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Don’t Laugh, But Dubai’s Deputy Police Chief Would Like to Tell You About Obama’s ‘Shia Roots’

Barack and Michelle Obama photoshopped in Islamic attire in front of the Imam Redha shrine, in Mashhad, Iran, a revered Shia site. Image source unknown

Barack and Michelle Obama photoshopped into Islamic attire in front of the Imam Redha shrine in Mashhad, Iran, a revered Shia site. The text, in Persian, reads “Very soon…” (Original image source unknown.)

The Internet has been in stitches ever since Dubai's deputy chief of police Dhahi Khalfan announced on Twitter that US President Barack Obama has “Shia roots” and is likely to visit Shia religious centres in Iran soon.

The tweets, seen by many as reeking of Shia-phobia, were made after sanctions against Iran were lifted recently as part of an agreement reached last July between Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States; plus Germany) concerning Tehran's nuclear program.

On Twitter, Khalfan wrote:

Obama, who has Shia roots, was elected to bridge the gap between Iran and the US to stop Iran's military nuclear programme. Mission accomplished.

In another tweet, he added:

It is expected that Obama will visit Qom, Mashhad, and all the big Shia religious congregation halls!!

Many responded to Khalfan with mockery. Twitter user AIfie, for instance, shared this photograph with Khalfan:

Faisal Alhbabi asked:

How did you become chief of police when this is the level of your thinking?

Abbas Zahri, meanwhile, shared this photoshopped image of Obama performing Shia rituals, mourning the death of an Imam:

You are right and this is proof!

More photoshopped pictures followed. Ammar Ali shared another doctored photograph of the US president, this time depicting him performing a Shia mourning ritual associated with Ashura:

This is a photograph of him mourning in a Hussainiya.

A Hussainiya is a Shia congregation centre, used for gatherings to mark Shia rituals.

Twitter user Hussain M shared this photograph of Obama, saying it is a leaked photograph from a religious learning centre in Qom (the epicentre of Shia learning in Iran):

Here's a leaked photograph of Obama after his graduation from a Shia learning centre in Qom, Iran.

Iranians on social media have also taken to discussing Obama's role in Shia Islam, however in a slightly different light. Last November, an Iranian blogger posted a picture from an anti-US rally in Tehran, where protesters carried pictures of Obama, where his likeness was compared to that of Shemr, a villainous figure in Shia Islam.

Other Iranians who shared the news of the deputy chief of police's views noted their amusement at such far-fetched ideas. Addressing the news, one Iranian-American blogger, Holly Dagress, added the hashtag #ShiaScare.

Mohsen Milani, an Iranian academic based in the United States, shared the news with a laughing emoji.

Various conspiracy theories have circulated about Obama's Shia background in the past. During the 2008 elections, Iran's state-run newspapers ran unsubstantiated claims about Obama's Shia past and his connections to southwestern Iran. In June 2015, the former Iraqi parliament member Taha al-Lahibi released a YouTube video describing Obama's Shia background as part of a conspiracy by Iran's Shia forces fighting the Islamic State in Iraq, alongside the still evolving nuclear negotiations between Iran and the United States.

Iranian social media users typically ridicule theories like these. In response to the al-Lahibi conspiracy, one Iranian Twitter user joked that the nuclear negotiations were turning Obama into a Shia.

Nuclear negotiations with Iran have made Obama into a Shia! +film

The statements by Dubai's deputy chief of police come after the United Arab Emirates backed Saudi Arabia in a recent conflict with Iran that led the two nations to cut diplomatic ties. In reaction, the Emirates downgraded their relationship by reducing the number of diplomats in Iran and recalling its ambassador. They have not severed ties, however, due to a long history of trade with Iran.

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