Check the facts you see on social media

I don’t want keep going on about social media but after last week’s airing of the untruths and distortions that many gullible people swallow (“half of France is Muslim”), social media’s inability to stop and think for a moment is also striking.

Social media, not to say the 24-hour rolling news and even the letters pages of newspapers, is currently full of people wringing their hands and fretting about the arrival of Syrian refugees to these shores, in the light of the Paris attacks.

This loses sight of the obvious and — to quote Sybil Fawlty — even the bleedin’ obvious.

The obvious is that:

● None of the terrorists in the attack in Paris were Syrian;
● Not one was a refugee or asylum seeker;
● All of the attackers from the massacre so far identified were European Union nationals, the majority French or Belgian;
● An Egyptian passport found belonged to a critically wounded victim and the Syrian passport has also been found in Serbia on another man, so is possibly fake (and see below);
● Federica Mogherini, vice-president of the European Commission, said: “The profile of the terrorists so far identified tells us this is an internal threat. It is an issue of internal domestic security.”

She added: “It is actually fear that can destroy our society from within.”
It seems possible that a passport once issued to a Syrian man has been through Greece on the way into Europe, but it is hard to assess what this means.

The terrorists want to create hostility towards Muslims because that aids their cause, so they need it to look as if the bomber came through Greece with the other fleeing refugees. Maybe he did, but it’s easy to imagine the terrorists dropping a man off near the boat crossing, having him go over to Greece in a boat and register as a refugee, and then get picked up again. It’s called propaganda, and ISIS are good at it.

But this fear of terrorists disguised as refugees hides the Sybil Fawlty factor, the utterly bleedin’ obvious: the refugees coming to England courtesy of PM David Cameron and possibly being housed in towns such as Alsager, Biddulph and Congleton are not the same ones as pass through Greece.

The suicide bomber with a Syrian passport could not have ended up in the UK as an official refugee.

The 20,000 refugees Mr Cameron has said we will accept from Syria over the next five years are now living in camps bordering Syria. They are being extensively vetted by the UN. Vulnerable children and orphans will be prioritised, Mr Cameron said.

It doesn’t matter — at least as far as “official” refugees go — how many terrorists sneak into Greece before collecting AK47s from local supporters. They’re not the ones coming into Britain via official channels.

As Mr Cameron told Parliament: “We will continue with our approach of taking refugees from the camps, and from elsewhere in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. This provides refugees with a more direct and safe route to the United Kingdom, rather than risking the hazardous journey to Europe.”

It’s true that a terrorist may sneak into England over the Channel and meet up with radicals already in England. But that is not the same as coming in as an official refugee.

The confusion is not helped by stories such as that in the Sun this week claiming that “one in five Muslims” had sympathy for the jihadis.

As many have pointed out, only 5% of respondents agreed with the statement: “I have a lot of sympathy with young Muslims who leave the UK to join fighters in Syria” — a statement that does not differentiate between people fighting for and against ISIS, and indeed does not mention ISIS at all.

A further 14.5% said that they had “some sympathy” with them (same reservations apply). The Sun has added these figures up and claimed that all 20% “support jihadis” — something for which it actually has no evidence.

As a matter of record, 4.3% of non-Muslims also expressed “a lot of sympathy with young Muslims who leave the UK to join fighters in Syria”, and 9.4% expressed “some sympathy”. The attitudes held by the Muslim and non-Muslim populations for these (deliberately?) vague questions are no different.

It is true that a terrorist might hide under a lorry and come to the UK, but he probably won’t be bringing any weapons and will need the support of home-grown radicals. He certainly won’t be housed near you thanks to the generosity of the taxpayer.

The despicable actions of the radicals in Europe should not be confused with the plight of refugees coming to this country, fleeing those very radicals. The two are separate groups.

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