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Waleed Aly’s anti-ISIS hate message goes viral

Social networks have mobilised to counter ISIL’s divisive terror tactics in the aftermath of the Paris attacks, in a show of force for solidarity and community cohesion. “If you're just someone with a Facebook or Twitter account firing off misguided missives of hate, you are helping ISIL. They have told us that. And I am pretty sure that right now none of us wants to help these bastards,” said The Project’s Waleed Aly in a televised message that has gone viral online.

Taking aim at some of Australia’s domestic commentators – keyboard warriors, community leaders, and politicians were all in his sights – Aly’s scathing rebuke has also struck a chord globally, reaching over 100 million viewers online, according to Channel Ten. 

“If you're a member of Parliament or a has-been member of Parliament preaching hate at a time when what we actually need is more love, you are helping ISIL. They have told us that. If you are a Muslim leader telling your community they have no place here, or a non-Muslim basically saying the same thing, you are helping ISIL.”

Agitating hate, blame and a sense of insecurity among the French people “was no doubt a major goal behind the ISIS attack,” The New York Times editorial board and many major news outlets have pointed out. The counter-strategy from both local and online communities has been to deny ISIS what it wants, displaying unity and solidarity in the face of extremist hate.

Examples abound. A delegation of imams sing a moving rendition of La Marseillaise near the Bataclan theatre in Paris. In an artistic display of sympathy, Arab cartoonists pick up their pens in to depict France in mourning. Hashtags #MessageToISIS and #NotInMyName re-tweet around the world , as a "direct message to ISIS that everything they stand for is wrong, and that trying to wear us down or scare us will only make us stronger," according to campaign creators at the Active Change Foundation.

Al Jazeera’s digital channel  AJ + reported on threats of anti-Muslim violence emerging in the aftermath of the Paris attacks. Taking the haters head-on, Susan Carland – sociologist, former Muslim Australian of the Year and Aly’s partner – deflected a barrage of online Islamophobia by pledging to donate $1 to UNICEF for every hate-tweet she receives. She has already raised over $1000 since making the pledge – a good and a bad thing, depending on how you read it.

“A flourishing, pluralistic society is the last thing ISIS want to see and so, in times like this, we all have to make the choice about whether we retreat into fear and anger and blaming or whether we actively choose to come together and say we will not allow this to pull us apart because that is part of the goal,” Carland said appearing on Ten’s Studio 10.

Also making the social media rounds, Sydney musician Darren Hanlon’s deeply empathetic account of his “brief random conversation with a sad Muslim Sydney Uber driver, whose religion is being taken from him" received 30,000 likes and more than 7,000 shares from his Facebook post in less than two days.

“A flourishing, pluralistic society is the last thing ISIS want to see and so, in times like this, we all have to make the choice about whether we retreat into fear and anger and blaming or whether we actively choose to come together and say we will not allow this to pull us apart because that is part of the goal.”

– Susan Carland

The social and political fallout of the Paris attacks may yet claim many innocent victims. Conflating security and humanitarian issues, US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has proposed that incoming refugees from Syria be forced to wear electronic surveillance bracelets. Australian Senator Jacqui Lambie wants the proposal adapted in Australia, despite the fact that many refugees are themselves likely to be victims of extremist violence.

Meanwhile, staff at an Optus store in Casula, Sydney, were allegedly threatened over a store advertisement because it was written in Arabic.  

“I am very sorry you and your Casula staff have had to endure such ignorance and bigoted behaviour from a thankfully small but loud section of our society. I think it is fantastic that you value the skills and diversity of your staff and utilise this to make things easier for those who speak Arabic as a first language,” Brooze Elizabeth wrote in support of staff on the Optus Facebook wall.

 

Selective sympathy, common threat

In the days following the Paris attacks, Facebook allowed users to "check-in" and let family members and friends know that they were safe and also the option of changing their profile photos to the colours of the French flag. Amazon.com similarly emblazoned their site with the French flag, and Sydney lit up the sails of the Opera House in blue, white, and red.  

But the same public display of sympathy was not extended to victims of the bomb blasts in the Bourj al-Barajneh district of Beirut that left 43 dead and 239 wounded, the day before the Paris attacks. Many have taken to social media to call out this ‘selective sympathy’. One of the most widely shared tweets on the Paris attacks, with about 500,000 shares, was about the lack of news coverage for the Beirut attacks. 

"We don't get a safe button on Facebook. ‘We’ don't get late night statements from the most powerful men and women alive and millions of online users,” said popular Lebanese blogger Joey Ayoub in a Facebook comment that was shared over 10, 000 times and published by Al Jazeera.  

ABC Insiders host Barry Cassidy observed that there are more people from Lebanese than French origins living in Australia, but there was barely a reaction from political leaders to what happened in Beirut. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull later acknowledged that, while the Paris attacks had “rightly” received a lot of attention, there had also been recent terror attacks in Lebanon and Turkey, and the downing of a Russian passenger aircraft may still prove to have terror links.

Posting a status on Facebook, one young Muslim Australian said “I had Facebook notify me that a couple of friends were marked safe in Paris. Facebook, where was the safety checks in Lebanon, Syria or Pakistan? Why, Facebook did you ask me to change my profile picture with the French flag? Why wasn't it Lebanon, Palestine or Syria? Why didn’t Sydney opera house display the Indian flag for the Mumbai attacks in 2008. Why, wasn't the opera house in the colours of the Malaysian flag when the MH 370 was shot down? Let's pray for the incidents the same way we are praying for Paris.”

Secretary Seyfi Seyit of The Islamic Council of Victoria, told broadcaster 3AW it was important to  unite against the common threat of terror and both attacks were devastating, "The reason that we were so concerned (about Paris)  is not because there were more terrorist attacks in Beirut and Iraq and other places as well, but this one targeted people going about their normal activities on a Friday night, enjoying themselves, and it really did underpin that this organisation is hell-bent on disrupting our way of life.”

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerburg has since addressed the widespread criticism, telling users they were right to ask why "safety check" was used in one instance but not the other and they are planning to extend the safety check going forward.

 

 

The Point

Social networks have mobilised to counter ISIL’s divisive terror tactics in the aftermath of the Paris attacks.

References

Header Image courtesy Huss Fares. Waleed Aly Image: Facebook

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