Remona Aly
Sunday 06 December 2015 The Guardian

#YouAintNoMuslimBruv: the voice of defiant unity

After the knife attack on three people at Leytonstone underground station in east London on Saturday, a bystander shouted “You ain’t no Muslim, bruv” at the alleged perpetrator. As footage of the incident emerged, this phrase quickly became a hashtag symbol of defiant unity.

Among the 100,000 tweets and rising, you find sentiments that distance the attacker from religion. Most are full of pride for the diverse embrace of London: “Soo proud to be a Londoner. True Muslims don’t try and kill innocent bystanders. Peace to true Muslims”; and “I love that #YouAintNoMuslimBruv is trending. The best response possible. So proud to be a Londoner.”

Leytonstone is one of London’s many diverse tube stops, with numerous languages spoken in the area. This diversity has bred further contempt for an act that is so at odds with the capital’s sensibilities of inclusion and community cohesion.

This is not the first time that people have displayed resilience and a refusal to submit to the darker forces of division. After the recent attacks in their city, Parisians responded with the #PorteOuverte hashtag, which people used to open up their homes to those stranded in the city, or get one of the free rides offered by taxi drivers. This not only generated a sense of open doors, but also nurtured open minds and open hearts that refused to be ruled by fear and suspicion. It was a movement of unity when it was most needed.

In September this year, the repercussions of what suspicion can breed were made clear in an incident involving a bright American Muslim schoolboy named Ahmed. He was suspected of terrorism by his own teacher, who carelessly thought the clock that Ahmed built for a science lesson was a bomb. The #StandWithAhmed hashtag quickly took over social media, showing compassion for and camaraderie with the young American.

The constant strain that many Muslims experience in being associated with violence that they strongly condemn is somewhat relieved by such hashtags, which give much-needed assurance that the vast majority of people are not going to be dictated to by extremist acts or assertions. While the Leytonstone tube attacker may well have claimed that he acted for Syria, I’m sure “Syria” would be appalled by any such support.

Hashtags such as #PorteOuverte, #StandWithAhmed and #YouAintNoMuslimBruv have resonance all over the world, as we recognise and celebrate this heartening display of humanity in the face of inhuman acts, in a kind of global alliance of coexistence. After 14 years of living through the brutality of terrorist acts, “collateral damage” and repercussions on all our societies, people are wising up to the fact that this ridiculous, monochrome notion of “us” v “them” is not going to fly. Violent criminals have no ownership over any religion, any country, any community or any of our mindsets.

As one tweeter pointed out: “Islamophobes and racists are unhappy with #YouAintNoMuslimBruv trending. They want division as much as Daesh does.” The fact that this is trending on Twitter reflects an eagerness for unity. People simply do not want more division. We are sick and tired of it. Londoners, Brits, the French, Americans, Australians, whoever we are, wherever we face the threat of discord, we stand in solidarity.

This article originally appeared in The Guardian on 6 December 2015. To view it click here