When my eyes first fluttered open on Thursday morning, I was prepared for my morning routine of scrolling through Instagram and Twitter for an hour, and avoiding moving in general. I was not, however, prepared to see a giveaway post for a “free trip to New Zealand” to “meet the families of the victims” of the Christchurch attack—and I have not been able to think of another word beyond “yikes” since I saw the post in question:
The post first appeared on the Muslims of the World (MOTW) Instagram account, a page founded by Sajjad Shah, which—according to their Facebook page—is a platform dedicated to giving “a voice to Muslims around the world.” The giveaway was in celebration of the page hitting 300,000 followers, and asked current followers to “tag three people” for a chance at a free trip to New Zealand with Shah, pictured in the middle grinning and leaning up against a super cool brick wall, Khaled Beydoun, and Suhaib Webb.
Obviously, the internet was not happy.
My first interaction with this incident was when I saw a screenshot of the asset above, already at the centre of (justified) outrage on Twitter. But when I looked to the MOTW Instagram page, there was no post in sight, and no sign of an apology. So naturally, I defaulted to (and prayed that) “this has to be Photoshopped.” I even scoured the personal social media accounts of Beydoun and Webb, hoping to find some sort of explanation, or anything claiming that this was fake, or done without their knowledge. Long story short, this was not fake, nor done without the consent of those mentioned and pictured above.
Exposure is good. Support is good. Not letting people forget is good. But at what point do we cross over from “good” to sensationalizing something for followers and social media clout?
Beydoun in particular has been very active in posting about the victims of the Christchurch attack in the weeks following the tragedy. But the daughter of one of the victims commented on the post accusing him of posting false information about the victims and refusing to remove or correct that information:
Fast forwarding to Thursday evening, MOTW finally posted their apology—with the comments disabled— stating that the intention of the trip was to be “agents of healing in the community,” acknowledging that the “wording was insensitive.”
Webb and Beydoun posted similar apologies, also with the comments disabled, denouncing MOTW and the giveaway.
Clearly, this whole situation is beyond insensitive, and it’s hard to imagine just how this went so wrong, or how this idea was approved in the first place. But beyond that mess, I think we need to look very critically at the social media storms that surround tragedies like what happened in Christchurch. Exposure is good. Support is good. Not letting people forget is good. But at what point do we cross over from “good” to sensationalizing something for followers and social media clout?
This is not to suggest that any of this is has been done with malicious intent. After all, we have no way of truly knowing what someone’s intentions are. But it’s gravely insensitive moments like this, and the lapses in multiple people’s judgement, which should force us to take a step back and reevaluate what we’re putting out into the world.
And, as previously stated, yikes.