#I'llRideWithYou is helping, attacks on it are not

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Siege twitter campaign sparks kind gesture

Sydney Muslim woman Mariam Veiszadeh struggled getting out of the city during the siege in Martin Place until two strangers inspired by the social media campaign #illridewithyou restored her faith in humanity.

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Once the false flag around the Sydney siege disintegrates, we will know two things.

One, how quick we were to conjure this as Islamic State or other terrorism. And two, how quick some of us were to reject #illridewithyou as 'white helping', as patronising grandstanding by people unprepared to question their own racism.

What was #illridewithyou? A hashtag that grew from this exchange.

#illridewithyou: online users continue to tweet their support for the local Muslim community.

#illridewithyou: online users continue to tweet their support for the local Muslim community.


Just a short time after that tweet, @sirtessa offered this via Tiwtter:  If you reg take the #373 bus b/w Coogee/MartinPl, wear religious attire, & don't feel safe alone: I'll ride with you. @ me for schedule.  Then this at 4.29pm, just a few hours after the siege began:

"Maybe start a hashtag? What's in #illridewithyou?" By nightfall, it was the worldwide top trending hashtag, more than 100,000 mentions, around 250 tweets a minute.

But the simple act of generosity had some baffled:

And here was an unusual moment in Australian political history – with hand wringers urging us not to use #illridewithyou because it colonised Muslims, placed white helpers at the centre, and patronised those who didn't need help.

Now let's make one thing clear before I proceed: it's important to collaborate on any assistance. All of us have to listen and be guided about what makes our society the most civil it can be. And hand wringers, don't turn this into an intellectual debate right now. Save it for later. This was straight from the heart and that's a good thing.

While some of my best friends are handwringers -- second guessing every reaction they have to these issues just in case it's seen as disenfranchising -- it's actually not good enough to call out privilege when you see it. It's time to call it in. Make it work for greater decency.

We should never wait for the opportunity to speak out in support of others. Here's why.

If you wait for permission to speak up, to give support, if you wait for an invitation, you may never get one. It's not up to anyone to issue that invite to speak for decency, it's up for all of us to know what's wrong.

Here are a few of those things in case you've lost your own moral compass. It's wrong to take people hostage. It's wrong to kill people. It's wrong to beat anyone, least of all someone small and vulnerable who trusts you. It's wrong to abuse anyone physically  or mentally. And if you see those things happening and you don't speak out, you are just as bad as the abusers and the murderers.

And no matter what race or religion or gender the person is, you give them your wholehearted support. If they reject that support, so be it – they may think they can win their battles on their own. I personally doubt that. We need to work together, working collaboratively on making social change, not excluding anyone from the process.

Perhaps you are all too busy to recite Martin Niemöller. I'm not.

"First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me."

You should never - ever - wait to speak out.

My four grandparents were all murdered by Nazis. Do you think they would have been reluctant to receive support from non-Jews? I don't think so. Would they have thought that support was 'patronising'? Doubt it.

They would have been grateful. Then, as we know, very few non-Jews spoke out. If more had spoken out, maybe not so many people would have died.

Do Muslims in Sydney need to be protected? Maybe, maybe not. There are plenty of social media in the last day gratified by the response.

#illridewithyou is an offer and not a demand. Of course a hashtag won't cure the problem of racism - but it's not nothing. It's speaking out. And that's something.

22 comments so far

  • Whilst i agree with your sentiment, i note that no one was offering to ride with traumatised young Jewish children who were the subject of a vile anti-Semitic attack in Bondi a few months ago

    All this hashtag did was make people believe that ordinary Muslims needed to be saved rather than focusing on the real element of this disgusting crime. the spotlight was too quickly moved - yet again - to apologists

    Date and time
    December 16, 2014, 11:10AM
    • #Kony2012........

      While admirable and agree with what you say 100% the cynic in me watching young people put this up on their facebook wall's who don't ride public transport makes it seem like a token cool trend to be part of, or watching the pictures of people taking selfies outside the shop in Sydney. Hopefully people who put this up are true and genuine rather than doing it to 'be part of something'.....

      Date and time
      December 16, 2014, 11:44AM
      • You cannot be racist against a religion. But on the other hand you cannot take into account idiots that do things like this. Or people that react to moments like this what we need to do is make sure it doesn't escalate and people are pulled in because of idiots trying to make it worse than what has happen.

        Date and time
        December 16, 2014, 11:44AM
        • I found the self-congratulatory tone of the hashtaggers nauseating. It's classic White Saviour Industrial Complex. God you're amazing Sydney! My heart's going wob wob. Please. This is probably the same KONY2012 people, and no, hashtagging does not help, any more than praying does.

          Date and time
          December 16, 2014, 11:51AM
          • Thanks Jenna for a thoughtful piece. I can only imagine the pain that those who were involved yesterday experienced, but I was also concerned that this would turn into yet another excuse for vilifying people of the Muslim faith. I was very pleasantly surprised to see the 'I'll ride with you' response. The person who did this crime was not representative of Muslim's and we need to take a broader understanding that damage can extend to many innocent people in these tragedies. We have enough racial stereotyping and discrimination coming our of Canberra these days, I think it is now up to we civilians to show compassion and understanding to others.

            Date and time
            December 16, 2014, 11:54AM
            • I am a Muslim and proud to be an Australian, I love my country. I am so proud of my fellow aussuies for their understanding and support during these difficult times. Every little helps. Only by uniting together we can face the increasing challenge of radicalisation and extremism and show the world that we are loving and caring and that we look out for vulnerable among us.

              Date and time
              December 16, 2014, 12:04PM
              • I think #illridewithyou was a heartfelt response from general public and it was great to see. This is the best response for terrorism.

                But the fact we had to protect a community from reprisal due to the actions of a single individual does point out that we still have a long way to go.

                Date and time
                December 16, 2014, 12:05PM
                • The media has been accused of wild speculation, but how do we know this event actually happened?

                  There is no fact to back up this person's claim, and yet people are accepting it as true.

                  How can we know it is true, there is no verification whatsoever.

                  No police report.

                  No confirmation from one witness.

                  The idea that these people tweeting #illridewithyou have chosen to ignore the awkward reality of confronting the fact that this is Islamic terrorism on their city street is something else.

                  Normal bloke
                  Date and time
                  December 16, 2014, 12:10PM
                  • Well said, Jenna. Staying silent is the easy option.

                    Date and time
                    December 16, 2014, 12:13PM
                    • Well said Jenna. I note the example you gave (Chris) was likely a man - who has no idea what it's like to be a woman and feel intimidated in public (irrespective of race or religion). This hashtag is about showing support.

                      Date and time
                      December 16, 2014, 12:15PM

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