Calling in all irony: #notyourstockmuslim, Muslim hashtag spaces, and representation in journalism

This morning my friend luckyfatima posted an article to her facebook page about the hashtag conversation #notyourstockmuslim, a response to ABC’s failed attempt to get Alice in Arabia off the ground. 

One of luckyfatima’s facebook friends, a black Muslim woman, brought up the point that she felt as though the hashtag space, as reflected in the article, was akin to white feminist spaces in that its ethnic composition only represented a very select group of participants

This got me thinking

Lately i’ve been participating more and more in hashtag conversations, specifically ones related to Muslim identity and experiences. i enjoy it as an opportunity to talk with other Muslims and hear their thoughts on an issue of mutual concern. 

Yet i’ve come to notice a troubling trend within Muslim hashtag conversations 

There becomes a painful point of irony for many muslim related hashtag conversations: that is where many Muslim tweeters will acknowledge we are a diverse group of people and the outside non-Muslim world can’t paint 1.6 billion people as a monolith. Yet those who are represented in online articles, those who are given the opportunity to be vocal about it, sadly remains the same: Muslims who are of Arab or Desi descent.

There’s a whole slew of Muslim voices that get erased the minute these hashtags hit the press or come into focus for the non-Muslim world.

If you read these post-hashtag write ups, you would never know that Blackamerican, African diasporic, Latin@/o, European, far East Asian, Native American/First Nations, and Indigenous (outside of the U.S) Muslims participated in these hash tag conversations regularly. 

If you really took the representation of the #notyourstockmuslim conversation at face value in an article, it wouldn’t be hard to believe that Muslims of Arab and Desi descent are having these conversations amongst themselves and the rest of the community is nowhere to be found. which is the farthest thing from the truth 

and yes, its very easy for someone to go back and look at the hashtag to see for themselves who all was not mentioned in the article. 

But that’s really beside the point. 

Lets be honest without ourselves about something when it comes to the nature of social media: most people, once they see the article write up, are not going to take the time to go back and look at the hashtag in comparison to the article, and ask themselves or other people why a hashtag such as #notyourstockmuslim is making a legitimate complaint about diversity and representation in mainstream media but couldn’t be bothered to live by a similar ethos in discussing this conversation in an article. 

Its almost become part and parcel with the course, a formula within Muslim online spaces. Mention the vast diversity of the ummah only to turn around and disavow those words when it comes time to actually represent the diverse set of experiences being shared in hash tag conversation or online conversational spaces. 

If i had a dollar for every time someone quoted the Qu’ran or Hadith about the need to represent diversity, equality, and fairness in contrast to how little that panned out in the actual retelling of these conversations in journalistic spaces, well not only would i be able to pay off my undergrad loans but I could probably afford to take a couple around the world vacations too. 

If i had a dollar for every time Muslims on twitter expressed outrage at being represented as a monolith, whether its an external point of representation or oppressive in-group representation, but then didn’t bat an eyelash when the write ups of these hash tags only featured Muslims of Arab or Desi descent, well I’d be able to take that monetary silence to the bank and retire early. 

Please don’t get me wrong, i’m not saying each and every single tweet could have been represented, but it wouldn’t have taken a lot to put some conscious effort into mixing up who was featured in the top ten for this article. I’m not asking to be featured, but it would be nice to see someone who not only looks like me but others who i see and engage with in those hashtag conversations interviewed about their participation instead of going unnoticed. 

This is what i mean when i often say talk of “diversity” within Muslim communities often winds up falling on very empty words.