The Social Media War on Terror

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By Helen Clarke

In light of the events of Thursday and Friday last week, people all over the world have taken to social media to express their views on the attacks on Paris and Beirut. Profile pictures have French flag filters and Facebook has set up a ‘mark yourself safe’ system for those in the affected areas to inform their friends and family of their safety.

It seems to me that the general reaction across social media is three-fold. Firstly, we have seen a barrage of status updates and post shares, with people coming together in solidarity to support those who have lost loved ones; to pay their respects to those who have died. There was a very sombre feeling on Friday where every other post was of people sending out thoughts and prayers to Paris, with the hashtag #PrayforParis at the top of the trending feed. Along with this, people have repeatedly shared pictures of cities across the world changing their lights to the French colours to show that France is in their thoughts.

When the news emerged that the Islamic State had taken responsibility for these attacks the tone across social media platforms changed. This was the second wave reaction. People immediately turned against anything and anyone associated with Islam. There were cruel and racist posts and comments blaming Islam as a religion and Muslims as a race for the attacks. Mistakenly people believed that Islam on the whole was responsible, rather than a small group of extremists. The vulgar and abusive comments towards the Muslim community were hurtful and unfortunately not surprising, as this seems to be the reaction most ignorant people have when the world experiences terrorism.

As a result of this began the third and final wave of social media reaction and I believe the most dangerous. To start off with many Muslims used the hashtag #NotInMyName to show that Islam to them is a religion of peace, love and hope, and that these extremists do not represent the true values of Islam. However we saw a large portion of the Muslim community respond to the previous racism, with comments such as “it’s no wonder they hate the west” and “you treat us like terrorists and wonder why this happens”.

This shocked and appalled me as a divide between the Muslim community and the non-Muslim community grew. As I watched the posts on Facebook I couldn’t help but realise that this dispute between the two ‘sides’ was exactly what those who engage in terrorist activities want. The Islamic State believes in Sharia law and seems to want every Muslim to join them in that belief. With the tensions rising between some Muslims and non-Muslims, I fear that in a time when we are supposed to be united in our grief we have forgotten that we share a common enemy: ISIS.

When we fight amongst ourselves we forget that that’s what they want. Instead we should stand together, shoulder to shoulder with people of all races and religions and show a unified front against terrorism.

My deepest condolences to anyone affected by these attacks.

Helen Clarke is a second year English and Film student at MMU.

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