Over the last week, the most reported story from Syria wasn't the hundreds of people killed by Assad gangs nor was it fighter jets bombing civilian homes in Aleppo. It was an alleged ban on eating croissant by a religious committee in rebel controlled Aleppo.
Sounds ludicrous, doesn't it? It must be a joke.
Not according to the Time, CNN, Washington Post, Huffington Post and every other news paper in the four corners of the Earth who decided to jump on the bandwagon. The story usually starts with a factual statement such as "A fatwa has been issued by a religious court in Aleppo banning Muslims from croissant". Then the story gets more and more ludicrous when they get into news analysis of the French mandate colonial symbolism of croissant or its relation to Ottoman empire defeat at the gates of Budapest.
But where did this story come from? All these article referred to a story published on Al-Arabiyah news network. Al-Arabiyah in turn referred the story to Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper. The latter didn't make any factual statements about croissant in their religious courts story. It was merely "reportedly" and "published on social networking sites".
Reportedly, the authority also recently issued a fatwa prohibiting eating croissants, a buttery bread roll, for their “colonial” implications. Copies of the fatwa were published on social networking sites with the official seal of Sheikh Abu Muhammad, a member of the authority.
So, where is this fatwa and what is this "official seal of Sheikh Abu Muhammed"?
Huffington Post was the only news paper out of all these major news networks who decided to bother with some "research" into the background of the story. They did a search on twitter and found a copy of the alleged fatwa published by a Thabet_UAE. Not the actual page of the Aleppo religious committee. Not the many Syrian opposition news networks. Not any of Aleppo LCCs. No, a random guy fro UAE! And what happened when somebody questioned this guys Croissant document? He stated receiving it from "a reliable news network". That line of the investigation is dead.
Since the start of the revolution in 2011, Syrian resorted to humour and satire to laugh their daily pain and sadness away. Of recent months one of the most popular pages has been Brother, Please!. Every few weeks they run with a joke that get replicated in many other copycat pages. And although they were not responsible for the croissant fatwa, they had their fare share of fake fatwas.
Due to security reasons, we ban the use of Mujahideen real names. If needed, refer to them by the word "Brazar" (brother). For example:
Barzar, please! Where did you hide Father Paolo?
They even made a joke of how common this joke has become. This one is the Arabic Facebook status update with the words " Insert anything that comes to your mind".
So what about the "official seal of Sheikh Abu Muhammed"? It doesn't take a CSI expert to discover that the Croissant Fatwa is Photoshop-ed into the same document with the exact same stamp and signature with the exact same ink smudging.
I am not trying to defend Islamic Committee of Aleppo. They had their fair share of offensive fatwas and decrees that goes against the moderate Syrian social fabric. I was and I will always be against Sharia law and religious courts. However, I am fed up with lazy simplistic reporting about Syria. Googling few words and copying and pasting is not journalism. Sorry!
Now back to Croissants. Syrians love the stuff. They adapted them to local taste using local ingredients of Zaatar, olives and Kashkaval cheese. If you still have energy and would like to read my philosophical post on the morality of Zaatar Croissants then read my previous post about it.
In the mean time if you want a taste of Syria, mix some Zaatar with olive oil to a thick paste and spread over a triangular shaped butter layered dough. There are a lot of recipes on the net. If you want to be lazy like me go for some puff pastry. Not as good but ... hey!