We never know what will become of our ideas when we release them into the world. I learned this in a new way, when one of my tweets about Isis and Islam went viral on “Muslim Twitter”. The volume of response from Muslim men and women around the ...
We never know what will become of our ideas when we release them into the world. I learned this in a new way, when one of my tweets about Isis and Islam went viral on “Muslim Twitter”. The volume of response from Muslim men and women around the world (35,000 retweets and counting) isn’t what’s blowing my mind today, as I watch the tweet take on new lives of its own as it spreads. What’s awe-inspiring is what these ordinary people are saying, and what we can all learn from it.
Last Friday night just before I tucked into bed before the holiday weekend, I did something I do dozens of times a day: I tweeted a random thought that popped into my head.
The terrorist organization had killed hundreds of Muslim people in Muslim targets in recent attacks, and the now familiar response from cable news hosts and would-be presidents was repeated again: Muslims are dangerous, and “moderate Muslims” need to speak out strongly against Isis. It’s their responsibility, because at some level, they’re all the same.
On US social media that night, as news broke of each new attack on an Islamic target by the so-called Islamic State, I saw not even a hint of the outcry that followed attacks in Orlando and San Bernardino, London or Paris. No “Pray for Baghdad,” no “Je Suis Saudi Arabia” on western Twitter. No memes of unified global grief. Just more fear, racism and dehumanizing of a label that applies to millions of ordinary people all over the world: “Muslim”. In America, it’s our new N-word. America, it seems, feels no empathy for a group of people we can’t accept as fully human.
I tweeted my random thought and went to bed. When I woke up, on the Saturday of the three-day Independence Day weekend, the most patriotic and nationalist holiday of them all for my country – there was news of more Isis suicide bombings. And my silly late-night tweet had gone really really viral. It wasn’t being retweeted by the thousands per minute here in Los Angeles where delicious Fourth of July barbecue smoke was wafting into my window, not in the US at all. It was going viral in Saudi Arabia. Pakistan. Bangladesh. Turkey. Iraq. Some of the same places where, as our holiday weekend here in America unfolded, Isis attacks were also unfolding. Muslims were dying. And fellow Muslims were pouring their grief into Twitter.
When the suicide bombing hit Medina, Islam’s second most sacred site, my silly tweet was shared at a new velocity. Fifteen thousand retweets turned into 25,000, to 35,0000, and with that came a flood of previously unheard voices, Muslim people on the other side of the internet, all skimming Twitter on their phones just like me and my friends, feeling outrage, empathy, laughing, doing what we do with social media. Connecting to ideas, and connecting with each other around the ideas they encounter. This time, it just happened to be one of my own.
“I would thank you from the bottom of my heart, but for you my heart has no bottom💐,” wrote Qasem Al -Ali in London.
Many of them looped in Donald Trump’s Twitter account to address the Republican presidential nominee, known for his anti-Muslim rhetoric, directly.
I was flooded with innumerable “I love you”s from Bahrain to Beirut to Baghdad, sent by millennial women in hijab, or men in kandura (the traditional headdress of men in the Emirates). Many of these tweets ended with hearts or kisses from young women who wore Snapchat flower crowns in their avatars. Other tweets from Muslim gents were signed with a flower emoji, a rose or a handful of tulips – the kind of courtesy and respect I’m not used to receiving online, where most political tweets (particularly from women) elicit a steady barrage of abuse (from men). Men in Malaysia were in my mentions with memes. Several Muslim respondents replied with a classic Steve Carell gif from The Office.
The volume of response was dizzying and frightening. I’ve been on the internet for a long time. I know that the mood surrounding a viral moment can shift at any time. Many Trump supporters and other racists responded to me, a fellow white American, with ugliness and threats. I blocked the worst, muted the rest, and went on reading the amazing love coming out of accounts with Arabic in their handles.
Countless replies, many of which amounted to: “Praise Allah, it’s such a relief to see that some non-Muslims don’t confuse these murderous idiots with us” or “You wouldn’t believe the BS we have to put up with. Thank you for seeing us as equals.”
Hello? CNN? Fox News? All you politicians and TV news pundits chanting your eternal refrain, “Where are the moderate Muslim voices condemning Isis in the strongest possible terms?”
They are in my mentions. By the thousands. Go, look. Listen. Learn.
Thank you, Muslim Twitter. I will always remember Independence Day now in the light of this experience. For me, from now on, it will be Internet Interdependence Day.
Islam,US politics,Religion,World news,US news