Hoaxes & Rumors

Photo of Man Burned at Stake: Real or Fake?

Photo of Man Burned at Stake: Real or Fake?
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A photo which has circulated online for several years shows what appears to be a man being burned at the stake. It has been suggested that the man was burned as part of Islamic Law (Shariah). Is it real or fake?

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The photo is real, but it is often miscaptioned.

Let’s first take a look at the image in question, which shows a man tied to a stake with his legs on fire. We have blocked out the disturbing part of the image:

man burned at stake

False Claims

The photo above has been circulated online for several years, often with captions claiming that it is an example of Sharia brutality.

Real Incident

The image is real, but has nothing to do with Islam or Sharia. The man in the photo was a thief who was caught stealing in Pelileo Grande, Ecuador. He was punished by local villagers, who tied him to a cross and set his legs on fire. He was removed from the cross by a priest and villagers, and taken to a hospital. The Daily Mail reported the story on October 12, 2006. In a story entitled, “Burned alive for being a thief,” it was reported:

A suspected thief screams as villagers set fire to his legs after stripping him and tying him to a cross in Pelileo Grande, Ecuador, 75 miles south of Quito.

Mario Quishpe had been caught stealing and locals took summary justice. A priest, along with other villagers, extinguished the flames and he was taken to hospital where his burns were treated.

Religion in Ecuador

According to the website Adventure Life, in Ecuador, “The predominant religion is Roman Catholic, but there is a scattering of other Christian faiths. Indigenous Ecuadorians, however, have blended Catholicism and their traditional beliefs.” The total Muslim population in Ecuador is estimated to be very small, numbering only in the hundreds. Based on those figures, the man in the photo is more likely to be Catholic than Muslim.

Bottom Line

The photo of a man being burned alive on a cross is real, but it is not related to Islam or Sharia, as some online captions have suggested. The man was punished for stealing, but was quickly removed from the cross and treated at a local hospital. The Muslim population in Ecuador is very small, and it is likely that the villagers depicted in the photo were Catholic, the predominant religion in the region.

Updated April 11, 2015
Originally published December 2014

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