Why Facebook must do more to challenge anti-Muslim hate posts, by Rima Amin

“Love for All, Hatred for None” is the motto carried by the Ahmadiyya Muslim community. A motto that has been tested in recent days after a surge of hateful comments towards Muslims on social media following a fire at the Baitul Futuh mosque last Friday.

Seventy firefighters worked hard throughout the day to control and extinguish fire at the mosque in South-West London known to be one of the largest in Western Europe. Many parts of the mosque remained unharmed. On Sunday, two arrests were made but since then the Met Police have said they do not believe this to be a hate crime. A 16-year-old was later released without charge as a 14-year-old received bail until January.

The investigation continues.

As news began to trend across social media, hurtful and hateful comments followed. Instead of being thankful that the fire was put out without anyone being hurt, they were disappointed. Instead of praising the firefighters, they praised the perpetrators.  Others posted threats of further escalations.

Dr Basharat Nazir, spokesperson for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community UK, was thankful for the support given: “We have been aware of some hostile reaction on the social media, but they are simply dwarfed by the positive support we have received via social media and directly.”

Nazir says that “The key battle is against ignorance and extremism in all faiths that we all have to fight against together.”

Some of the hate comments included:

  • “Mosque in Morden on the news. 2 lads been arrested for setting it on fire. It can hold upto 10,000 worshipers. Well done boys but the was place fecking empty”
  • “The two young men arrested for setting fire to a mosque should not be jailed. They should be given a medal”
  • “They should have been pouring gasoline on it”
  • “Let’s do the same here in the USA, burn down every single one of them”
  • “Probably was a bomb making class mistake”
  • “They should burn them all, and then kick them muslims out of our countrys”
  • “one down, more to go”
  • “A WARNING to them of things to come, I hope it was done on purpose. PEOPLE ARE TIRED OF THE MUZZIES. and their DEMANDS”
  • “Make it a holiday”” It wasn’t arson, its pest control!!”

Twitter trolls also joined in.

It is difficult to consistently monitor hateful comments and keep networks free from hate but it is important that we do all we can. These comments incite harm which should never be tolerated. Since Sunday, hate comments have been reported on Wimbledon Guardian, Facebook, Twitter and other news outlets but thankfully many are quickly removed.

But Facebook needs to accept that these comments have the potential to incite hatred and violence. One comment that read “should have blown that whole b*tch up” was reported to Facebook; but when reviewed, Facebook told users that it did not breach their Community Standards.

After similar problems in the past, a petition was set up asking Facebook to work on its reporting mechanisms. One signatory Natalie Otterly wrote: “Hate speech as outlined is extremely dangerous and harmful, especially given the current volatile situation towards Muslims. It actively promotes violent and illegal action towards a religion and its followers”

The Ahmadiyya community received much public support from people of all walks of life. Support also included tweets from MPs like James Berry and UK Secretary of State for International Development, Justine Greening.

Dr Nazir says: “The huge public outpouring of support for us and the indomitable British character that people have exhibited has strengthened our resolve to rebuild the complex as soon as possible so that this house of God that is a beacon of peace can shine again in its full glory.”

It is also clear that the community are determined not to let the hate comments deter them:

“We live by an ethos of Love for All, Hatred for None.  It is a motto that is emblazoned across our mosque complex, and neither the fire nor any negativity are able to thwart our ambitions to serve God, to help mankind, and to be loyal citizens.”

The positive attitude and genuine warmth witnessed this weekend is an inspiring display of unity. Through this, we must all remember, hate comments and violence against Muslims are by no means just a Muslim problem; but a problem for us all to get through together. To truly have a peaceful supportive world both online and offline, we must all work collectively by tackling hate speech and giving to one another especially in times of need.