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Miracle or Child Abuse? PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Phil Plait   

In Russia, thousands of Muslims are flocking to see a baby who has verses from the Koran mysteriously appearing on his body:

I'd like to be very clear here: this is not pareidolia, our ability to see patterns in random objects. The verses are clearly there, and not just random. As one pilgrim said, "It's proof that Allah exists, that he is all-mighty..."

koranbabyHowever -- and perhaps this is just me here -- it seems far more likely that instead of an actual miracle, someone is maybe, y'know, writing the verses on the baby. The mother says the baby is cranky when the words appear, which (if she's being truthful) you might expect if someone is scraping or otherwise irritating the baby's skin to make the words appear. I'll note that the words fade with time, too, just as expected if this is a fraud.

If this whole thing is a fake (and the JREF has a million dollars on the line to say something about that) then I don't know what's worse: the parents or whoever is behind this doing this to the baby, or the crowd who simply believes it.

Oh, wait! I know what's worse: the reporter who did this story and the editor who approved it not injecting one single shred of skepticism into the report. There was no journalism here, no investigation. This was simple stenography, the credulous retelling of what is almost 100% guaranteed to be a hoax at best and a scam at worst. Not to mention child abuse.

People sometimes ask me what it's like to be a skeptic all the time. Maybe I should simply answer, "nauseated."

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Comments (16)Add Comment
Henna tattoos?
written by JeffWagg, November 03, 2009
Looks like henna tattoos to me... http://tattoos-and-art.com/hebrew-tattoos
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written by ianmacm, November 03, 2009
It's hard to offer comments here without more detail. Here is one suggestion for a formula that could do this: http://ponyurl.com/86hhvy .
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Evidence?
written by C4llum, November 03, 2009
I find this hard to understand. You know, surely, the people who believe in this, they must have asked themselves the question is this fake? From what I heard from the report, no one seemed to doubt the validity of so called ''miracle''. Now then what's the evidence for it being real? I would have loved to of heard some science in this report.
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Cui bono?
written by JuJu, November 03, 2009
This is taking place in Dagestan where neighbouring Chechen separatists are trying to incite a local Islamic insurgency, with some success. In this part of the world, the media report only at the behest of local power brokers, be they government, paramilitary or 'other'.

This could be a publicity stunt to gain support for the separatists, or an attempt to discredit them when the hoax is revealed. Either way this family are unlikely to be going it alone, as something this inflammatory rarely draws the kind of attention an unprotected citizen can cope with.
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Faith and journalism
written by RobbieD, November 04, 2009
Faith is belief without question. That's why the extraordinary explanation of divine providence for these marks is accepted, rather than the simple explanation of human providence. Couple this with a social and religious conditioning that daubs any doubter with the stigma of heresy and blasphemy and you have a situation where no-one will question this phenomenon.

Of course we would hope that journalism would stand on higher moral ground than this, but the facts show time and time again that journalists simply will not let facts get in the way of a good story.
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written by LovleAnjel, November 04, 2009
This child probably has has dermatographia, where slight irritation causes a release of histamines into the skin. It doesn’t take a whole lot of pressure to cause raised, red welts to appear, and you can “draw” without causing pain or breaking the skin (I have it and it creeps my husband out).

This seems more like a pious fraud than anything else.
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written by Lupin, November 04, 2009
Given the state of the world, surely Allah should have better things to do than writing on babies.
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written by siddhigyrl, November 04, 2009
Henna's exactly what I thought too, Jeff, having spent a great deal of time in India. Women would write religious messages on their children with henna all the time.
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written by Alan3354, November 04, 2009
There's no way anything like this could be real. How can people be so gullible?

Let me tell you about Jesus, who died, but got over it.

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written by barneyj, November 04, 2009
+1 for dermatographia. Like LovleAnjel, I suffered from it. It went away a few years ago. I would write on my skin with something sharp without breaking the skin or leaving any marks. A few minutes later, the marks would appear. I had fun freaking out co-workers with messages such as, "HELP ME" on my forearm. It appears before your eyes, so I'd pretend I'm feeling discomfort and they'd be able to see the "writing" happen in real time. Of course I'd explain to them what it was later on. So. . . that's a YES on child abuse.
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written by Gumba Masta, November 04, 2009
After careful deliberation I think the only adequate response to this is "What the fuck?!"
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written by Steel Rat, November 04, 2009
Given the state of the world, surely Allah should have better things to do than writing on babies.


Baby-writing is an elective course in God College. Others include overpass staining, window condensation, grilled cheese buttering, and Accounting.
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written by ianmacm, November 05, 2009
I'm not a skin expert, but the writing on the baby in the video does not look like classic dermatographic urticaria ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D..._urticaria ) My guess would be some form of chemical irritation, but a full investigation would be needed. It is not rocket science/brain surgery (take your pick) to work out that someone close to the baby could be doing this, and only by removing the baby from the parents and other relatives would this possibility be ruled out.
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written by GeekGoddess, November 05, 2009
I might believe it was a miracle if Koranic verses appeared on someone who was not Muslim, or who had never heard of Islam. I'd believe Mary appeared to people if a Muslim or Tibetan nomads who received visions, not poor Catholic women.
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written by Stargazer9915, November 06, 2009
I just heard a few minutes ago that a new verse had been observed on the baby's body. It roughly translates to CAN YOU SMELL WHAT THE ROCK IS COOKIN'
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This is not Islamic
written by saber, October 02, 2010
I am a Muslim, feel shame to hear this.
1. The symbol for pronunciation is wrong. If I'm not mistaken, there should not be sign of "Ha'", the 6th letter of arabic on top of it. Besides a straight line near the first letter has no meaning.
2. Islam does not spread with anonymous looking miracles. What ever strange occurred to anybody related to Islam image is not simply as a sign of the god existence unless that is mentioned in al-Quran and from authentic narration from the messenger of god, prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
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