Can social media make the world a more tolerant place?


I love social media. Through it you meet the most amazing, interesting people. One of those chance meetings is a recent friend who is Muslim. We met on Twitter. Her name is Ponn Sabra. She is a practicing Muslim and writes a blog called American Muslim Mom. Is she from the Middle East? No. Is she a terrorist. It didn’t even cross my mind that she was a terrorist. Did I say terrorist? Yes, apparently there are Americans who think all Muslims are radicals or have ties to terrorists. I had two babysitters for my children that were both Muslim–they were wonderfully polite, punctual, caring women. I didn’t think for a second I had terrorists watching my children. In my mind Ponn was simply a Mom albeit a Muslim mom. So I asked her to guest post for MOMentum because I thought she would bring an interesting perspective and I have been trying to have guests from all over the world. I must admit I had a little trepidation right before I posted the article and wondered whether I would receive hateful comments because she was Muslim. But guess what, no one commented.

Ponn recently invited me as her guest to a special showing of CNN’s documentary “Unwelcome. The Muslims Next Door” which was hosted by Soledad O’Brien. The documentary is about Murfreesboro, Tennessee and how the town is torn apart over the prospect of an Islamic center being built for the 250 Muslim families who live there–peacefully–at least till the ground was broke for the center. Somehow this triggered hatred this town had never seen before. “They’re trying to kill us.” “They don’t bury their dead in caskets and just think what will seep into our water.” “And with the Muslim Sharia Law, they will come in and take over the local governments.” And don’t forget for a second that this fear only exists in Murfreesboro. Ten years after the 911 attacks, much of America still lives in fear. Events like this documentary shown in Murfreesboro are happening everywhere with politicians fanning the fires.

Did these same Americans study our Constitution in school? Our Constitution is based on our country not having an official religion. There is no way for the Muslim religion to take over. We teach our children American history in schools and about our heritage. People from different walks of life founded our country; people who came here to flee things like religious oppression. So how can we teach our children about American freedom and then stand up in small towns across American and tell people who different they are not welcome? It feels so un-American.

Maybe through social media and a blog such as Ponn’s, Americans can learn what it’s like to be a Muslim living in America. After all, social media prides itself on transparency, truth and leveraging connections/relationships. One of the most profound quotes in the CNN documentary came from a young woman who said, “911 hijacked my religion.” Americans weren’t the only ones affected by 911.

3 Responses to “Can social media make the world a more tolerant place?”

  1. Holly

    I like to think we can help change some world views via social media. From my perspective, in some ways this issue speaks to your previous post about branding.
    We, as humans, are quick to label/brand/judge.
    It serves a purpose. We have evolved as a human species because we are able to make split-second connections:
    Kraft = Mom, childhood.
    Disney = Fun, family.
    Dove = Soft skin, Empowering women.
    Muslim = ?
    Catholic priest = ? (I was raised Catholic… : )
    Cougar = ?
    Mom Blogger = ?
    The instant association very much depends on a number of factors, including knowledge and personal history. Intolerance is often based on ignorance, misinformation and fear.
    Here’s a “for instance”:
    I live in Ottawa, Canada and this morning I did the usual — took the dog and my 87 year-old aunt to visit her younger sister in a nursing home. The 83 year-old is known to make racist remarks. Argh. A number of her caregivers are lovely, kind, caring women who are Muslim and who wear the hijab.
    My aunt — bless her wild Irish, raised-in-the-middle-of-practically-nowhere heart, sometimes says hurtful things that make me cringe.
    Thanks to modern technology and the global village that is the internet, there is hope for the rest of us — North Americans and fellow citizens of Earth.

    Pam @writewrds
  2. Thanks Holly for acknowledging my work and our wonderfully-budding relationship established by a simply tweet. ;-)

    I enjoyed sharing this pre-screening breakfast with you, as CNN covered this dynamic topic. I appreciate your insights, unique perspective and your ability to use your little piece of the blogosphere to question the motives and intentions of our fellow American citizens. It’s thoughtful posts like yours that make be proud to a social media mom. :-)

    @Holly I agree, there’s much power and potential to leveraging social media as a valuable educational tool; as I shared in my most recent post here:

    Ponn Sabra
  3. I believe that Social Media can be an amazing tool for goodness – but I sure bristle at your use of the word “Tolerance.” I don’t care about tolerance anymore than I care about “Self Esteem” or being “PC”!

    I care that human beings treat each other well! That we, as Americans, do the right thing when there’s a genocide going on like we didn’t do in Rwanda.

    I don’t care about “Tolerance” – it’s just another PC word that has been corrupted and over-used.

    See this article on how Social Media helped Japan – there was a wonderful example of the good SM can do –

    Sorry to be so blunt – but that’s my honest and heartfelt feeling and belief!

    Bruce Sallan

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