It is said that religion and politics should not be discussed at the dinner table. Both topics generate a lot of heat without producing much light. There is no reason to believe that social media would be any different while discussing these topics. Go ahead and write something on the principles of religion or write something about politics, while most people will engage with you within the limits of decency some would cross those limits and indulge in a phenomenon called trolling.
Simply disagreeing with someone is not trolling. Defamation, vilification, attacks on sexual orientation, threat of violence or trying to get the person sacked from the job may all classify as trolling behavior.
Normally when we are discussing religion or politics on a public forum we expect some harsh reactions. We expect some trolls. We block them and move on. But there are occasions when the trolls arrive in organized groups. They want to shut you down. They want to drown your voice. Your social media timeline is filled with hundreds if not thousands of messages attacking you in the most vicious ways. It is not humanly possible to block each individual troll. They are just too many. This is called a troll mob.
People are generally sympathetic towards those who are victims of troll mob attack. It also gives an impression to the supporters that the person must be doing something right to get such a reaction from the trolls. Also new followers join in solidarity. So not everything ends in negativity after a troll mob attack.
On Twitter everything is verifiable. You cannot claim you were a victim of a troll mob attack unless there are hundreds if not thousands of tweets mentioning you with nasty comments. One simple search with your handle name can tell if you were a victim of a troll mob attack.
Now coming to the crux of the story, I write this because there is a handle called ‘Muslim Voices India’ that has been propped up by some individuals to talk about Muslim issues. I believe some of these individuals are amazing people, others not so much. This handle is based on the curator model. Every few weeks they get someone to curate the handle. They talk about religion and naturally they get all kinds of reactions. A simple Twitter search will tell you that people (mostly Muslims) have been generally quite decent in engaging with the curators of the handle.
This time things got a bit nasty. There was one troll with a Muslim name (most probably a Muslim) who got annoyed with what the curator had to say. This guy indulged in trolling. I don’t exactly know what he has said but let us assume he said some nasty things. Other Muslims confronted him and he deactivated his account. There was just one troll. I cant say this for sure but this one troll is supposed to have engaged with some online troll army (unrelated to any Muslim group) to get the curator’s account suspended via mass reporting.
Today I have 27,000 followers on twitter, I am not the most liked guy for my inability to be economical with the truth. I have been told that people have tried to get my account suspended but so far I am in luck that it has not happened. It is hard to tell why they suspended Muslim Voices handle.
Now the act of one individual was marketed by some people with malicious intent as a “Muslim Troll Mob”. Not just any troll mob, it was described as a ‘Muslim Troll Mob’ by the editor of an online news portal called Two Circles Net. This portal, ironically, is dedicated for highlighting Muslim issues, apparently.
I ran a detailed Twitter search but found no evidence of a ‘Muslim Troll Mob’ attack. You can run your own search if you like. By and large most people were engaging with the curator in a very decent way. So I decided to ask the curator myself if she could point me to some of the hundreds and thousand of tweets from the ‘Muslim Troll Mob’. She got very annoyed and blocked me. Maybe she saw me as a part of the “Muslim Troll Mob”. Sadly I wont ever know.
Now this is not the first time people associated with this handle ran with the “savage uncivilized Muslim” stereotype by using an act of an individual. With another curator exactly one troll commented about the sleeveless dress that the respected curator was wearing in her DP (Display Picture). Well they got what they wanted. The “Savage uncivilized Muslim”. Comment after comment were made by various handles highlighting the issue. It is as if they are not here to make a conversation but here to find these trolls that they can skillfully use to paint the entire community as savage uncivilized beasts.
The curator of Muslim Voices India took the effort to scan the entire Twitter time line of this one troll to find vile content posted days ago, which she then quoted in her blog. I apologize for reproducing this content here but in the interest of explaining their intent this is necessary. She ignored all the great experience she had while interacting with hundreds of Muslims who supported her and wrote a blog on this!
From the curator’s blog:
I blocked one filthy account criticising the @MuslimVoicesIN account and having several tweets on his timeline along the lines of “I will put my hand in your sister’s vagina…”
Note:I am taking her word for this because even this could not be verified independently.
So after painstakingly reading the entire twitter time line of this one troll, after dedicating an entire blog to the issue the curator had this to tell me when I confronted her with the fact that there was no ‘Muslim Troll Mob’
But it did not stop there. How can vilification of Muslims be complete without linking them to terrorism? While this fictional ‘Muslim Troll Mob’ attack was being discussed ad nauseum between these “enlightened reformers”, one came up with this tweet:
Vilification of Muslims confirms fears of the majority community, it has buyers, so much so that some TV channels in India invite a Canadian Pakistani to badmouth Indian Muslims. There is a growing market for this type of hate. The easiest way to increase your follower count is to vilify Muslims. When Muslims confront such views it is then portrayed as evidence of their inability to take criticism. Vilification is not criticism and Muslims are well within their rights to speak against the attempts to vilify them or paint them wild savages who wont understand the so called progressive thought process.
It is not a disputed fact that there is widespread anti Muslim sentiment on social media in India. Some Muslims are trying to ride on this sentiment by peddling stereotypes that have been created by the majoritarian forces. Backward, savage, wild, angry and stupid. This is how they want to define Muslims. There can be no other reason why they would use the act of few individuals to malign the name of an entire community that is normally very good on social media.
They wont stop. They will continue with their efforts to vilify Muslims. But it is now up to us to take a stand against this bigotry. Let us expose them for what they are. They are populist manipulators. All they want is a good name for themselves at the cost of the community. Let them have their good name with Islamophobes but let us take a pledge that we will make everyone around us aware about their designs. We will use whatever media we have at our disposal to make people aware of what they are up to. We will not give them the chance to malign the whole community. Not one person should be allowed to troll them.