Monday, July 04, 2005

“Bill Gates Jew Muslim”?

If you have found this page through a search engine, here is what you need to know: BILL GATES DID NOT CONVERT TO ISLAM. He is not a Muslim. The Christian Science Monitor did not publish that article. The entire story is a HOAX. It was not even a Jewish or Crusader plot; it was perpetrated by a Muslim website as a joke with Muslims as the intended audience.

Regular readers of Gates of Vienna will remember the “Bill Gates Converts to Islam” hoax from this past spring. Previous posts on the topic are here, here, here, here, and here.

It reputedly started as an April Fools’ joke on, and then spread though message boards throughout the Arab Middle East and in the Islamic immigrant communities in the West. By an unfortunate (or serendipitous?) coincidence of keywords, Gates of Vienna became a major target of google searches on “Bill Gates Islam” and similar phrases — “Bill” from “Bill's Comments” in our blogroll, “Gates” from our blog title, and “Islam” from innumerable posts. The meme created by the hoax proved to be tenacious, and (despite my best efforts), the debunking of the hoax never made it into the MSM or the major blogs. Neither Urban Legends nor Snopes ever picked it up, so the gullible continued to search for “Bill Gates Muslim” and thus continued to wash up against the Gates of Vienna. For a couple of weeks in April, more than half of our (admittedly meager) traffic came from such referrals.

The initial surge has slowed, but a steady trickle of search engine referrals keeps coming in even now. Over the July 4th weekend the “Bill Gates”-related searches were as follows:

Search string Country/Region
bill gates and islam Canada
bill gates and islam Jordan
bill gates islam Arab Emirates
bill gates islam Europe (2)
bill gates jew Sweden (2)
bill gates jew religion Australia
bill gates muslim convert UK
bill gates converted to islam Europe
bill gates converts to islam Europe
bill gates converts to islam Saudi Arabia
bill gates islam Albania
bill gates islam Egypt
bill gates islam Europe
bill gates islam Saudi Arabia
ryach "christian science monitor" bill gates Saudi Arabia

That makes for 17 referrals out of about 1,500 hits during that time, or somewhat over 1% of our traffic.

So the meme will not die. The idea of Bill Gates converting to Islam must be attractive to Muslims because he is a rich and powerful American, emblematic of the Internet Age. There also seems to be an assumption that he converted from Judaism to Islam; presumably, since he is a rich infidel, he must have been a Jew!

Make of it what you will; in a few months I will report back on the latest status of the hoax.

In the meantime, this post, with its surfeit of the most popular search phrases, will catch most of the faithful looking for information on this topic. One hopes they will read the intial notice, and help stop the spread of this disinformation.