Tommy Robinson took a few seconds on Sunday evening to make an observation about Twitter’s homepage. “Welcome to twitter homepage has a picture of a mosque,” he wrote. “What a joke#creepingsharia.” Of course, Robinson isn’t just any old tweeter, but the co-founder of the English Defence League, a far-right protest group. Tweet posted, Robinson no doubt wandered off to do other Sunday evening things; maybe plan a rally or two.
In less than 24 hours, #creepingsharia was trending, but what could have become a feed for EDL members and sympathisers to display their hard-hitting “evidence” of the rampant Islamisation of Britain, instead attracted the nimble fingers of sensible and funny tweeters, wittily but firmly telling Robinson and others of his ilk where to shove their ill-informed views.
From the mind of @microcuts_22: “I skipped breakfast this morning. Clearly fasting subconsciously. #CreepingSharia” and from @knownasbowman: “Muslamic bloke walked past on tiptoes #creepingsharia.” From @LorrieHearts came: “Got rained on the other day, so pulled my scarf up over my head before realising that I’d become a victim of #creepingsharia.” Each one a gentle squeeze of the hand, a tiny bit of silliness to ward off the insanity, and a quiet rebuke to the dangerous rhetoric being spouted by organisations like the EDL.
The cherry on this sundae? The image which prompted Robinson’s original Tweet was not of a mosque but India’s famed Taj Mahal. Woopsies.
I got a big laugh out of the #creepingsharia hashtag. Sometimes we forget that the ignorant exremists of the conservative fringe are not unique to the U.S. but are an international phenomenon. The trial of Norwegian murderer Anders Behring Breivik is a reminder of how dangerous this hatred is: Breivik claims his victims were not innocent teenagers, no, “these were young people who worked to actively uphold multicultural values,”he told the court. That was their crime, in his twisted mind.
So yes, I realize this is serious business, and I’m not trying to trivialize it. But sometimes the best offense is a liberal helping of ridicule. Applied generously and frequently, humor is the most effective antidote to fear I know. It’s hard to be scared of a boogeyman when everyone is pointing and laughing at the folks hollering about “creeping sharia.” Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are effective neutralizers of right-wing messaging, but we’re all just as clever as those guys, right?
And good grief, it’s not like the right wing nutballs aren’t giving us plenty of material, folks. Victoria Jackson’s best comedy has been in her new self-appointed role as “citizen journalist.”Here she is tiptoeing around the Murfreesboro, TN Islamic Center yesterday, peering in windows and looking for something — anything — scary. “It says take your shoes off and put them in the racks,” she reports. Oooh! Creeping Sharia indeed. Jackson was never this funny on SNL, folks.
So my challenge to everyone on the left this week is to use their creative energies for a little coordinated, well-executed mockery. Make ’em laugh — it’s better than crying.