Telling Other People Exactly what You Think: A Tip Sheet to Make Your Online Commentary Really Count

These are scary times. Without asking your permission, Muslims are daring to write articles, create films, develop radio programs, and produce art that unabashedly celebrates the complex and textured role Islam plays in their lives. They say Islamic feminism is alive and well; that they’re perfectly capable of saving themselves thank you very much, that they aren’t a monolithic lot, and their identity as Muslims isn’t their only influencer. Concerned? Enjoy the tip sheet below and tell those people exactly what you think. After all, who needs thoughtful, community building dialogue anyway?

1) I say God you say repression/I say faith you say oppression: When you hear an thread of discussion that starts with “I don’t think people who share my beliefs have a monopoly on goodness, but Islamic beliefs inspire me to positively contribute to my community” be like Charlie Brown listening to his teacher. Sure there are Muslims who talk about their faith being an important dynamic, identity shaping part of their lives. Whatevs. You know better. Religion is oppressive and those people don’t know what they’re talking about, even if they insist they spend a lot of time thinking about their beliefs on a daily basis.

2) Slander Support: Sure there may be people who identify with a more positive view of Islam. And yeah, there are definitely folks who can relate descriptions of Islamophobia to other ‘isms’ in their own life. Discount their experiences, and call ‘em all a bunch of complainers-if you don’t see it that way, there definitely isn’t any validity to their lived experience.

3) Logic is for losers: Don’t spare words. Open up that thesaurus, look up oppressed, and pound out as many synonyms as you can find to make one big circular argument. Something like: ‘you’re oppressed cos Islam is repressive, and Islam is suppressive cos it subjugates women” works really well. Try and find small, obscure examples and extrapolate to make broad categorical statements about the oppressive state of large groups of people.

4) Terror Tactics: Even if it doesn’t relate to the topic at hand, talk about terrorism. Or, if you don’t like the way the discussion is going, feel free to name-call, act aggressively, and antagonize any productive conversations occurring among participants. Their persistence to their views is irritating, the Internet is anonymous and exerting power over others is a great stress buster.

5) Light reading: Don’t read all the comments. You might find someone’s already poked holes dealt with your comment, and really, where’s the fun in that?

6) Static Stan: Refuse to believe equal relationships can exist between genders and ignore the Qur’anic themes that that men and women are allies of one another. Skip over anything that might suggest you’re not getting the full picture about Islamic male-female relations through the media and other sources. If someone keeps saying, really, “the men in my life do not oppress me”, wink and tell them, “yeah sorry, but they are”. Then proceed to launch into a tirade about how badly Muslim women need saving, and stress that you’re the expert on what it is that they need saving from.

7) Focus on the non-sequiturs: When in doubt, talk about Saudi Arabia. True, a small percentage of Muslims live in Saudi Arabia. And yes, not everyone in Saudi Arabia is Muslim. But it’s hard noticing differences in places and recognizing the unique challenges people have in various locations. So lump em all together I say.

8 Mirror Mirror on the Wall: Make the conversation about yourself. Talk about how scarves make you feel uncomfortable, how beards are scary, how much you care about women’s rights, and get offended when your ideas are deconstructed. If anyone asks you to do something hard like take steps towards real issues like stopping war, improving things like education, health and employment, or helping the 3 million internally displaced people in Swat right now, move to tip nine:

9): Obsess on dress: And specifically, obsess about the hijab, the niqab, the jilbab and the fact that people find your hang-ups a little weird. Make lots of veiled references about how maybe ‘excessive’ clothing interferes with one’s ability to think. (and just like the sentence above try and use the word ‘veil’ as much as possible. Muslims love that.)

10) Defer to your favourite expert: Find a group with views that don’t represent mainstream Islam, and hold them up as the spokesperson for all Muslims, everywhere.

11) Return Responsibility: If all else fails, talk about how it’s the fault of Muslims that people have a bad impression of Islam. Ignore the work Muslims worldwide are doing to deconstruct stereotypes, explain their faith, and express solidarity with specific communities that are working to create social equality for all citizens.

12) Go Home. Muslims are definitely not from “here”, and don’t let them forget it. Ignore conversion experiences, multi-generational Muslims, and experiences of occupation/colonization that made leaving ‘home’ a necessity in the first place.

13) Feel victorious: When the author moves on to live her/his life you stop getting responses, complain, stalk, and feel just a little bit proud. Troll the internet and repeat.

A disclaimer: This is a comedy piece, but isn’t actually directed to any particular readers from this website. Nuanced, thoughtful, conversations are interesting; ranting and being patronizing really are not. This tip sheet is based on years of observing comment board antics and noticing particular themes. I swear this guide sheet must exist somewhere!

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Shagufta is a UBC Political Science graduate with a passion for interdisciplinary thinking, writing, travel, reading, tea, and interesting conversations. She hopes to combine all of these things in her life work someday. For now though, she studies social policy and planning at the University of Toronto and shares her adventures in and out of the classroom at