As several Australians were being held against their will by an Islamist fanatic in a Sydney chocolate shop not knowing whether they'd survive the ordeal, scores of sanctimonious Twitter users took to the platform to identify the real problem: hypothetical backlash against the country's Muslim community.
The origin of the hashtag campaign -- #illridewithyou -- was born of a humblebrag on social media in which "Sydney resident Rachael Jacobs wrote on Facebook that she had seen a woman on the train remove her headscarf and offered to walk with her." Subsequently, users of the hashtag "offered to travel on public transit with those in Islamic dress who felt insecure."
Mind you, no actual act of anti-Muslim hate actually precipitated this episode; nor have there been any documented instances of such bigotry on Australia's transit system since the hostage crisis. Regardless, there is a hashtag to promote, warm feels to be had, and a terrorist attack to be glossed over.
It is unclear how many of the offers of companionship were in earnest, or if any were actually redeemed. No matter, users of the hashtag were showered with the sort of praise typically reserved for Nobel Peace Prize contenders because they were able to express their "humanity" in 140 characters or less. A gossip columnist called it "heartwarming," while an academic said it was "a blueprint for how we should deal with terrorism." Meanwhile, one writer lamented that it didn't go far enough and said Australia's Muslims need more than the hollow symbolism embodied by the hashtag.
All of this would surely come as a great relief to Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson, but for the fact they died during the siege commenced by Sheikh Man Haron Monis -- "a self-styled Muslim cleric" -- who made his hostages display an Islamic flag and forced one to appear in a propaganda video.
Australia is no stranger to terror attacks. In September, police thwarted a plot by Islamist extremists who planned to select a random person for beheading, the video of which they would proceed to upload to the internet. In 2002, 88 Australians were killed in bombings by jihadists in Bali. Another bombing occurred there in 2005 that killed four Australians.
It's tempting to ask how many terror plots can unfold in Australia and elsewhere before many of my liberal brethren come to understand the powerful motivating force of Islamism, which promises paradise for martyrs and others fighting in the cause. Sadly, the reality is that no amount of terror attacks will suffice to this end. One of the uglier reactions on Twitter was to blame the attack on Australian foreign policy, as if besieging a franchise of a chocolate company based in the famously neutral Switzerland were the ideal way to fight the good fight.
Herein lies the great irony of the white knights of the West who proclaim from atop their multiculturalist high horses that the problem is anything but Islam and its 7th century morality: While foreign policies can be a motivating factor, Islam's staunchest defenders make the mistake of explaining terrorism almost exclusively in these terms. But this ignores the plain fact that the vast majority of terror attacks don't happen in the West, but in countries where Islam is the dominant religion, and where many if not most of terrorism's victims are Muslims.
The #illridewithyou campaign is typical lazy hashtivism. Most users who tweeted it surely had no intention of actually taking time out of their day to come to the rescue of some yet to exist Muslim being harassed by bigoted straphangers. Meanwhile, there are thousands of Muslims and others in Syria who could desperately use some eager travel partners, not because of what could happen to them, but what will happen to them:
Before entering Raqqa, you have to pass through many checkpoints. The numerous questions [ISIS fighters] ask depend on the checkpoint and its supervisor. Before reaching a checkpoint, the car driver asks the women in the car to don the veil and put on full “Islamic” attire, where the woman gets covered in black except for the eyes. Otherwise, both she and the driver may get punished, as has happened to many.
The first checkpoint we passed through is called “Dignity Checkpoint.” ISIS fighters only searched the men as the fighters looked for violation of ISIS laws. They checked personal data and inspected the passengers’ as they looked for Jabhat al-Nusra or FSA fighters, who are immediately arrested, as is anyone they suspect of belonging to a Syrian faction or an activist in the Syrian revolution.
Who will ride with them?