California

No, Gov. Brown isn’t invoking Sharia law via ‘Arabic numbers.’ Satiric photo fools some

California Gov. Jerry Brown gestures while speaking in San Francisco in September. Women’s rights advocates are criticizing him for vetoing a workplace protection bill.
California Gov. Jerry Brown gestures while speaking in San Francisco in September. Women’s rights advocates are criticizing him for vetoing a workplace protection bill. AP file

This week in the world of fake news, a recent satiric post criticizing California Gov. Jerry Brown for passing a fictional law made some readers laugh, angered others, and likely prompted some people to brush up on their math lingo.

Spreading quickly online, a captioned Facebook photo of Brown posted Tuesday by satire blog Last Line of Defense reads: "SHARIA Law Must Be Stopped! Under Gov. Brown, students in California are now required to learn ARABIC numerals. Comment 1-10 how much this angers you."

How quickly one realizes the photo is satire might depend on how much attention they paid in math class. If you took thorough notes, you might know that Arabic numerals, aka Hindu-Arabic numerals, are the digits 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9—the ones Americans and a large majority of the world use every day. Other, less-used systems include Roman and Indian numerals.

The accompanying story takes the joke a step further: "It also requires that students in 4th grade learn about Islam and Sharia Law, saving Christianity for the 7th Grade," the story says. "If you want Arabic numerals, go to Arabia," it ends.

Any bit of truth to Last Line of Defense's post was debunked by fact-checking website Snopes the next day; Snopes also points out that all stories on that blog are fabricated and that the website includes a disclaimer.

Despite their prominence worldwide, there is no California law saying students must learn Arabic numerals, according to The Associated Press. Deputy Press Secretary Brian Ferguson said the satire content serves to "stoke fear and misinformation," and encouraged young people to keep studying Arabic numerals, AP reported.

The Facebook photo has been shared more than 30,000 times. It fooled at least a few commenters, some of whom—either serious or satiric themselves—erupted with outrage.

"If he wants Aribic (sic) numeral in schools, he should go to a country, where they are taught. He has totally destroyed California," one user wrote. "How much longer is this jerk going to be in office??" another queried, but in all-caps.

Another chimed in later: "Our education system has failed far too many people that are commenting on this. Please, for the love of God, Google 'Arabic numerals.'"

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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