A video of a man dressed in white participating in a ceremony known as the Stoning of the Devil, which is part of the Islamic Hajj pilgrimage to the city of Mecca, has been circulating online since August 26. On Facebook, many say that the man pictured is none other than former pope Benedict XVI, who they claim has converted to Islam. Turns out, this isn’t true. Keep reading to find out how you can debunk this kind of video in just a few clicks.
The pilgrimage to Mecca, known as the hajj, is one of the five pillars of Islam. This year’s pilgrimage started on August 19. A Facebook post published on August 26 – and since shared more than 30,000 times – claims that former pope Benedict XVI was “seen in Saudi Arabia taking part in the hajj", after discovering that “Islam is the true religion of God.”
The rumour began to spread across social media. Each subsequent post contained the same video (see examples here).
On August 28, the France 24 Observers team received several messages about these posts. Turns out, the rumour is easy to debunk.
1. Look carefully at the footage
First of all, if you look closely, the man dressed in white who is said to be Benedict XVI… doesn’t really look like Benedict XVI.
It’s also noticeable that the video is in a square shape -- which is the format for Instagram. There’s also a credit on the image, which reads: "Instgram al _ saud _".
2. Find the footage elsewhere
Because the credit is on the footage, it is easy to take a look at the Instagram account in question, which describes itself a fan page of the Saudi royal family.
The video has actually been posted on the account fairly recently – but with a totally different caption. It says that the man featured is actually Prince Khalid Al-Faisal, the governor of Mecca.
If you keep scrolling, you’ll see this account also features several other photos and videos that show the man in white, and who is clearly recognisable as the governor of Mecca.
3. Read the comments and check the sources
If you have any doubts about a video, you can sometimes get clues by reading the comments section. Several people had actually recognised the governor and left comments saying as much. If you search keywords like “pope” and “Mecca” on Facebook, then you’ll come across plenty of posts that also say the rumour is false.
Moreover, no article by a news agency or serious media outlet mentions that Pope Benedict XVI converted to Islam. The pope resigned in 2013. Now 91, he is living in a monastery near the Vatican.
Before sharing something online, it is always better to verify.
Do you want to know how to verify images that circulate on social media? Check out the France 24 Observers verification guide!