The ongoing hostage-taking in an Australian cafe is terrifying. And out of fear is borne ignorance. A few bad apples do not make the bunch, and it goes without saying that a terrorist is not a spokesperson for an entire faith.
Nonetheless, the siege sparked a torrent of anti-Muslim sentiment on social media. Fortunately, all it took was four little words of solidarity—"I'll ride with you"—to launch a movement. It started with a simple offer from user Sir Tessa to accompany Muslims dressed in religious clothing who felt frightened on public transit.
Since that tweet, the #Illridewithyou hashtag has gained momentum, with more than 112,000 mentions from all parts of the globe, and from all walks of life. Australians are rallying together as a nation to promise support and protection to Muslims citizens who may feel threatened.
As one user pointed out: "#illridewithyou because *every* race, belief and culture has some foolish people, but more who are honest, smart and caring."
So far the hashtag appears to be more than lip service. Some users gave detailed information about their travel routes. It has also prompted two Muslim Australian men to pray on site for the hostages and to speak out against terrorism in the name of Islam:
"He's contradicting Islam... He's not from our community for him to do this," said 39-year-old Sam Tiger.
One of the men even volunteered to enter the cafe in place of police.
"We're Australian too, we don't want this to happen," said 28-year-old Abdul El-Lawn. "No one accepts this. It could have been my mother having coffee, it could have been my sister."
It's believed that 10 people are still being held at the hands of a single gunman. The black extremist flag is not Islam's flag.
"I'll ride with you" is another example of a hashtag exerting a powerful and positive message in the face of dissent. Social media turned social mastery. Kudos to Aussies for not letting fear get in the way of reason