Keyboard Warriors: On Responding to Racism, Bigotry and Islamophobia Online — With Love

Shehnaz Khan
11 min readJun 5, 2017


Disclaimer: May contain offensive language.

I’m not sure why it always takes senseless tragedies for people’s true colours to come out, but here we are, and here I am, writing again.

Credit: Khalid Albaih

This past week has been eye-opening to say the least. On the back of two horrendous terrorist attacks by Islamic extremists in my country, I have to say i’ve been absolutely floored by the vast extent of myopic statuses and comments i’ve seen on Facebook and Twitter. The Facebook unfriend button has been a really good friend to me this week — The irony of that isn’t lost on me at all.

Racism, bigotry, prejudice and islamophobia, especially from so-called “friends” and associates are all prevalent here — The list goes on and on. Also, can I just say, if you’re using the fact you “have a Muslim friend” to justify your prejudice and racism then you’re effectively cancelled, and I feel sad for the “Muslim friend” you’re referring to, who you are isolating and attacking, when you should be standing by them. Also, if i’m that said Muslim friend, then i’m definitely not your friend, and forgive me for being rude… But just do one. Thanks.

As always, my thoughts and prayers are with the victims of the attacks in London this past weekend and in Manchester a couple of weeks ago — I quite literally haven’t been able to think about anything else. The thought that a group of inhumane monsters can do what they did, to such innocent people, just doesn’t bear thinking about. How is anybody affected by such tragedies supposed to go on? How are you supposed to mentally process it?

What are you supposed to do?

As a former and future Londoner, who considers the greatest city in the world my second home, and as a Brit — someone who is as British as you and the next person, since I was born here, I will always choose this country, for this is my home. This is where I’m from, and who are you to tell me otherwise? I am of Pakistani and Indian descent, brown-skinned and a Muslim, but I am also British, and you will never be able to tell me that i’m not. Each of those aspects are of equal importance, each of those factors are what I am equally as proud of, and each of them make up my identity.

British. Asian. Muslim.

Three words.

So, where will you tell me to “go home” like you have before? Down the road to my house where I can put the kettle on? Will you throw stuff at me along the way, just like before? Well, I mean thanks, as I’ve needed a cup of tea all day, but I can’t have one right now because i’m fasting for nineteen hours at a time, as you know… It’s Ramadan. But I guess it’s the thought that counts. Ramadan is a time for prayer, solace and peace, we are taught to abstain from all ‘bad’ deeds and concentrate on our humility, charity and unity, which includes fasting from food and water from 2:30AM to 9:30PM and then praying into the early hours of the morning.

I’ve lost count of the statuses i’ve seen which have been painting all Muslims with the same brush, but what I haven’t lost count of is the amount of people I personally know, who are finally beginning to show the bigoted individual they are. When did people become so ignorant? It makes me sad to see all the hatred from people who would rather judge blindly, then see the real picture.

Let me make it clear. Terrorists like ISIS, they don’t represent me. They don’t follow my religion. They’re not Muslim. Muslims don’t do this. Islam isn’t evil- people are.

Like my grandmother always tells me in Urdu, “These people are dogs, they are not Muslims! A Muslim would never do that,” whilst muttering that they are going straight to hell under her breath, which is what we believe is true. As contrary to what you may think, the Quran teaches peace, we are taught to respect the lives of young insects, so imagine the sanctity we place on the life of a human. On a beating heart. A beacon of light. A soul.

There is nothing more precious, and the fact that these barbaric terrorists think they can kill endlessly in the name of our religion, is absolutely horrific. Not in our name. Not now, not ever.

I’m so sick and tired of the narrative employed by social media, that repeatedly suggests that Muslims have to apologise for horrendous acts of terrorism, committed by a bunch of warped psychopaths who have hijacked our religion for their own nefarious gain. So no, I will not apologise on their behalf. Why should I? It’s honestly baffling to me that some people fervently believe this. We are not them, we are as disconnected as you are. Why is that so hard to believe? What is this preposterous notion that we must apologise for a deranged lunatic? I can’t believe people think that ISIS are representative of Islam, it breaks my heart, but what can you do. It goes against every single thing we believe in and our entire ethos, please don’t forget that.

I will only ever apologise as a fellow human, that we couldn’t protect the victims who had their lives so cruelly stolen from them. I will apologise for the fact that we couldn’t do more — I will apologise for the fact that we couldn’t save them.

This brings me on to social media, which has been alight with other… ‘comments’. Here are a few of my favourites and my responses:

“All the Muslims need to be deported from the UK now,” — Denise, furious and a tad dense, Macclesfield.

Yeah good luck with that Denise, considering there are approximately 3.5 million in Muslims in the UK. I mean, who is going to pay for our flights? How will we fit on one plane? Do we get a free lunch or do I have to pay £4.50 for a cheese sandwich? Can I bring my cat with me? All are important questions, but most important of all, where will you send those that were born and bred here? I for one, can’t really cut myself in half without help, if you want to send me back to the countries I “came from” that is…. *Rolls eyes*

“I’ll tell you how good our security is in our country. I was frisked (at the airport) and there was a Paki with a burqa on wearing sunglasses who wasn’t frisked! One rule for us and another for them disgusting despicable lumps of shit!” — Nicholas, Unemployed because he spends all day sending racist tweets, Derby.

Firstly, Nicholas mate, how do you know she was a “Paki”? For those who live outside of England, “Paki” is a derogatory and offensive term used for people of South Asian origin. “Paki bashing” was prominent in the 1980’s where South Asians in the UK faced daily attacks and even murder at the hands of racists. Also, for the record, i’ve seen women wearing burqas and hijabs at an airport getting frisked repeatedly, as standard, as you do. I’ve also seen said women being scrutinised during these searches as an extra precaution. Also this lovely “Paki” over here writing this sentence would additionally tell you to keep your big nose and shiny forehead out of shit that’s not your business, Nick. And whilst you’re here, go back to school with your half a GCSE, you’re as uneducated as you are ignorant. Please also sort out your lack of a hairline as a matter or urgency.

Also, i’ve been “randomly selected” for a search at airports numerous times when travelling with friends, most likely due to my surname, but I know this is something we have to bear due to the actions of people hijacking my faith. I don’t complain, I get on with it. Stop spreading hate by assuming that women in Islamic clothing aren’t subjected to the same.

“Sorry to say, but Islam has to go! We need internment camps and we need to wipe them all off the earth! Give me a gun, i’ll execute ‘em”Eric, Neo-Nazi, Banbury

Internment camps, Eric? Sounds oddly… Nazi. What happened the last time all members of an Abrahamic faith were rounded up and placed in camps? Suggesting genocide to people who follow Islam isn’t new, I mean Katie Hopkins called for a ‘final solution’ the other week, and was then promptly fired from LBC… In a tweet that has since been deleted, but this is the internet after all. I just don’t know what has given small-minded individuals the green light to legitimise tribal nationalism, with hubristic and narcissistic undertones. Why are you any better?

By the way, Eric, I did a quick background search on you after seeing your comment, and i’ve now reported you to your employers. All the best.

“Get all the immigrants out! Close our borders! We can’t let refugees in, this is England!”— Average Joe, Birmingham

Cannot roll my eyes further back if I’d tried. The majority of immigrants actually assimilate and integrate reasonably, especially refugees, who are running from ISIS or worse, so do us a favour and save your xenophobic hatred. You also do realise that ISIS kill swathes of innocent Muslims they deem to be ‘infidels’ everyday in countries like Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, yet you still think they’re one and the same?

“I think all Muslims should be making a statement and apologising. It’s time for them to stand up and be counted! They must condemn terror!” — Barbara, munching on naan and curry, Solihull.

Yeah, i’ve addressed this already Barbara. So going by your flawed logic, will you apologise for Hitler? The KKK? The Crusades? Colonialism? ….. What about the transatlantic slave trade? Didn’t think so. It’s a really good job people don’t blame the majority for a minority’s actions… Oh wait.

And for your information, Barbs, Muslims do condemn terror. I bet you don’t even know that Muslims are killed indiscriminately by ISIS in the cities they attack? We despise the bastards as much as you do, if not more. ISIS can burn for all I care, I hope every single one of them rots in hell.

“It’s up to your Muslim communities to report these terrorists, but yet they turn a blind eye! We must stop pandering to their poor feelings, if they don’t like it then I say fuck off abroad where you may be listened, we don’t want you here!” — Nick (again), Derby

I’d like to assume Nick hasn’t used his common sense here, for the Manchester AND London terrorists were all kicked out of mosques and reported to the authorities several times by numerous people. These people were reported via the anti-terrorist hotlines on several occasions and “known to police and Mi5” (if you don’t believe me, Google is free) but hey, Muslims still aren’t doing enough apparently.

In fact, one of the London terrorists was featured on the Channel 4 documentary, The Jihadis Next Door.

… I see.

….I could go on and on, but I have to draw a line somewhere.

We really shouldn’t have to respond to comments like the above, yet here I am, defending people for something they have never and will never play a part in.

However, what people also don’t understand is that attitudes like the above additionally causes a sharp rise in hate crimes. They can also kill, as a simple search online would tell you. I also remember telling a friend last year how a woman was attacked by a far-right extremist in Britain and lost her unborn twins, and her only answer was, “Well, people are scared,” as if to justify it. Scared of a heavily pregnant woman minding her own business as she buys a couple of Apples in a Tesco? The mind boggles… I actually can’t cope with the naivety. I’ve had enough. Racism has always been prevalent, but it is now as resurgent as ever.

I always make a point to sit next to a woman wearing a hijab on public transport as if by automatic response, because I can’t bear it if something was to happen, the same way I will always stand up for anybody, regardless of colour, or religion. How you can think it’s acceptable to pull the hijab off? Who do you think you are to say ban the burqa? It’s absolutely ludicrous. There are people discussing how Muslim homes should be burnt down with the families inside because “they asked for it”- Asked for what exactly? Asked for retaliation for something we are not responsible for? We are scared of the same terror attacks as you — but we are also scared of the revenge attacks for something we condemn and have no support for.

Don’t you get that terrorists like ISIS want this to happen? They want Muslims to be alienated from society whilst they kill and murder senselessly. It feeds their propaganda, this is also why they claim every single terrorist incident as soon as it happens.

What I will say is that the real ‘elephant in the room’ that needs to be tackled here, is indeed Wahhabism, the authoritarian ideology that feeds extremism and is championed by those in Saudi Arabia, who the UK just sold three billion worth of weapons to, might I add. Please also understand that Wahhabism (which ISIS follow), goes against everything in the Quran — therefore any Muslim will tell you, that these monsters aren’t Muslim, because it’s the truth. We need to stop virtue signalling and target the real issue here, such as selling arms to such countries and any unnecessary obfuscation on this matter does not help anyone. Stop killing innocent people of all creed and colour, stop killing innocent Muslims and start focusing on the real enemy here.

To end this rant, if you’re going to share something from Katie Hopkins or Tommy Robinson on my newsfeed, let me know so I can either remove you as a friend or have a debate — or both. Same applies for Britain First, UKIP, the BNP or the EDL, you can stuff all of that nonsense in the bin where it belongs. Trash will be trash after all. Some people just can’t be helped.

By the way, I first finished reading the Quran at the age of eleven in both English and Arabic, so think of that before you attempt to send me some baseless quote you pulled off the internet and try to teach me what it says about Islam. I can read, maybe you should also try it sometime. It’s a shame that some of you would prefer to jump on the general consensus that Islam is ‘evil’- Just pick up the Quran and read it please. Terrorism has no religion.

So to sum this up, if you are racist, close-minded, islamophobic or a bigot, I really do feel sorry for you, but despite all that I will not react to your hate, with hate. I will not judge you for it, as much as I want to, because I know better than that. I’ve been brought up better than that. My way of life, has shown me that I can be better than that. So I will continue to react with the grace that is missing from so many of you.

Humanity is one, and if you don’t believe that then you ought to be ashamed of yourself.

I’ve always been taught, as a Muslim, as a woman, a human and a soul, that you are to respond to hate with compassion, empathy, unity, grace and kindness, so I will continue to do just that, regardless of keyboard warriors being unable to do the same.

Peace is the only thing that matters here.

You won’t ever find anything less from me.

You will only find love, nothing else.




Shehnaz Khan

Award nominated journalist and writer. Radio presenter. Probably drinking coffee somewhere. Twitter is @shehnazkhan — if you’d like to send me pictures of cats.