In the aftermath of Tuesday morning’s attacks in Belgium, Twitter lit up with a hashtag that deviated from the usual post-tragedy solidarity script: #StopIslam trended worldwide, just below #Brussels and #PrayforBelgium.
As disturbing as this hashtag might appear, however, it’s actually quite the opposite. #StopIslam is only trending now because thousands of people are criticizing it.
In fact, its spread would appear to mirror a heartening phenomenon that researchers observed after the November terrorist attacks in Paris: Anti-Muslim rhetoric spikes disturbingly on social media after an attack, but the spike of anti-anti-Muslim rhetoric is even more dramatic.
Neither interpretation of the hashtag addresses the real issue: religion. The “spike of anti-anti-Muslim rhetoric” implies that the followers of a religion should not be blamed for the actions of the few.
Waliyha Malik tweets
“Why is #StopIslam trending? Terrorism has NO religion!!!!!!!”
However, religion would cease to exist if religions didn’t have followers, so why defend the so called moderates who make religious extremism possible?
Lexi Alexander is frustrated that
#StopIslam is trending. Sigh. I wish people would read more & hate less.
This implies that people who read would have a different attitude toward members of a religion that includes suicide bombers who kill people in the name of their God or their religion.
A better solution to resolving the #StopIslam controversy is to remove it and replace it with a hashtag that says #StopReligionPromoteSecularism.
Atheists and the non-religious have invoked John Lennon’s “Imagine No Religion” so many times it is in danger of becoming a cliché. Rather, secularism, which protects both the religious and the non-religious, gives people the time, leisure and peace to “read more & hate less.” If this seems like just another cliché, think about it. Secularism is neutral; it does not promote the superiority of one religion over all other religions, nor does it promote the superiority of religion over other ideologies.
Yes, keep imagining no religion while working to stop religion by promoting secularism.