A barrage of hate-filled comments appeared following OHPI’s Facebook post announcing our Campaign to Tackle Online Islamophobia. The post was made early March and had announced our April campaign. The post also sought donations to increase the scope of the campaign.
The Facebook post generated over 500 comments in a 2 week period. Many were deleted, and over 130 comments were removed & people banned.
We believe that one of the reasons we attracted so many Islamophobic responses was due to a boosting of our Post through the platform. Facebook’s automated systems seemed to have fed our campaign announcement onto news feeds of people with anti-Muslim views.
Most of the comments expressed hatred towards Islam and Muslims. Some of the hate was directed at OHPI for requesting donations towards an Islamophobia campaign.
Attacking Opposition to Islamophobia
Some suggested that if OHPI was running such a campaign, we must be some sort of Muslim organisation out to defend Islam and any criminal behaviour attributed to Muslims. We were asked directly if we were a Muslim Organisation.
For those reading this who don’t know about us, we are an independent charity that deals with all forms of online hate. The most common types of hate we deal with can be seen on the home page of our website but we cover other types of hate as well. Last month’s campaign was on racism against Indigenous Australians, and the month before we covered Holocaust denial. Next month we focus on misogyny and the fundraiser is now open.
One comment implied that the campaign donations would ‘go to help pay the lawyers fees for those Muslim men arrested for being in rape gangs”. The underlying message was that this sort of criminal behaviour was common to Muslim men.
Funds raised in our campaigns help to support additional work on the campaign and promotion of the campaigns – the funds are applied in the same way for each campaign (regardless of topic) and details can be seen on our 2020 Campaigns page.
Another comment accused us of protecting Islam through our campaign and followed on with a back-handed statement “Sorry to hear that a religion that calls for the death of all non believers cant stand any criticism”.
OHPI has written extensively about the need to separate the issue of hate targeting Muslims from the issue of blasphemy laws. Our definition of Islamophobia is one based on human rights and does not include any elements of blasphemy. Our work on anti-Christian hate similarly focuses on attacks to people because they are Christian, and excludes blasphemy.
Amongst the many comments made about our campaign, someone asked “Is there a fund to encourage Islamaphobia?” stating that such a campaign would be their fund of choice.
Some far right activists have been making a living off gifts of cash and merchandise sales. They are not advancing the public good, they are harming it. They are really in breach of the terms of service of various online platforms and have had their accounts closed. They are not charities. There is in fact no accountability at all for what happens to money given to them. Some of it has been used to pay lawyers to try (unsuccessfully) to defend them from criminal charges they were later convicted on.
Level of Hate – Eradication
We received many abusive comments towards OHPI, yet most of the vitriol was directed at Islam and towards Muslims themselves. One of the comments claimed that terrorist attacks by Anders Breivik and Brenton Tarrant were justifiable in light of other killings by Muslim extremists around the world. Retaliation was a strong message coming through. One said that “Western soldiers should be taking up the cross and the sword in response!” Another strong comment requested that “Islam need to be eradicated”
Hate Towards Muslim Behaviour
One string of comments took to finger pointing at the aggression of extreme Muslim groups towards other people and cultures. There were questions raised about aggression of Muslims toward Christians, “..and what about the hatred that the scum have, towards Christians?” Such strong sentiments in choosing to use the word “Scum”.
Many of the comments were focused on violence committed by extremists in the name of Islam. They professed that all Muslims were represented by the crimes of a few and should be hated as a result. They referred to “The terrorist attacks, the stabbing, the bombs, the rapes of women and children, attacks on churches” and claim that Islamophobia is “the phobia they created by their own hands and speech”. Most of the comments expressed a justification for their hatred, repetitively citing examples of individual crimes of violence as a reason to hate all Muslims. One comment said “tell all the young women in Sweden and Germany that have been raped and murdered that we must not be mean to these people”.
These sorts of generalisations, attacking an entire group based on individual cases, is a standard feature of racism and religious vilification. It makes as little sense blaming all Australians for the Christchurch attack and saying all Australians want to attack places of worship in New Zealand.
Rejection of Tolerance
Throughout the many comments we received, there was a common narrative expressing an unwillingness to tolerate Islam and Muslims. Their claim is that Muslims don’t deserve tolerance because of the criminal acts that have been committed. One wrote that Muslims “…actually carries out killing Jews, Christians, Gays, Non Muslims etc. for not being muslims….and you want the rest of the world to tolerate them?” It almost feels as if it is an affront to ask for acceptance and tolerance for the Muslim community. Nothing seems to erase the strongly held views towards Islam “you ask for tolerance, but offer none, you ask for respect, but offer none, you say you want peace but all you do is kill.” This deliberately paints a false and misleading image of the Muslim community.
The response to the announcement of our Islamophobia Campaign highlights just how badly such a campaign is needed. There is a vocal minority of anti-Muslim activists online who use the actions of Islamic extremists and any news-worthy negative actions by any Muslim as a basis to incite hate against all Muslims. They reject the reality of a Muslim community as part of our wider multicultural community. They oppose efforts to work with Muslims, or to speak out against any for targeting Muslims. Such views are not new, but the intensity of the attack suggests a resurgence not only in Islamophobia, but in efforts to undermine those who wish to tackle it. This is of deep concern.
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The Online Hate Prevention Institute is a Registered Charity that tackles all forms of online hate. You can support our work by making a donation at https://ohpi.org.au/donate/. You can also join us on Facebook, or join our mailing list.
The Online Hate Prevention Institutes has a series of campaigns throughout 2020, the full plan can be seen here. Antisemitism will be our focus through June, adding to an extensive lost of work on antisemitism we have completed since 2012. Before that, through May we will be running a campaign to stop online Misogyny. Each campaign has a basic plan of work, which is then extended as fundraising goals are met.