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SOCIAL CENSORSHIP?

An imam posted a photo of nuns frolicking on the beach. Then his Facebook account was disabled.

Reuters/Lirio Da Fonseca
So long as it is not a burkini.
  • Annalisa Merelli
By Annalisa Merelli

Reporter

This article is more than 2 years old.

Following the news that some coastal towns in France had banned burkinis, or full body bathing suits, from their beaches, Izzeddin Elzir, the imam in Florence, Italy, chose a picture as commentary. On Aug. 18, he shared on Facebook a photo of a group of nuns playing in the waves on the beach while wearing their habits.

The picture raised the question: Why is a monastic habit, veil and all, less threatening than a burkini? The point resonated with social media users, and the picture (which now counts over 3,000 shares) went viral.

On the day after he published the image, Elzir woke up to find his Facebook profile blocked. The imam, who is also the president of the UCOII, the union of Italy’s Islamic communities, told Italian newspaper La Repubblica that Facebook asked him to verify his identity after the company received several reports that his account wasn’t authentic.

Facebook, Elzir said, asked him for identification to prove that the account wasn’t fake, and the social media company reactivated his account one day later, on Aug. 19, nuns picture included. “I shared the pictures without a word, it spoke by itself. We are not that distant, I wanted to remind [people] that even in Europe’s cultural values there is this reality [conservative dressing].”

Facebook told Quartz that the account was disabled by mistake. It was mistaken for an imposter account following reports from users that it violated the social network’s community standards, and was reactivated after verification. “Our team processes millions of reports each week, and we sometimes get things wrong,” a spokesperson wrote in an email to Quartz, “we’re very sorry about this mistake.”

Facebook says the suspension was unrelated to the picture and the imam said he hopes that is the case. However, he has hired a lawyer to look into the matter.

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