blaming is different than holding someone accountable). When you complain, you tear yourself down.

“Why me?” only suggests something is wrong with you when you have a problem. There is nothing wrong with you unless you consider being an average human being “wrong.” Why not take an approach that makes you feel better about yourself?

You’re not special just because you have a problem. You’re not so special that life should shield you from problems. That’s good news. Thinking you’re so special will only lead to disappointment – and put you at odds with life. And life will win that battle.

Take a different approach…

When you encounter a problem:

  1. Center yourself
  2. Accept the problem without complaining
  3. Take responsibility for your part
  4. Assess what, if anything, you can do about it
  5. Take action
  6. Let go

Nothing terribly complicated here. The six steps are simple enough for any child to understand. Doing them is another matter. Can we be so mature?

It’s unlikely. How many people do you know that follow the above protocol?

The world is waiting…

Blame leads to suspicion, conflict, mistrust, collusion, conspiracy, and war. Complaining leads to blame, often self-blame, and self-victimization – powerlessness and fear.

Complaining and blame keep the world locked in power struggles and self-justifying actions. The world we live in today would be totally transformed if we did nothing other than give up these two dysfunctions.

Political Self-Sabotage in Turkey

Of all the global leaders that have made a name for themselves for being controversial, president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan definitely stands out.

Seen both as a hero who navigated the country out of long-running economic misery and a rightist ever pushing Islamist reforms and endangering Ataturk’s secular legacies, Erdogan appears to ideally fit the definition of someone who knows how to stay in headlines.

The fact that he can be argued to have a few accomplishments to his credit makes his ‘feather-ruffling’ rhetoric all the more piquing. From his ascension to the seat of Prime Minister in early 2000s, he has presided over periods of high economic growth and has led the country through a sharp rise in the financial well-being of citizens.

During his long rule, Turkey’s power and standing has improved among not just among its middle eastern-neighbors, but also at global level. But the way he has practiced politics has put him at odds with many. He’s known to issue some of the most polarizing statements of any head of state – among which are those that, as perceived by his critics, are brazen attempts to dilute Turkey’s secular character, excessive criticism of west, particularly of what he calls their prejudice against Turkey, women’s societal role, gender equality, and even social media.

We’ll now look at some of the most ‘storm-stirring’ comments he has made over the years. Regarding Islamization of politics, a subject that has come to serve as a lightning rod of criticism for most, he remarked, “The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers…” About women, “You cannot put women and men on an equal footing. It is against nature. They were created differently. Their nature is different. She should not laugh loudly in front of all the world and should preserve her decency at all times.”

And, “Our religion has defined a position for women (in society): motherhood. “ Even social media couldn’t escape his salvo. “The best examples of lies can be found there. To me, social media is the worst menace to society.”

These remarks, along with many others, have put major dents in Erdogan’s political reputation at home and come to strain his relations with the west. Voters, who once held faith in Erdogan ability to take their country forward, are now increasingly questioning his ability to lead.

It is indeed a sad set of affairs for the president, something for which only his politically self-sabotaging tendencies can be blamed. The example of Erdogan thus demonstrates how indiscretion can rob a leader of his popularity, despite having a portfolio of achievements under his belt.

Dear Precious Visionary: How to Suffer your Dreams Well

This is a guest contribution by Teach Manuelle

You have dreams of a good life, a grand vision of success. Images dance before your mind of an ideal existence, full of love, success, joy and contentment – and peace of mind. It’s a grand vision!

Such aspirations are fuel to keep you moving. They are hope. And they are pain. We are creatures with self-awareness. Is this awareness a blessing or a curse?

Yet, it’s what we are, beings who know both triumph and failure. Hope, enthusiasm, fear and disappointment – and a vast mix of positive and negative feelings – are fodder for conscious living.

This fodder for conscious living is the stuff of life. Manage it well and you’ll prosper, which prosperity is of an internal nature. Spare no expense in learning to process life well. Few people have learned to process their experience without help. Some get therapy, some coaching (in either case, go to someone who has the proper training), and a few spend years learning on their own. However you choose to learn, it is an inescapable duty.

I want your Vision – your great dream – to come true.

And I know how much you will suffer. You hide your suffering, believing it makes you less than, but that doesn’t change anything. Hiding your pain only provokes more pain.

Your positive expectations create your pain. You did not choose to have such grand requirements. You cannot choose to live free of expectations and you shouldn’t want to. Yet, let’s make our expectations real – whole.

What if you were free and uninhibited to pursue your vision enthusiastically – and yet were never surprised when you fail? What if failure weren’t an unexpected catastrophe, but a normal part of your experience?

Here’s the secret:

Failure is and always will be a daily occurrence. There is no need to redefine failure. You don’t need to resist it with reframes. Failure is not feedback or a learning experience.

Feedback is feedback. Lessons are lessons. Failure is failure. And it’s fine.

You will make mistakes and fail often. Who are you not to? There are those who will use your naïve fear of failure – your insistence on success without the hassle – to line their pockets. Following their doctored images of success only leads to greater frustration. You will have enough of that without their help.

Your failures magnify when you insist on a failure-free existence. You will suffer, but your greatest suffering comes from believing you shouldn’t suffer. You will feel pain and that pain will persevere to the degree you resist it. Expecting a life free of negativity is requiring a world full of days without nights, a recipe for insanity. There is the insanity of those who do not share an agreed-upon reality. Then there’s the insanity of those who expect life to be other than it is.

Make your vision of the good life real, embracing a fuller spectrum of experience. You’re going to experience – every day – positive and negative aspects of living. Why pretend otherwise?

10 Pictures that Just Make you Feel Great to be Alive

Being a person sucks sometimes. We all need a reminder every once is a while that there are good people in the world. When times are tough, when the chips are down, good people come through.

Who do you know that’s done something extraordinary for humanity? Add these folks to the list.




Reflection & Knowledge

When we want to speak about reflection and how it serves man in his intellectual Islamic life on his journey to seek a close proximity to Allah s.w.t, we find that it is heavily emphasized within the Holy Qur’an’s teachings.

Let us ponder over this verse one moment:

الَّذِينَ يَذْكُرُونَ اللّهَ قِيَامًا وَقُعُودًا وَعَلَىَ جُنُوبِهِمْ وَيَتَفَكَّرُونَ فِي خَلْقِ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ رَبَّنَا مَا خَلَقْتَ هَذا بَاطِلاً سُبْحَانَكَ فَقِنَا عَذَابَ النَّارِ

“Those whom are [in a state of] remembering Allah s.w [while] standing up, sitting down or on their sides, reflecting over the creation of the heavens and the earth, [saying] Oh our Lord, you did not create all this in vain, Glory be to you! Grant us salvation from the Fire.” Al-Imran [3:191]

Reflection can be defined as a calm state of careful and intended consideration of something where one is not unconscious towards the respective subject of reflection, but conscious of its presence and pondering over its very essence to discover more about it.

Spirituality in the parameters of Islamic teachings is not a state of unconsciousness similar to that of toxicity of sleep based on imagination and fantasy, on the contrary a Muslim is one whose vision is sharp and looks to pierce the reality of things even further.

It is the mind that Allah s.w.t has given us as a means and a tool to drawing closer to Him, as it is the mind of man that has made him distinguished from the rest of Allah s.w.t creation with its ability to pierce the internals of things and understand their inner workings, and not only the apparent surface of things. It is through man’s mind he can unveil the hidden secrets of existence without being restricted by time and space, breaking all material boundaries. It is also through man’s mind Allah s.w.t is known and worshipped.

So thinking is the key to this…

الإمامُ عليٌّ (عَلَيهِ الّسَلامُ): مَن أكثَرَ الفِكرَ فيما تَعَلَّمَ أتقَنَ عِلمَهُ، وفَهِمَ ما لم يَكُن يَفهَمُ.

Imam Ali (AS) said, ‘Whoever increases his thinking in whatever he learns, his knowledge will become proficient, and he will come to understand whatever he did not understand before.’ [Ghurar al-Hikam, no. 8917]

The Holy Qur’an has been revealed to man to define the methods for a believers thinking and reflection so that faith may not be blind.

It nurtures the human mind to be bestowed a faith, based on the grounds of reflection and convictive conclusions that are based on open mindedness and sound thought, nurturing it to be the most robust it can be.

In Islam, man does not need to look into the books of philosophy, but rather look into the book of the universe (The Holy Qur’an) and reflect over it in our existence to witness that there is an all-encompassing intelligence that is governing the whole universe and that He is grand in his countenance and presence.

The Holy Qur’an was also revealed for the purpose of nurturing man’s thought to rise to the level of opening up to Allah s.w.t and to be able to gain what it may understand of Him. Man is not able to understand the essence of Allah s.w.t as His essence is not in the realms of sensory experience or experimentation, but man can understand Him regarding what he has revealed about Himself and by reflecting over his actions in creation.

سَنُرِيهِمْ آيَاتِنَا فِي الْآفَاقِ وَفِي أَنفُسِهِمْ حَتَّى يَتَبَيَّنَ لَهُمْ أَنَّهُ الْحَقُّ أَوَلَمْ يَكْفِ بِرَبِّكَ أَنَّهُ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ شَهِيدٌ

“We shall certainly show them our signs in the [vast] horizons and in their souls until it becomes unveiled that He is the [ultimate] Truth, is it not enough that your Lord is a [all encompassing] witness over all things?”[Fussilat [41:53]]

The method of Islam, gave man the freedom of thought which was not granted to the rest of man’s limbs, for they were instructed to move within their prescribed limits, such as what man sees, what he hears or the way he uses his hands and feet or any of the bodies instruments is limited, except the mind, that was given utter freedom in what it may think and reflect over.

The mind of man was not created with tight restrictions like the external faculties which are restricted physically where they may go, for when we read the Holy Qur’an the mind travels the whole universe without any restriction what so ever…

Allah s.w.t told the mind to be free in what it thinks, think of Allah s.w.t, think of what the others may say and what they don’t say, but you are accountable to what you may think in the sense that what you think about must be on the path of that what is going to give you conclusive outcomes that make you reach the Truth, for in the hereafter man’s mind will be put to account before his limbs.

وَلاَ تَقْفُ مَا لَيْسَ لَكَ بِهِ عِلْمٌ إِنَّ السَّمْعَ وَالْبَصَرَ وَالْفُؤَادَ كُلُّ أُولـئِكَ كَانَ عَنْهُ مَسْؤُولاً

“And never concern thyself with anything of which you have no knowledge of: verily, [thy] hearing and sight and heart – all of them – will be called to account for it [on Judgment Day]!” [al-Isra’17:36]

الإمام الحسن المجتبى(عليه السلام): عجبت لمن يتفكر في مأكوله، كيف لا يتفكر في معقوله، فيجنب بطنه ما يؤذيه، ويودع صدره ما يرديه

Imam Hassan (a) said:”I wonder those who think about their body’s food, but do not think about their soul’s food. They keep away disturbing food from their belly, but fill up their heart with destructive subjects.” [Safeenatul Bihar Ch.2 page 84]

Passiveness has no place in Islam, as Islam is rigid in its composition and infinite in the vastness of its discoveries. One must be attentive as indicated by this hadith :

إمام علي ع قال: ألا لا خير في علم ليس فيه تفهّم .. ألا لا خير في قراءة ليس فيها تدبّر .. ألا لا خير في عبادة ليس فيها تفقّه.

Imam Ali (a) says: “Surely there is no goodness in learning if there is no understanding, surely there is no good in reading without there being any reflection, surely there is no good in worship if there is no depth of its laws”[Jawahir al Bihar Ch. 49]

Also Allah s.w.t mentions in the Holy Quran:

يا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ أَطِيعُواْ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ وَلاَ تَوَلَّوْاْ عَنْهُ وَأَنتُمْ تَسْمَعُونَ* وَلاَ تَكُونُواْ كَالَّذِينَ قَالُواْ سَمِعْنَا وَهُمْ لاَ يَسْمَعُونَ* إِنَّ شَرَّ الدَّوَابِّ عِندَ اللَّهِ الصُّمُّ الْبُكْمُ الَّذِينَ لاَ يَعْقِلُونَ* وَلَوْ عَلِمَ اللَّهُ فِيهِمْ خَيْرًا لأَسْمَعَهُمْ وَلَوْ أَسْمَعَهُمْ لَتَوَلَّواْ وَّهُم مُّعْرِضُونَ

“O you who have attained to faith, pay heed unto God and His Apostle, and do not turn away from Him now that you hear [His message]; * and be not like those who say, “We have heard”, the while they do not hear. * Verily, the vilest of all creatures in the sight of God are those deaf, those dumb ones who do not use their reason. * For, if God had seen any good in them, He would certainly have made them hear: but [as it is,] even if He had made them hear, they would surely have turned away in their stubbornness. “ [Al-Anfal 23-20]

We will certainly be punished for not reflected and using our abilities to discover the truth:

وَلَقَدْ ذَرَأْنَا لِجَهَنَّمَ كَثِيرًا مِّنَ الْجِنِّ وَالإِنسِ لَهُمْ قُلُوبٌ لاَّ يَفْقَهُونَ بِهَا وَلَهُمْ أَعْيُنٌ لاَّ يُبْصِرُونَ بِهَا وَلَهُمْ آذَانٌ لاَّ يَسْمَعُونَ بِهَا أُوْلَـئِكَ كَالأَنْعَامِ بَلْ هُمْ أَضَلُّ أُوْلَـئِكَ هُمُ الْغَافِلُونَ

“And most certainly have We destined for hell many of the invisible beings and men who have hearts with which they fail to grasp the truth, and eyes with which they fail to see, and ears with which they fail to hear. They are like cattle -nay, they are even less conscious of the right way: it is they, they who are the [truly] heedless!”[al-A’raf 7:179]

The higher levels:

It is only through reflecting over knowledge of Allah s.w.t, that is manifested in everything, that we can reach the higher worlds that are invisible to the human eye, but are visible to the eye of the heart and mind.

The invisible is what manifests itself into the visible, for example, our souls are manifested into our bodies and the souls of other creatures into the material body.

Knowledge itself is invisible but is manifest and acting all around us.

This draws the conclusion that the invisible is more profound than the visible (even secular models teach this) and material, for it is the invisible that animates the material.

This can also be applied to the relationship between the creation and Allah s.w.t, which is the hidden secret to all that is manifest, but has made Himself known to us through it.

If one ponders deep into his soul and discover it, then after look into its kernel, then into the kernel of the kernel, will witness the countenance of His grand Lord at work…

The mind and heart of man are tools for traversing the vast horizons of Allah s.w.t through reflection and thought.

Is it a wonder that it has been made an obligation upon us to gain it?

رسولُ اللهِ (صَلَّيَ اللهُ عَلَيهِ وَ آلِهِ): طَلَبُ العِلمِ فَريضَةٌ عَلى كُلِّ مُسلِمٍ

The Prophet (SAWA) said, ‘The quest for knowledge is incumbent upon every Muslim [Amali al-Tusi, p. 488, no. 1069]

And there is no strength except In Allah and peace be upon those whom follow the guidance…

ولا قوّة إلا بالله والسلام على من اتبع الهدى

Live and Let Live

The objective of the video, according to The Honesty Policy is “to show the world despite the negative press, stereotypes and discrimination we are burdened with we should respond with smiles and joy, not anger.”

Fortunately, it seems to have had its intended effect, going viral on social media, and being picked up by both the Independent and Huffington Post reporting it as a good news story about Muslims – something rare in today’s sensationalist, headline-seeking, “bad news sells” media landscape.

Whilst this may be seen as a good thing by most, unfortunately, some have come out as less than pleased with the video. The reservations boil down to two broad themes:

Impermissibility: the usage of Muslim women (in particular those who identify as Muslims by wearing a headscarf – “hijabis”) dancing to music e.g. Facebook posts “We complain about the state of Muslims, but we don’t see a problem with Muslims, especially sisters dancing to a song by an artist who has music videos sexually exploiting women?”

Capitulation to Western culture: attacks on the necessity of Muslims to making a video of singing and dancing, to show others they are happy and normal e.g. a blog entitled: I’m a British Muslim, and I don’t need to sing and dance to show I’m happy.

The proponents of the above themes of course have a right to their point of view but these analyses seem to overlook the fact is that “not everyone is like you”:

Legality in Islamic law is not monolithic: whether or not one individual considers this to be impermissible (which is their right), many others do not – in fact, this video explicitly includes a fantastic scene with renowned mainstream scholar Abdul Hakim Murad (aka T J Winters). The reality is that there are many different opinions on music and it is not a black-and-white issue. Whilst some might claim that those in the video were selling out their principles – for many of them, it very much was in line with their principles!

Everyone expresses themselves differently: whilst this may not represent how everyone expresses their happiness, for many it does. In a similar way to how some Christians who have lived in the Middle East, may have adopted the local culture, some British Muslims may have adopted a culture as their own here. For them, it is not a foreign culture – it is their culture!

Videos such as these have the greatest potential to influence others: with such a negative stereotype of Muslims in the press, using social media to show a good news story has the potential to counter the prevailing tide of negativity and influence the wider public. Other more fitting stories e.g. the Muslim News Awards for Excellence, where unsung Muslim heroes are celebrated and where the Prime Minister attended just do not get this kind of press coverage. In an ideal world we would not have to “show” anyone that we are happy and by doing this, we are not “proving” that we are. But we do have to try that little bit harder than others [whilst not selling out on our principles] given the cold truth – that we have a bad reputation!

In the end, just because one individual does not need or want to dance to show they are happy; and just because that individual does not want to use the media in this way to influence the wider public, that is the individual’s right – but as for me, I put myself firmly on the other side of the debate.

The Tweeting Ayatullah

As any medical student will tell you, becoming a doctor is an incredibly tough process. Six years of medical school, years of being overworked as a junior doctor, sitting exams well your 40’s…the list of challenges goes on. Society rightly expects high standards from doctors: when it comes to protecting the fragile human anatomy, we are justified in expecting those responsible to be highly qualified and able.

The same goes for lawyers, dentists, accountants etc. Whenever we depend on another’s expertise, we want to make sure the person we depend on is qualified for the task. So why do we not apply the same rigour in religious affairs?

An Islamic scholar can be termed a ‘spiritual doctor’. He is a role model to a Muslim community; he preaches a way of life and holds an influence over the lives of followers that few other professions can claim. In the YouTube generation, the mere words of a scholar can literally mean life or death for millions of people. It should stand to reason that the field of Islamic scholarship would be limited to just that – scholars.

Yet a quick glance over social networks will reveal this is patently not the case. Theology is a field in which every believer thinks him or herself equipped to offer an opinion, often based on flaky and inconsistent knowledge of the subject. The famous phrase holds true: a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

In some ways this is a good thing. It provides evidence that religion is as alive as ever in the hearts of followers and demonstrates believers’ passions and devotion to their faith. But on a practical level, it is not only foolish but dangerous. Not long ago a university Islamic society had their prayer room confiscated because their Friday sermons (given by a layman president) appeared to endorse jihadist attacks.

When a layman quotes a verse of the Qur’an, he has little knowledge of the context of the verse or its interpretation. When he (or, to be gender neutral, or she) narrates a saying of a holy figure, he has even less knowledge of the source, chain of narrators, or of scholarly debates on the subject that have spanned for over a thousand years.

That’s not to say laymen aren’t entitled to an opinion or a comment – on the contrary, the involvement of ordinary people when making theological verdicts is crucial. But Muslims need to be careful about to whom they give a platform to represent their faith. They also need to be careful about the sources of their theology: is Twitter really the appropriate forum to be discussing the efficacy of chest beating, or public cursing, or forms of marriage? After all, a discussion is only as fruitful as those partaking in it are qualified to do so. That doesn’t mean such discussions shouldn’t take place – just that they shouldn’t have any influence on the way society functions.

Neither am I suggesting that all those who claim the title of Islamic scholarship deserve that title (that’s a different issue entirely). Nor am I denying that current society lacks an effective barometer for distinguishing who or what a scholar is (But that’s a different issue too). I’m just saying that your religion is too important for you to allow it to become a free-for-all. If you wouldn’t take a layman’s opinion on whether Parliament is constitutionally sovereign seriously, why should you take a layman’s opinion of the permissibility of chest-beating seriously? Both issues require a high level of expertise to provide an effective answer.

As such, it’s probably a good idea that laymen (so far as it is possible to do so) avoid giving religious sermons, or offering firm opinions on complex theological issues without qualifying their answers as being of little academic worth. Muslims need a balance between allowing non-scholars to feel engaged with their faith without allowing them too much influence over theological issues. Concomitant with the rise of social networking has been the emergence of self-styled Ayatullahs that actually spend most of their day as (for example) bus drivers. That, quite, patently, is not right.

How Reliable is Social Media?

In my early years at secondary school, one of the first things I remember being taught about in History was the reliability of evidence. We were told of the difference between primary and secondary sources, and how we should analyse the content of such sources before making a judgment on their ramifications on the topic at hand. Unfortunately, scrutiny of information in today’s world only seems to be something that journalists and academics are interested in.

Whenever a major news story breaks out, we are quick to share articles and images related to the subject through social media. Take this image of Lionel Messi holding a t-shirt that says Free Palestine. Whenever a new act of Israeli aggression occurs and people remember the plight of Palestinians, this image spreads like wildfire across Facebook and Twitter. However, this image has clearly been Photoshopped and the original can be seen here. The t-shirt he can be seen holding has the logo for Rosario’s bid to host the 2019 Pan American Games, which is Messi’s hometown. Interestingly, the Argentine Olympic Committee didn’t even end up putting Rosario forward for the bid, opting for La Punta instead, illustrating that having the world’s greatest footballer on your side doesn’t always lead to victory.

Another story that was publicised last year was that Cristiano Ronaldo had donated €1.5 million to Palestinian children in Gaza. It first appeared on Russia Today’s website, citing Real Madrid’s Arabic news website as a source and from there it was published on a number of blogs. It didn’t appear on any credible news outlet, nor did Real Madrid acknowledge the donation, so it is quite likely that this was a hoax too. The Real Madrid Foundation does do work in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and Ronaldo did donate money towards Palestinian causes in 2011, albeit a significantly smaller amount, but it’s strange why someone would make up such a story.

Freddie Kanoute is one footballer that has always been outspoken in support of Palestine and even lifted his football shirt after scoring a goal to reveal a t-shirt in support of Interpal. Last November, he published a statement on his website expressing solidarity with the people of Gaza, which was signed by a number of prominent footballers. The statement that appears on there has been edited since it first appeared, with a few of the footballers disappearing, such as Dider Drogba and Yohan Cabaye, after denying that they had signed such a statement. Eden Hazard’s name can still be seen there, despite his agent saying that Hazard never speaks out about political issues.

This problem is not just confined to the topic of Palestine. When Rohingya Muslims were being persecuted in Burma, a number of images appeared on social media sites relating to the issue. However, Faraz Ahmed of The Express Tribune did a little digging to find that many of these images were used completely out of context. Just last month, after the Hazara genocide in Pakistan, this picture was shared on Facebook and Twitter, showing a father in a grave clutching his dead child, however the image was actually from a Turkish television show called Ali Memati.

Even more worrying than the people who share these stories on social media without verifying them is that there are other people out there who started the spread of these stories and images in full knowledge that they are either false or used out of context. Issues relating to Palestine, Burma and Pakistan don’t need celebrity endorsement or powerful imagery to draw people’s attention to them. Within these countries and many others around the world, people are suffering and dying, and this itself should be a strong enough reason for us to take an interest in the issue at hand.

But above all, we should realise that social media is not a replacement for news media, and just because your friend has posted a photo or story relating to a hot topic, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it comes from a true source. We are all equipped with the intellectual tools to analyse these stories for their credibility, and sometimes all it takes is a bit of Googling to determine whether something is authentic.