Undoubtedly, social media carries massive mobilizing power across the globe for which it is frequently regarded as the “Polarization Amplifier” and perception maker. Twitter, a social networking website has approximately 400 million users and has prominently changed perception management beyond recognition. Similarly, it provides ample opportunities for its abuse and misuse. Its easy availability and the aspect of lacking strict policies contribute to the global challenges of the contemporary world.
This expansion of social media has ultimately given fillip to antagonism, racism, xenophobia, hate crimes, and contempt discourse found on the internet against minorities on both sides of the Atlantic. The immense power of social media has exposed a yawning gap between the western states’ capacity measures and effective policies to counter globally accepted and recognized threats to national security from discrimination towards minorities. Recently, American rapper and fashion designer Kanye West commonly known as Ye, made a few controversial tweets against Jews. The web, print media, news channels, and just about the entire American media was crammed with reactions to his tweets. Resultantly, a group of individuals appeared on a bridge with banners saying “Kanye was right about the Jews”. This issue has been in the limelight for several days, urging big brands to end their partnership with the renowned singer. The tweet was in no way a “bland” measure to be ignored or accepted at America’s pleasure. Finally, after so much pressure, Adidas, following other big companies, ended its partnership with the 45 year old influential hip hop artist.
In this respect, it was a mirror image of what then President Donald Trump had done a few years earlier. Trump’s Anti-Muslim stance did not prevent him from winning the elections. In similar vein, Geert Wilders, a politician in the Netherlands bluntly promoted cyber-hate against Muslims through Twitter. It is worth noting that from the Austrian “Islamic Map” to burning of the Holy Quran in Sweden, Muslims have been targeted and are certainly exposed to worldwide abhorrence. Also, there is a clear biased message delivered in western video games, where Muslims are portrayed as terrorists. This stereotypical notion is traced back to even before 9/11, in Hollywood movies like Network (1984), The Delta force (1996), Executive decision (1996), Rollover (1981) and many more. The US media, masses and big companies are establishing themselves as a liberalist bulwark against a few anti-Semitic tweets by Ye, but the same people would buy a $10 cinema ticket to go and watch movies specifically targeted at marring the Muslim image.
There is hardly a debate or awareness on the widening gap between the ratio of countering Islamophobia and anti-Semitism in west. With the spread of a myopic view of Islam in western societies, research conducted by the Pew Research Center (PRC) showed that a majority of European states have a higher tendency of accepting Jews as family members than they do towards Muslims. The London-based NPO Center for countering digital hate (CCDH) shows that these giant tech companies failed to turn down 89% of anti-Islamic content and 84% of anti-Semitic content, which is still less than what is shared in aiming to spread hate against Islam.
Kanye is most scrutinized for using his influential power, having 33 million followers on Twitter, to spread hatred against Jews. Shouldn’t something be said about Trump having 88 million followers at the time his account got suspended, that too for “promoting violence” and not for spreading scorn against Muslims?
The anti-Semitism remarks have been over all media platforms for a period of 20-25 days now. On the other side of coin, Western media gives only 2-4 days of coverage when Islamophobia is in question. So, what should we assume? Is it because of a lesser Muslim minority in the US as compared to the Jews? And that too is because of stricter policies against Muslims after 9/11? Why are two influential men being dealt with differently? Both are popular with millions of followers, both hit the religious sentiments of minorities in the US; however, one ended up with ties cut off by all major investors and the other as a President.
Breathing new life into the discourse against Islamophobia is not something to be decreed in one go. It will have to come along with the continuous process involving individuals, community, scholars and state actors on the whole. We need Islamic religious experts as a source of information to deliver the real picture of Islam on public forums, both the print and electronic media. Muslim leadership should come forward to educate Western publics and correct misperceptions. Also, we too need to normalize and invest in international think tank culture to promote awareness on this particular subject and combat this overgrown threat. The Muslim community living in western countries, specifically the Pakistani Muslim community, should interact more often in their daily routine to make them understand that Islam does not have anything to do with extremism.