Rumor Debunked: Did Mark Zuckerberg Really Convert To Islam?

Rumors of Mark Zuckerberg reportedly converting to Islam are circulating social media sites, including — ironically enough — Facebook, which during the past few months has promised to strike down dubious information on people’s news feeds.

Netizens were quick to share shady online articles and posts claiming that Zuckerberg has officially converted to Islam. Attached to the story were tiny details like him changing his name from Mark into Haani Assad, and even sending emails to Facebook employees announcing his leap of faith from atheism to Islam. Mark’s email, according to the spurious reports, is as follows.

“I, Mark Zuckerberg, have chosen to follow Allah’s teachings and thus have changed my name to Haani Assad. While Facebook is still dedicated to providing a work environment that is sympathetic to employees of all faiths, we will now have mandatory breaks at noon for Dhuhr and at 4:30pm for ‘Asr. I ask that those of you who are not followers of Allah to respect those of us who are during those times. Praise Allah!”

The Zuckerberg conversion story was sufficiently shocking to the most gullible netizens but was easily taken apart by fact-checking website Snopes, which labelled it a “false” claim. It turns out, the shoddily written Zuckerberg hoax story originated from National Report, a fake news website that has ran similarly ridiculous stories such as “Bill Cosby Rape Allegations Lead To Popularity Boom In India” and “New Scientific Study Confirms Liberals Are Ignorant Low Down Dirty Trailer Trash.”

Unlike The Onion, which is actually satirical and humorous in nature, National Report – which used to have a satire-only disclaimer on their website – has been accused of deliberately misinforming readers with some of their legit sounding headlines like the Mark Zuckerberg story above. Recently, during the heat of the Ebola outbreaks, the website earned the ire of many a critics for running real-sounding headlines about serious Ebola outbreaks in Purdon, Texas. TheVerge heavily criticized National Reports and similar “bad satire” websites for stories that masquerade as satire but instead feed on people’s fears and gullibility for profit.

Mark Zuckerberg has been open about his atheism since he revealed to Wall Street Journal his non-belief in 2010. Born in a Jewish family, Zuckerberg says he left religion shortly after his bar mitzvah at the age of 13. Although not too vocal about his non-belief, Mark Zuckerberg has been a minor poster boy among secularist crowds, partly due to his philanthropic work in Africa.

[Image from Scott Bealle/Flickr]