Only minutes after news of explosions in Brussels this morning went live, people took to social media declaring their solidarity with the people of Brussels using #BrusselsAttacks. The hashtag began trending only minutes after news of the explosions went live.
Unfortunately, and as per usual, debates on whether or not Islam equals terrorism have become very popular online – especially after extremist groups claim responsibility for violence. Bigots spew their ignorance on twitter, behind a keyboard, and hope to get into a good argument with those who oppose their views. Today was no different.
Not long after the birth of a beautiful hashtag commemorating solidarity and love, a hateful hashtag began to gain traction in the twitter-sphere, amongst bigots and islamophobes: #StopIslam.
BUT the hashtag wasn’t trending just yet.
Once people began noticing that the ridiculous hashtag was in circulation, it began trending. Only this time it wasn’t just a few islamophobes and supporters of the hashtag… #StopIslam was hijacked by people who understood why this type of rhetoric was so problematic and, frankly, downright stupid:
The immense support for Muslims that came out of this kind of restored our faith in humanity. Most importantly, the trending hashtag allowed people to focus on what really mattered: standing together as civilians of this world to mourn the deaths of those lost in the attacks in Brussels, Turkey, Lebanon, Paris, etc.
Many people wondered why responding to the haters was done using the same hashtag designed to go against us. The answer is simple: ignorant people who look to their counterparts on twitter will begin by searching other #StopIslam tweets.
Instead of finding the hate they were looking forward to, they will instead find messages of truth that will make them realize how idiotic the hashtag is: How does one stop Islam? Is it similar to the way Hitler tried to stop Judaism?
Having the hashtag backfire the way that it did was instrumental in shutting hateful rhetoric down.
That’s not to say that the hashtag should continue trending because it most certainly shouldn’t. You can’t stop more than 1 billion people around the world from following their religion thinking that it will stop terrorism and extremism. “Radical Islam” isn’t a religion problem – it’s a people problem. Just look at the shootings we have seen in the United States from non-Muslims – we haven’t labeled those as a “Christian” problem or a “white” problem.
Written by Safaa Khan