#ParisAttacks: How social media took to anti-Muslim bigotry

Published: November 15, 2015
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Making baseless assumptions and putting the blame on Muslim refugees, or just all Muslims in general, only fuels hatred and fanaticism. PHOTO: AP

Friday the 13th is considered to be the unluckiest day of the year, according to western superstitious beliefs, and this belief couldn’t have been more accurate, as the world bore witness to one of the most horrific terrorist attacks that mercilessly swathed the capital city of Paris, in France, last night.

The horrific attacks consisted of a series of shootings, suicide bombings, and explosions, killing over 120 people (thus far) in six distinct locations throughout the city, which included a theatre, concert hall, shopping mall and a sports stadium. And while it is yet to be confirmed whether the attackers were in fact members of either the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or perhaps even al Qaeda, many were quick – too quick, in fact – to place the blame on Muslims, going as far as blatantly stating that they should all be “deported” from the country, and labelling each and every one of them a “terrorist”.

Sadly, I see this labelling and blaming quite often. Each time a terrorist attack of this nature occurs, people are quick to judge and attack all Muslims, while at the same time not realising that Muslim beliefs are not tantamount; they vary from person to person, and certainly not all Muslims follow what ISIS, Al Qaeda, Taliban, etcetera follow. And as much as some of us try to deny this fact, it is a fact that there is not one but many, many ‘versions’ of Islam. And, no, not every single Muslim – the 1.57 billion of them – are terrorists; nor would these people support and praise such despicable acts. No sane or logical person would.

If calling for deportation and labelling all Muslims as terrorists wasn’t bad enough, there were also those who made brash assumptions, going as far as placing the blame on the Syrian refugees, who were generously provided refuge in Europe recently. A Republic Congressman, Jeff Duncan, took to Twitter to ignorantly post the following tweet, which reads,

Anti-Muslim bigotry is real, and the above tweet reeks of it. And, frankly, it just makes the person look obtuse and ignorant. It’s very easy to put the blame on a group of people, due to our conditioned stereotypes. It’s very easy to blame Syrian refugees, because really, we should be thinking twice before allowing these “filthy, dangerous Muslims” into our safe, terrorism-free countries, not realising that these people, too, are fleeing from the exact same people – mass murderers, terrorists, militant jihadists, whatever you may want to call them.

There is a difference between a Syrian refugee and a Syrian member of ISIS, and while we still don’t know who’s really to blame for the Paris attacks. Making baseless assumptions and putting the blame on Muslim refugees, or just all Muslims in general, only fuels hatred and fanaticism. It makes us no different from the terrorists who, too, utilise their rage to carry out horrific atrocities against those they hate and want to annihilate from the face of the earth.

So, no, the solution is not to deport all Muslims, forbid Muslims or Muslim refugees from entering our countries, or seeing all Muslims as dangerous criminals and terrorists. It’s extremely narrow-minded and simplistic, because nothing is easier than pointing fingers and placing blame on a group of people whose religion has become notorious. There are many Muslims who have in fact shown solidarity and sympathy with the Parisians, and even condemned the attacks on social media through tweets like,

Let’s stop pointing fingers at each other and find more intelligent and rational ways to counter such brutalities against humanity. In times like these, we need to unite, not divide, as we are all trying to fight the same enemy: terrorism. Let’s not allow them to win.

samar.esapzai

Samar Esapzai

The author is a mommy, writer, visual artist and academic. Her areas of interest include gender relations, women's empowerment, maternal mental health, and anything and everything related to her people, the Pashtuns. She blogs at sesapzai.wordpress.com and tweets at @sesapzai (twitter.com/SesapZai)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • wb

    “So, no, the solution is not to deport all Muslims, forbid Muslims or
    Muslim refugees from entering our countries, or seeing all Muslims as
    dangerous criminals and terrorists. It’s extremely narrow-minded and
    simplistic, because nothing is easier than pointing fingers and placing
    blame on a group of people whose religion has become notorious.”

    Actually, that’s the solution and it is that simplistic.

    Because of Muslims, the West is also suffering from a steep increase in crime and law and order, let alone terrorism.

    So, they are right in suggesting that.Recommend

  • wb

    You’re talking about social media for anti Muslim bigotry (though it is not).

    How about your mainstream media for anti-Hindu bigotry?

    On a daily basis…nah…hourly basis, Hindus are bashed.

    I can name a dozen media persons who do that on a regular basis. Especially some ex air chief marshals and ex lt. generals. And your elected representatives do that on a daily basis.

    Some of these names are Amjad Shoaib, Shahid Latif, Tareq Peerzada, Zafar Hilaly, Ahmed Qureshi, Mubbi Luqman, Shareen Mazari, Faizal Raza, Nadeem Paracha, Orya Maqbool, Sohail Tanveer, Saleem Bukhari…and at least three dozen others whose names I don’t know.

    And, this is on your mainstream national media.

    So, please share the link where you have written a TWELVE page blog condemning the anti-Hindu bigotry in your own backyard…nah…front yard.

    No? No link? Then ask yourself if you have a right to question the social media for anti Muslim bigotry in a hundred…nah…a million years.

    Please ask that question to yourself and then kindly reply.Recommend

  • AmericanMuse

    The trouble for the followers of Islam is that they are not self-critical or introspective enough about their religion. This unfortunate paradigm is baked deeply into their faith by irrational laws against blasphemy and apostasy..Recommend

  • Rhea

    It all starts with indoctrination. You are right to protest such indoctrination against Muslims. But do you realise that your history books in Pakistan are at the forefront of rabid anti India anti Hindu propaganda? And it is state sanctioned!Recommend

  • ajeet

    Muslims are high maintenance minority, both from security and joblessness point of view.Recommend

  • Rohan

    Playing the victim card?Recommend

  • Ahmed Shahzeb

    All Muslims are not terrorist but all (99%) of terrorists are Muslims.Muslims should think about that before wondering why is there anti-Islam bigotry.Recommend

  • Headstrong

    “Each time a terrorist attack of this nature occurs, people are quick to judge and attack all Muslims”
    Each time an attack like this happens, there are bloggers whining not to blame all Muslims. Not all people are blaming all Muslims – but trust such bloggers to play victim always. There are enough mature people the world over to understand the difference between terrorists and others. But playing victim here just shifts attention from the real problem of fanatic elements infiltrating secular states.
    Madam, stop whining and come up with solutions instead of coming up with such inane blogs.Recommend

  • singh

    Dear author you know that when you reach 10% of population then what happen first.
    3% = Halal Meat
    10% = Separate Sharia Law.
    50% = Sharia Law for everyone
    Above 50% then minority pay Jizya tax or convert.
    Now world know your game plan. If you don’t believe me then check Muslim UK how they are behaving on Youtube.Recommend

  • Time Is Up

    “Sadly, I see this labelling and blaming quite often. Each time a terrorist attack of
    this nature occurs, people are quick to judge and attack all Muslims,
    while at the same time not realising that Muslim beliefs are not
    tantamount; they vary from person to person, and certainly not all
    Muslims follow what ISIS, Al Qaeda, Taliban, etcetera follow.”

    To prove you are correct, I hope Muslims are quick enough, just like the tweets, to be on the streets just like the Charlie Hebdo incident protesting about this.

    Also make a note to go tell this to ISIS and Al Qaeda, to accept your version of “belief. Please keep us posted on how it goes.Recommend

  • Amar Khandve

    Muslims condemning terrorist attacks is not enough to make world stop from hating Muslims. All Muslim world should fight terrorists in there region insted of just showing sympathy towards victims. Recommend

  • HZR

    The world is skeptical because it does not see in in action,the condemnation and the mass movement against these acts.if it was something to do with the Muslim religion there would spontaneous protests all over the world staring from Kashmir to Palestine and they are all silent.How do you expect the world to behave otherwise.Recommend

  • RameshHeg

    It looks like you don’t understand the meaning of the word “bigotry”.

    The first identified Muslim terrorist was born in France, ate its food, enjoyed its freedom and bounties and slaughtered the innocent French with bombs and machine guns.

    Legitimate feelings of Christians, Atheists, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Taoists, Shintoists against the terrorist activities of Muslims all over the World cannot be called “bigotry”. Recommend

  • IndianDude

    You had no problem labeling all the American Racist ( How can anti-Islam be classified as racist anyway?), when a woman full of herself, wasn’t given an unopened Coke can on United Airways.
    In Paris attack, you are talking about a bunch of faithfuls killing innocent and spreading mayhem. Surely, you can understand the anger shown on twitter by the ‘racist’ , unopened Coke can depriving Americans and other non-muslims, can’t you?Recommend

  • vinsin

    What happened to Two Nation Theory? Why only Muslims can throw non-Muslims from their country?Recommend

  • Parisian

    What the Muslim world needs at this time is not more victimhood and “defenders” but self-introspection. The cause of all the strife in the middle east is the conflict between Shias and Sunnis. Stop blaming the whole world for your inability to decide on a successor.Recommend

  • Khan

    Lets not talk nonsense .. we live on a small planet .. one cannot create walls and divisions. If you truly believe in what you’re saying you should ask all your indian citizens to come back from the Gulf countries as well.
    It is very easy to blame the weak instead of speaking the truth .. how many such incidents were occurring just few decades ago? and why is there an increase in these incidents in recent years?
    Who destabilized the region where these monsters are breeding now and why?
    Do you all Indian here only wake up and spew hatred on these forums only after such incidents and not care about millions of innocent people who lost their loved ones in other countries? Does this not make you a bigot when you keep quiet when these incidents are happening in other non western countries?Recommend

  • khan

    Over 132 children were killed in APS Peshawar .. Did you see any mass rallies around Pakistan? let alone rest of the world?
    Not every country takes our rallies or hold vigils .. every society is different the way they mourn or condemn such acts.Recommend

  • Khan

    Two Nation Theory was used by just one political party in 1947 .. how can you justify that for the rest of 50 countries who have had nothing to do with that .. even in 1947 rest of the muslim political parties (ANP, JI etc ) were against this theory but you would not know that would you?Recommend

  • Khan

    Really? so how many of these countries have these kind of laws out of 50+ Muslims majority countries? How many of them impose jazya tax on minorities? How many millions are in those videos that you’re talking about out of 1.8 BILLION .. I guess just a bunch isn’t it?Recommend

  • wb

    Are you telling me that in Pakistani culture, mourning or condemning is not through mass rallies?

    Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    So, Difa-e-Tanzeem, PTI rallies happened on Moon or Mars? What about Kashmir Day JamatUdDawa rallies? Did they happen on Pluto and Jupiter?Recommend

  • Lol

    Oh really?
    Then how do Muslim majority countries build these walls?
    How do Islamic countries treat their minorities?
    Where do words like “bigotry” and “(ReligionName)phobia” go there?Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    Can the author guarantee that these refugees will not go and join those Muslims in the west who ask for Sharia. I have not seen any other community in the west making use of western freedom so belligerently and intimidatingly.

    Drawing the cartoons showed intolerance of some towards Muslims but any dissent aimed at Muslims is being violently put down by a section of Muslims from Afghanistan to Syria and from London to Paris while the rest of the Muslims saying the same old thing ” we condemn but…. “Recommend

  • Time Is Up

    Forget the tax, part, I know that is incorrect.
    Most Muslim majority nations have made sure that the minorities leave due to rampant discrimination and injustice. Show me any Muslim Majority nation, where the minorities are growing in number, thriving and are in positions of power. May be Malaysia or couple more. Why go far let us talk about our beloved Pakistan, how have we faired in treating Ahmediyaas, Shias, Hindus, Sikhs. Definitely not something to brag about in 50+ OIC nations.Recommend

  • Time Is Up

    That is the most horrible incident happened in our beloved Pakistan in recent history, and the wounds will take time to heel.

    I agree each society treats it differently in different cases. For instance there were rallies against Cartoons, support for KSA on war with Yemen. How come? Similarly we should have mass demonstrations and formed policies to completely gut the hate infrastructure in Pakistan, we are just too damn slow. Since we did not do it, we see attacks on Christians, Ismailis etc. It is just a headache to everyone!

    Finally we should never forget – those innocents were killed by the “good” assets going “rotten”. It was not a outside job. Can you deny it?Recommend

  • Time Is Up

    I know JI/ANP were against it, however, the fact it it did happen. And we need to move on beyond that now. We blame Hindus for it and still call names like “bania”, but the fact it is Muslim leaders had inferiority and insecure complex stacked by British and Jinnah and Ilks fell for it.
    Muslims are indeed a separate nation, and they need their own spaceRecommend

  • vasan

    I dont agree. Mass rallies, shutter down, flag burning, tyre burning etc happen in Pakistan only when an incident happens outside pakistan. Even for a serious incident in Pakistan, it is taken on the stride in Pakistan. That is why I am surprised.Recommend

  • BAS

    It’s sad to see muslims themselves echoing the sentiments of anti-muslim bigotry.
    Every major school of islamic thought, aalim and muslim organization that represents the muslim mainstream has condemned terrorism on innocent people regardless of religion or nationality. Should that not be enough, at least for the average muslims, to be convinced that there is nothing islamic about these actions. Instead of bashing our own identify this is hightime we average muslims stand up and aggressively defend our faith and most of all, to abide by its principles ourselves. A religion that was sent as a mercy to mankind can’t possibly add to its suffering!Recommend

  • Asy ma wail !

    Oh really? So the whatever happend in Iraq, Libya and now Syria – is that all due to Shia and Sunni conflict? lols…keep scrolling through cartoon networks.Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    American invasion of Iraq and intervention in Syria are the major reasons for the ISIS to have come into existence but you can’t deny the fact that ISIS is a Sunni dominated group and they have significant support among Sunnis in Iraq who felt betrayed by the Maliki Govt.

    ISIS though would like to completely eliminate the Shias and they don’t mince their words about it.

    If this was not a Shia-Sunni conflict, Iran and Hezbollah would not be fighting ISIS , FSA and Al Nusra in Syria.Recommend

  • Gulwant Singh Bedi

    No. This is a hindu troll under a Muslim name.Recommend

  • Asy ma wail !

    “American invasion of Iraq and intervention in Syria are the major reasons for the ISIS to have come into existence ” Your first sentence is what you yourself need to understand, you unpin a grenade and then saying not to blame me for the destruction but its the grenade which did it all, will be utterly meaningless. Shia Sunni confilcts are 1400 years old, but world carried on more peaceful till recent. Dont close your eyes- had those bloody dictators still there, there wouldn’t be millions of dead in Iraq, Syria and Lebya – The only thing which would’nt be there, would be the bloody freedom and democracy which the US tries to bring, wherever they smells oil.Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    “The only thing which would’nt be there, would be the bloody freedom and democracy which the US tries to bring, wherever they smells oil.”

    It does not seem to be just Oil, it is much more than that. What is surprising is how easy it is to play one country against another in middle east. Saudis were happy when Saddam was kicked out, Iranians were happy to see Gaddafi dead, Saudis who support an extremist ideology everywhere with their petro dollars have all of a sudden realised that Houthis are extremists, an entire Sunni bloc of countries along with the west are fighting to oust a Shia leader of Syria even if it means ISIS gaining territory and power in that country.Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    No one else would know it better than you.

    Btw, did you know “Bedi” is a Sikh surname and not a Hindu.Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    ” Instead of bashing our own identify this is hightime we average muslims stand up and aggressively defend our faith and most of all, to abide by its principles ourselves.

    You are defending it from wrong people. You need to fight this battle with your own, the ISIS who are Muslims whom you have disowned so conveniently just like you did with Boko Haram, Al Qaeda and Taliban and so on.

    Why do you think every now and then a group of Muslims create organisations such as ISIS with “holier than thou” attitude, it is because they have gone unchallenged for too long and they believe there is a constituency for such groups among Muslims.

    Telling non Muslims to see the peaceful side of Muslims when the violent among Muslims are making headlines everywhere is not going to help.Recommend

  • Asy ma wail !

    oh come on – you wanna see that? come to Orakzai, FATA and see the Sikh and Brahmans minorities living in super peace and harmony unless those ugly monkeys arrived.Recommend

  • Asy ma wail !

    Detailing who is doing what is the second part, which we can talk in lengths too but the crux of the discussion is the first part of the game which you are not even mentioning- and that is, who made it happen? Exploit differences and vulnerabilities and then blame them for being vulnerable and issue yourself a clean sheet. Shabash hay dost :) There are two things bro. 1. Cause 2. Following issues. whatever you are saying belongs to number 2 while I insist on seeing number 1.Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    “Detailing who is doing what is the second part, which we can talk in lengths too but the crux of the discussion is the first part of the game which you are not even mentioning- and that is, who made it happen? ”

    That’s not true, I did say ISIS did not come into being for no reason, the west has to take its own share of blame. You can’t fight evil in Iraq because they are fighting against your puppet Govt while supporting them in Syria because you hate Asad more than the ISIS. The West might have done a course correction in dealing with ISIS in Syria after realising the threat it poses to the West but its ally and Nato member, Turkey remains single most important supporter of ISIS till date.

    I don’t believe Saddam and Gaddafi should have been kicked out by the Americans and neither do I believe Asad deserves the same fate, I am not so sure about the Sunni alliance which is in cohorts with US though.

    The west has many hypocrisies but the bottom line is you don’t have a western group killing its own people on the name of religion and wrecking mayhem causing its own to flee elsewhere. Muslims may have enemies but none is bigger than themselves especially in Middle East. One must not wait for its enemies to change their intentions of you because it is never going to happen.

    America can’t do a thing in Syria and Iraq if it does not get the support of the Saudis, Turks, Qataris and so on…Recommend

  • Time Is Up

    Awesome, any more references? Is that it you can provide in 53+ OIC nations? Further does that meet my criteria “growing in number, thriving and are in positions of power.” or they just living “in harmony” as second class citizens?Recommend

  • Asy ma wail !

    I think, its the first time we can both agree to each other up to an extent keeping the reservations to further discussions too :) – Good that you have finally mentioned that west has its fair share in it – thats all I was saying, I never denied that- but the weaknesses within gave them way.Honestly, beasts were well in cage until the democracies arrived. I have slowly started believing that democracies are for everyone provided that it is not imposed on them suddenly, especially by the US saviors.Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    ” I have slowly started believing that democracies are for everyone provided that it is not imposed on them suddenly, especially by the US saviors.”

    You are missing the point, bringing democracies is a joke. Egypt is next door and America had no role in the revolution that happened there which led to the ouster of Hosni Mubaraq but America played a role in the subsequent revolution to ensure the ouster of the democratically elected Mohammed Morsi from Muslim brotherhood. Today America happens to be the greatest supporter of General Sisi who is a dictator. If America was concerned about democracy in Middle East, Mohammed Morsi would be the leader of Egypt today. Look at the irony, so much of drama and eventually one American puppet goes and another comes while the democratically elected one is waiting to go to gallows.

    My point is you don’t have to fall apart so badly just because someone is exploiting you. Look at the tendencies:

    1. Living in denials.
    2. Fighting among themselves( Arab countries)
    3. Spreading Wahabism and then claiming to fight the terrorist groups.
    4. Paying lip service to the Palestinian cause while fighting alongside Israel against Iran.
    5. Imposing democracies is wrong but tell me which leader from the Arab heartland protested Saddam’s and Gaddafi’s ouster. Today, they hate Asad so much that they don’t mind making ISIS stronger and richer.

    I can go on and on, tell me one among the above mentioned which is going to destroy the Americans, each one of them leads to self destruction. Who needs enemies when you have such tendencies in yourselves.

    I still remember the clip where Gaddafi was addressing the Arab leaders and he said that “today it is Saddam’s turn, tomorrow it could be any of us”, the entire Arab leadership was in splits and I wonder if they would still find his words as amusing as they did then, Asad for sure does not.Recommend

  • Asy ma wail !

    dude, its time to sit for a coffee together :) I almost advocate the same things which you recorded. With all the short comings with in, they cant blame others – but frankly- keeping the west out of the equations, as many are doing just to prove things wrong with the religion or region, is not acceptable as well. The more manipulative the west gets, the worst is the situation. They could have easily avoided all this fuss and let things move on – but they didn’t.Recommend

  • vinsin

    There was Union Party also. There are many countries who got separated based on TNT and are still getting. Only 4.4% of Indian Muslims voted for Congress or unified India Out of that 2.8% of Muslims took their vote back during plebicites. Overall 98.4% of Muslims voted for Pakistan. If you include KMs then it would be 98.5%. Jinnah said that 99% will vote for creation of Pakistan and it did reach to that number.

    The parties those who were opposing, never received that many votes. Shia were opposing but at the time of voting they also voted. Ahmedis provided fund.

    It is justified as all of them formed on the basis of TNT.Recommend