A couple of weeks ago, social media users got caught up in a debate surrounding the campaign titled ‘Talk to a Muslim’. According to those who supported the campaign, #TalkToAMuslim stood up for love and peace and formed a united front in the face of Islamophobia. The campaign simultaneously came under fire for recognising Muslims on the basis of their religion and not any other form of identity. Several pointed out that it was patronising as it singled out Muslims as ‘others’.
How did #TalkToAMuslim begin?
In April this year, an anonymous letter was distributed across London promising to celebrate the third of the month as ‘Punish a Muslim Day’. On the occasion, the advocate decided to award “points” for carrying out activities against members of the community. The letter listed several acts ranging from removing a woman’s headscarf (25 points) to beating up a Muslim (500 points), reported Guardian.
Campaigns sprung up in response to the letter. In a show of solidarity, communities hosted #LoveAMuslimDay on April 3 while others advocated #ProtectAMuslimDay on social media to “help the community feel safe”.
In India, #TalkToAMuslim trends
The campaign in India was an offshoot of Britain’s protests. It began a day after Congress president Rahul Gandhi tweeted that his party stands with the exploited, marginalised and the persecuted, irrespective of religion or caste. Gandhi’s remark was in the wake of the BJP accusing the Congress of being a “party of Muslims”.
Users posted pictures of themselves with the hashtag #TalktoAMuslim and placards reading ‘I’m an Indian Muslim. I’m human too. You can talk to me’. In a bid to break the various stereotypes about Muslims, it gradually grew into a larger campaign and people began identifying themselves with different traits. A number of opinion pieces in favour of the campaign, underlining attempts at “demonising” and “dehumanising” Muslims, were written on various platforms.
Some critics, meanwhile, opined that the hashtag was part of a process of “otherisation” of Muslims in India, which distanced the community and created an “us versus them” narrative. It was also raised that #TalkToAMuslim missed the point compared to other campaigns like #KnowThyNeighbour or #OpenADoor that sought to bring together landlords and Muslim tenants on one platform.