Digital Battlegrounds: What Muslim Women Want You to Know about Online Harassment and Its Real Life Implications

In the interconnected world of the internet, social media has become a powerful tool for communication, activism, and community-building. However, social media can also be used for harassing others and spreading hate- a reality that disproportionately Muslim women. In ‘Digital Battlegrounds’, we get to hear from this demographic about their own experiences, and hopes for the future. This report was developed following a writing sprint conducted by The Bachchao Project in September 2023.

We can explore various themes through the report, including allyship, intersectionality, the role of technology in facilitating online gender based violence, and the role of various institutions such as the media. Rather than being a purely academic report, the authors have focused on their own experiences and stories.

1. How to be a good ally: Nabiya

This piece is a witty take on allyship, focusing particularly on the meaning of being an ally in the context of online abuse. It speaks about both allyship within the Muslim community and the feminist community, as well as outside it.

2. Reclaiming Narratives: Maria

This poignant poem captures the essence of resilience and identity in the face of adversity, specifically within the context of Muslim women. It examines the shortcomings of allyship, giving current examples of instances of hate against Muslim women and the reactions it provoked.

3. Understanding Algorithms: Maria

Algorithms, especially those employed by social media platforms and online spaces, are designed to curate and display content based on user preferences and engagement patterns. These can amplify harmful narratives and contribute to the dissemination of prejudiced and discriminatory content- in the context of Muslim women, they can promote content that reinforces stereotypes, misinformation and hate speech and lead to online echo chambers. This chapter is a deeper look into how the impact of algorithms on online gender based violence and merges technical knowledge and social impact.

4. Muslim women and the Media: Fatima

This piece examines how the media covers incidents of harassment of Muslim women. It includes a compilation of recommendations for Muslim women who have experienced online harassment when interacting with media organizations or journalists. There is guidance on precautions to consider, strategies for shaping narratives, and approaches to address issues such as media bias, misinformation, or substandard reporting. These insights stem from the experiences of Muslim women who are actively engaged in the media industry and have personally encountered harassment on social media based on their identity.

5. A Recipe: Bisma

During the writing sprint, we held a zine making session. The theme was to imagine a safe, joyful, and free online space and participants had access to craft supplies and newspapers to create their own works of art. This zine was produced during this session. It is a tongue in cheek recipe to make online spaces free of harassment for Muslim women. The original zine (written in Hindi) is kept in the report along with a translation of the text in English.

Conclusion:

It is becoming imperative to confront the harsh realities faced by marginalized communities, including Muslim women. “Digital Battlegrounds” should be seen as a call to action—an exploration of the challenges, but also a testament to the resilience of Muslim women in the face of online harassment.

The report can be accessed here Digital Battlegrounds_What Muslim Women Want You to Know about Online Harassment and Its Real Life Implications

The illustrations attached to the personas have been randomised and should not be assumed to be accurate or real. You are free to share this material in any medium or format, as long as appropriate attribution is given.

All text and images are available under the Creative Commons Attribution -NonCommercial -NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-SA-NC-ND 4.0) license unless stated otherwise. This could appear as: “Digital Battlegrounds: What Muslim Women want you to know about online harassment and its real life implications, The Bachchao Project under CC-BY-SA-NC-ND 4.0”

For requesting waiver, email us at theteam@thebachchaoproject.org

Trolls and Women from Margins

By Hengam Riba

The outputs mentioned in this blog post are part of the Without Fear fellowship program 2022 – 2023. The Bachchao Project started this fellowship program to bring together a cohort of talented individuals with experience and interest in the gender and development space, who could bring fresh perspectives and potential solutions to threats faced by structurally silenced women and gender minorities in the country. This cohort could learn from itself and others, and look at innovative tech based interventions and ideas. The fellows were based around three central verticals; the social and development space, tech, and art. 

In today’s digital age, social media platforms have become powerful tools for communication and expression. However, they have also given rise to online hate and trolling, particularly targeting marginalized communities. As a 2023 Without Fear fellow with  The Bachchao Project, I had the privilege of being part of a transformative multimedia project that aimed to document and raise awareness about the experiences of women facing online trolling. Through various media such as articles, interviews, photo essays, and a podcast, my project sought to amplify the voices of those who have long been silenced.

 

“Navigating Online Hate: Voices from the Margins and Periphery”

In this thought-provoking article, I shed light on the pressing issue of online hate and its strong correlation with the objectification of women’s bodies. Drawing from studies and investigations, I explore how women, especially those advocating for gender and sexuality issues, are disproportionately targeted. I also highlight the specific experiences of Dalit and tribal women, who face triple layers of oppression due to caste, gender, and class. The article underscores the need for awareness, stronger regulations against cybercrimes, and the creation of safer online spaces for all.

Navigating Online Hate Voices from the margins and Periphery

Challenging Patriarchy: A Conversation with @WitchesofArunachal

A Podcast Interview

As part of a multimedia project, I had the opportunity to conduct a podcast interview with WitchesofArunachal. WitchesofArunachal is a feminist page run by an indigenous tribal woman from Arunachal Pradesh. Through her platform, she fearlessly questions and comments on issues faced by women in the region, particularly the patriarchal norms that hinder policy formations and deny women their fundamental rights to land and property. In our conversation, we explored her experiences of facing online trolls and her response to the challenges of the online space.

 

A Self-Reflective Journey

Photo Essay

In this captivating photo essay, I share my own personal experiences as a tribal woman facing online trolls. Through a series of powerful images, I respond to the trolls that have tried to censor my thoughts and expression. I explore themes such as merit and reservation, the perception of tribal communities, and the constant need to prove my nationality as a woman from the periphery. Drawing strength from my ancestors’ struggles against colonialism and oppression, I use this platform to challenge the trolls and assert my identity.

PhotoEssay

My multimedia project as part of the Without Fear 2023 cohort at The Bachchao Project has been an incredible journey of documenting, raising awareness, and empowering marginalized voices. Through articles, interviews, photo essays, and a podcast, I have sought to shed light on the experiences of women facing online trolling. I have highlighted the specific challenges faced by Dalit and tribal women, emphasized the need for safer online environments, and celebrated the resilience and activism of individuals like Shalin Maria Lawrence. By continuing to engage with these narratives and supporting those who face online hate, we can work towards a more inclusive and equitable digital world for all.

Safe Sister Fellow Reflection 2023 : Shruthi D

The number of internet users from Village to global is increasing every year. Similar to the violations of Human Rights in the real world, there are more violations of Human Rights, their privacy, safety, security and data protection in the growing virtual world. Online harassment, threats, cyber bullying, stalking and other online misconduct cases are rising day to day in the digital world. To address these issues and to protect human rights and their right to digital safety, privacy and security and to mitigate the online risks and threats The Bachchao Project and Safe Sisters team has created this inclusive fellowship opportunity globally.
I feel proud of getting this fellowship opportunity and to gain knowledge on Digital Hygiene, safety, security and methods to mitigate online harassment. The methods used for TOT training sessions were impact, in a shorter time covered more information and however as a fellow it’s our responsibility to work further, plan region wise, use the alternative and suitable words while sharing and spreading this important piece of knowledge for the community in rural setup.
This training has been more useful in the tech era as the challenges and issues in the virtual world keep popping up every day, as a fellow we also need to be updated as on date to mitigate the digital safety and security issues and contribute for the protection of Human Rights and safety in the virtual world too. The training helped as a first aid kit to keep safety awareness while using various applications and online sites. While performing training to rural human rights activist who have experienced online cheating , online scams asking for their personal details from unknown calls, miss use of mobile Sim cards and bank accounts links to different numbers money being accessed by other people . Unknown people asking for KYC updation for bank accounts etc., 10 participants had  30 to 56 applications being installed in their phones which they don’t use on regular basis, as part of digital hygiene the apps that aren’t used are been uninstalled by themselves, the device name, Bluetooth name are been changed and participants were encouraged not access or to use  Wifi coonections in Public places, Hotels, Cafes etc.,  Safe use of online sites and discussed the reporting steps in social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, participants installed two factor authentication app to protect their gmail and other accounts. Growing online harassment, stalking, threats, gender based violence were discussed and risk mitigation steps to identify and address the online harassment were discussed with the team to protect the physical and mental safety of an individual.
Team actively engaged in the process of  learning and implementation of  digital safety and  security ,as they been connected by discussing and asking doubts when they come across or face digital challenges.

Safe Sister Fellow Reflection 2023 : Punita Maheshwari

Empowering Digital Safety in Journalism: A Journey of Learning and taking the learnings forward

The field of journalism has seen dramatic shifts in recent years, with the digital landscape becoming an integral part of the profession. However, with this shift comes the pressing need for digital safety and security. As a journalist with experience in gender-integrated forums, I recognized the importance of creating safer digital environments for women and gender minorities in journalism. This journey led me to host a digital safety workshop as part of the Safe Sisters Fellowship program, and the experience was both enlightening and fulfilling.

Before embarking on this journey, I wanted the content to be directly relevant to digital safety for journalists, considering the needs and challenges they face daily. Interactive sessions and hands-on activities were crucial in my mind, as they make learning about digital safety practical and engaging. Creating a safe and inclusive environment was paramount, where participants could freely discuss their concerns and experiences without judgment. Additionally, I hoped the workshop would offer networking opportunities, enabling participants to connect with peers and mentors in the journalism community.

The training sessions exceeded my expectations in several ways. We covered a wide range of topics, including digital safety risks, practical skills for online protection, and recognising digital threats via phising. The training provided a comprehensive understanding of digital security, both for journalists and safeguarding their sources.

Among the topics covered during the training, two stood out as particularly valuable: password managers and phishing. Password managers are essential tools for keeping online accounts secure, and understanding how they work is crucial. Similarly, the session on phishing shed light on the importance of recognizing fraudulent attempts to steal sensitive information. These skills are not only useful for journalists but for anyone navigating the digital realm.

The success of the workshop was largely due to effective planning and execution, along with clear communication of expectations. One suggestion for future sessions is to increase visibility through social media and other channels to reach a wider audience.

It enhanced my knowledge and skills as a journalist. I learned the art of facilitating workshops, enabling me to host a platform for others to share and learn. Lastly, I extended this training to a network that holds personal and professional significance to me. Overall, it was a fulfilling journey that encompassed both personal and professional growth.

In today’s digital age, digital safety is a crucial aspect of journalism. The workshop reinforced the idea that when we create safe spaces for dialogue and knowledge sharing, we empower ourselves and our communities to navigate the digital landscape with confidence. It’s not just about learning but also about fulfilling a mission to make digital spaces safer for all.

As journalists, we have a responsibility not only to report the news but also to ensure our own safety and that of our peers. My experience in hosting a digital safety workshop has been a significant step in this direction, and I encourage everyone in the field to explore similar opportunities for growth, learning, and empowerment.

The Safe Sisters Fellowship program provided an invaluable platform for this journey. It allowed me to engage with like-minded individuals, share knowledge, and contribute to a safer digital world for journalists. While the program was highly rewarding, increasing visibility for fellows could be a future enhancement.

In conclusion, the journey of learning and fulfillment continues, and I plan to provide long-term support to participants and the community by maintaining open email threads and connecting them with relevant initiatives like The Bachchao Project. Together, we can build a safer and more secure digital world for all journalists and content creators.

Safe Sister Fellow Reflection 2023 : Kumam Davidson Singh

The Safe Sisters Fellowship training was initially met with apprehension, as it appeared to be a complex endeavour in the realm of digital security mechanisms and tools. However, as the training progressed, it became more tailored to the participants’ needs, even covering fundamental tools.

From the outset of the fellowship, discussions about the Safe Sisters Fellowship were initiated within the group, allowing them to become familiar with the program. When the training planning phase commenced following the Needs Assessment, the participants were well-prepared. It’s worth noting that each participant had slightly different interests and expectations, but their awareness of the planning process helped them prepare effectively for the training.

The participants in this fellowship belong to a team at Metei Society, an organization in Manipur led by women, queer, and trans individuals, with a focus on gender and sexual minorities. The success of the training became evident through the enthusiasm displayed by the participants and their expressed interest in future sessions.

One remarkable aspect of this success story is that the participants had limited access to high-end, fully functional devices. Instead, they owned modestly priced, old, and used phones. Despite this limitation, their commitment to learning and building their digital skills was unwavering.

What stands out the most in this entire experience is the participants’ proactive request for further training sessions to enhance their technical and digital skills. This eagerness to learn demonstrates their dedication to improving their work skills and the impact they can make through Metei Society. For this, full day workshops which delve deeper into each topic addressed and trained by experts are ideally required in an environment of inclusive and affirmative workshop space and facilitation.

The customized nature of the training played a significant role in its success. By tailoring the content to meet the specific needs and interests of the participants, the training became more engaging and relevant. This approach also ensured that participants could immediately apply what they learned to their work at Metei Society.

Furthermore, the collaborative nature of the training planning, where the group was involved from the beginning, fostered a sense of ownership and commitment among the participants. They were not passive recipients of training; they were active contributors to the process.

The fact that this success story originates from a women, queer, and trans-led organization is significant. It highlights the importance of inclusive and diverse participation in digital capacity-

building initiatives. It demonstrates that regardless of background or access to resources, individuals are eager to acquire the skills necessary to navigate the digital landscape safely and effectively.

The enthusiasm displayed by the participants serves as a testament to the impact of the Safe Sisters Fellowship. It not only empowered them with digital skills but also ignited a desire for continuous learning and growth. This success story serves as a model for how such initiatives can have a lasting impact on individuals and organizations striving for positive change in their communities.

In conclusion, the successful Safe Sisters Fellowship training exemplifies the transformative power of customized, collaborative, and inclusive digital capacity-building programs. It underscores the resilience and determination of individuals, even in the face of limited resources, to acquire the skills needed to advance their mission and create a positive impact in their community. This success story is a beacon of inspiration for future initiatives aiming to empower marginalized and underrepresented groups in the digital age.

Safe Sister Fellow Reflection 2023 : Bisma Javed

A Journey with Safe Sisters Fellowship 2023

As I embarked on the path of the Safe Sisters Fellowship 2023, little did I know that it would be a transformative journey, reshaping my perspective on online security and empowerment. The program’s commitment to equipping marginalized individuals with the tools to navigate the virtual world securely and confidently has left an indelible mark on my understanding of digital well-being.

 

The Training of Trainers Sessions

My journey commenced with the Training of Trainers sessions, where my initial expectations were quickly surpassed. The immersive exploration of topics like digital hygiene, antivirus protection, etc. left me empowered with practical strategies. The trainers’ expertise and their innovative approach to complex concepts made each session an enriching learning experience.

Empowering the Community

Armed with newfound insights, I took on the role of a facilitator for a group of 25 Muslim women. Conducted virtually, these sessions had a singular focus: arming participants with practical skills essential for navigating the digital realm. From setting strong passwords to recognizing phishing attempts and refining privacy settings, the emphasis was on tangible solutions. What resonated deeply was the participants’ fervor to understand privacy settings on social media platforms. Their enthusiasm underscored the importance of securing their digital identities and combating cyberbullying.

Employing a dynamic blend of lectures and interactive discussions, I aimed to cultivate engagement and foster the exchange of knowledge. This approach proved instrumental in sparking enlightening conversations and encouraging participants to voice their concerns and share experiences.

Celebrating Successes and Pioneering Pathways

The undeniable successes of the training sessions were apparent in the participants’ active involvement and their newfound sense of empowerment. Witnessing their growth, equipping them with the tools to navigate the digital landscape securely, and protect their personal information has been an immensely gratifying experience. Looking ahead, my vision extends beyond the training sessions. I’m driven to create a thriving online community platform—a space for ongoing discussions, workshops, and mutual support. This endeavor seeks to cultivate a robust network, nurturing the spirit of collaboration and empowerment that the fellowship embodies.

Exploring New Digital Frontiers

The Safe Sisters Fellowship 2023 showcases how the combination of knowledge and community can effectively tackle the intricate world of digital security. My personal experience underscores the power of customized training, inspiring conversations, and the significant chance for creating long-lasting change. As the online world continues to change, the fellowship’s influence persists, magnifying the voices and abilities of Muslim women as they establish safe and empowered havens in the virtual space.

Join the movement. Empower the community.

Together, we create safe spaces in the digital realm!

Safe Sisters Fellowship Program – India, 2023

The Bachchao Project conducted the second edition of the Safe Sisters training of trainers (TOT) India program between April and November 2023. This year, five individuals from across India were trained on how to understand and respond to the digital security challenges they face in their work and daily life. All the participants were women, or queer, and had significant work experience across their communities.

An open call for applications was sent out over our website and social media accounts.This focused within underrepresented communities, and ten individuals were shortlisted for a virtual interview. From this group, five individuals were shortlisted for the final program. Owing to technical network complications, one participant had to delay joining the cohort, while another one had to step down and were replaced by an earlier interviewed applicant. The remaining three participants were trained together, with a second set of sessions held later. All participants went through the same training sessions, and had the same objectives.

The intention of the training program was to equip trainers with digital security skills and knowledge that they can pass on to their communities, creating a self sustaining cycle. It focused on skill building and not just tool usage. This ensures that even when trainers are in different situations, they are able to adapt what they’ve learnt to the current environment. It blended theory and hands on experience, helping trainers carry out their first independent training. The program also focused on a culture of continuous learning, and building community. Owing to network issues, the cohort had to be split into two. This contributed to fewer group activities, unfortunately.

There was an initial training period where the fellows got familiarised with the topics and exercises. After this, we conducted additional trainings for fellows who wanted more information on certain topics. The fellows were encouraged to set up their trainings while keeping the fellowship trainers in the loop. We held follow up calls for all the fellows and discussed their plans for the communities they work with, and assisted them in the setting up of workshops, if they required help. All of the fellows successfully carried out needs assessments for their target groups, and were able to carry out trainings where required. The fellows did one training each, either offline or online, for the program. A total of 73 individuals were trained by the fellows. Fellows also submitted reports upon completion of their trainings.

Sonali:

“The training session revealed that the majority of transgender individuals lack awareness of digital security measures, making them more vulnerable to online threats […] The Safe Sisters Fellowship program is excellent, providing valuable training and raising awareness about digital security. The facilitation and support provided were commendable.”

Bisma:

“As I embarked on the path of the Safe Sisters Fellowship 2023, little did I know that it would be a transformative journey, reshaping my perspective on online security and empowerment. The program’s commitment to equipping marginalized individuals with the tools to navigate the virtual world securely and confidently has left an indelible mark on my understanding of digital well-being.”

Kumam:

“[…] the successful Safe Sisters Fellowship training exemplifies the transformative power of customized, collaborative, and inclusive digital capacity-building programs. It underscores the resilience and determination of individuals, even in the face of limited resources, to acquire the skills needed to advance their mission and create a positive impact in their community. This success story is a beacon of inspiration for future initiatives aiming to empower marginalized and underrepresented groups in the digital age.

Punita:

“The field of journalism has seen dramatic shifts in recent years, with the digital landscape becoming an integral part of the profession. However, with this shift comes the pressing need for digital safety and security. As a journalist with experience in gender-integrated forums, I recognized the importance of creating safer digital environments for women and gender minorities in journalism. This journey led me to host a digital safety workshop as part of the Safe Sisters Fellowship program, and the experience was both enlightening and fulfilling”.

Shruthi:

“I feel proud of getting this fellowship opportunity and to gain knowledge on Digital Hygiene, safety, security and methods to mitigate online harassment. The methods used for TOT training sessions were impact [sic], in a shorter time covered more information and however as a fellow it’s our responsibility to work further, plan region wise, use the alternative and suitable words while sharing and spreading this important piece of knowledge for the community in rural setup”

“Internet Shutdowns and its impact on Gig and Platform Workers of India”: A case study of gig and platform workers of Rajasthan and Telangana

A study by Basudev Barman For Telengana GIG and Platform Workers Union

Gig and platform workers are those who use online platforms or apps to find and perform work, such as delivery, ride-hailing, or freelancing. These workers depend on the internet for their livelihood, but they often face challenges due to the frequent and arbitrary internet shutdowns imposed by the government or the poor internet connectivity in some areas.

 

This research involved an attempt with a group of gig and platform workers to understand their experiences and perspectives on internet shutdowns and internet dead zones. As part of this exercise we also included a workshop where the workers were informed about their data rights and privacy, and how they can cope with the disruptions caused by internet shutdowns and internet dead zones. The report that documents  activities, outcomes, and implications of the exercise for the workers’ lives and livelihoods.

The report covers the following topics:

– The background and context of gig and platform work in India, and the existing research on its impact on workers’ rights, welfare, and empowerment.
– The rationale and objectives of the exercise and the workshop, and the methodology used to conduct them.
– The main findings from the exercise, such as the workers’ awareness of the reasons for internet shutdowns, the impact of internet shutdowns and internet dead zones on their work, income, family, health, and well-being, and the gendered dimensions of these effects.
– The main learnings from the workshop, such as the workers’ knowledge of their data rights and privacy, the strategies they use to deal with internet shutdowns and internet dead zones, and the suggestions they have for improving their situation.
– The conclusions and recommendations based on the research project, such as the need for more research and dialogue on gig and platform work in India, especially in relation to internet shutdowns and internet dead zones, the need for more awareness and advocacy on data rights and privacy for gig and platform workers, and the need for more support and protection for gig and platform workers from various stakeholders.

“Internet Shutdowns and its impact on Gig and Platform Workers of India”

This study was done with the support of The Bachchao Project and OPTIMA Internews

Building Safer Communities: Small Needs Assessment for LGBTQIA+ communities in India

India, with its diverse culture and rich heritage, is home to a vibrant LGBTQIA+ population. Through our experience in conducting trainings and research, The Bachchao Project realised that there was a lack of resources around digital security specific to this community in India. In an effort to gain insights into the needs and concerns of LGBTQIA+ individuals in India, and to gather information for further research, The Bachchao Project conducted a small-scale needs assessment study in 2022.
Methodology:
We contacted fifteen individuals from the queer and LGBTQIA+ community, who were frequent users of the internet and often social media. They either lived in urban areas, or in close proximity to urban areas. Final interviews were held with 10 participants, between January 2022 and March 2022.
The interviews were held over secure online channels, and prioritized the security of all participants (both in procedure and tool usage). For the final report, personas were created based on individual conversations. All identifiying information has been removed from these, and they were fictionalised in parts to ensure anonymity. The illustrations attached to the personas have also been randomized. All names in this project are fictionalised.
Key Findings and recommendations:
1. Need for community
A need that was echoed throughout the interviews undertaken was that of social understanding and community. Many participants spoke about how they first found gender and sexuality communities online, through forums and social media. This space can be very affirming and validating (especially for members who cannot be out to their immediate physical friends and family). However, sharing personal and private information freely online can have unintended consequences, even more so for children and teenagers.

Recommendation: Creating a toolkit for LGBTQIA+ and queer minors on how to interact safely with other members of the community.
This will include sections on how and when to post photos, what information is safe to share, and stories from other members of the
community on how they interacted online when younger.
2. Politicisation of the personal identity
LGBTQIA+ persons may find their personal identities becoming the subject of political debate even without actively participating in political discussion. This includes art and content about exploring one’s own gender and sexuality as well.

During interviews, we discovered that while only some participants were actively creating and posting content on social media, all were concerned about political scrutiny, and the subsequent potential consequences. This fear of surveillance resulted in a chilling effect on their online speech. Those who made content wanted information on how to continue doing so anonymously, others wanted to be able to respond to political actors online without facing targeted harassment for the same.
Recommendation: Organising a roundtable discussion about strategies to make and post content online in India. This could either be a single event, or a set of smaller events focusing on specific demographics of LGBTQIA+ and queer creators (example: female journalists, trans* activists)

A more comprehensive report on the study can be freely accessed hereBuilding Safer Communities

All text and images are available under the Creative Commons Attribution – NonCommercial -NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-SA-NC-ND 4.0) license unless stated otherwise.

TOMORROW, IT WILL BE US: Facing and Challenging Digital Hate Speech Against Muslim Women in India

By Afrah Asif

The outputs mentioned in this blog post are part of the Without Fear fellowship program 2022 – 2023. The Bachchao Project started this fellowship program to bring together a cohort of talented individuals with experience and interest in the gender and development space, who could bring fresh perspectives and potential solutions to threats faced by structurally silenced women and gender minorities in the country. This cohort could learn from itself and others, and look at innovative tech based interventions and ideas. The fellows were based around three central verticals; the social and development space, tech, and art. Afrah was part of the social and development space Vertical.

Violence seems random, and everywhere, there is no saying who would be targeted and who would be spared. Fatima, a young girl currently residing in Saudi Arabia, uses social media to stay in the loop of Indian politics and keenly follows and speaks up against atrocities committed against Muslims in India. While visiting India this year, she admitted that her ‘entire family was terrified’. When she did stay some time in India, she felt a sense of dissonance. Safety was surprising, not relieving.”

For most Muslim women interviewed for this report, social media was their window to the world. Its discursive potential had enticed them. For the first time in their lives, using social media, they learned to forge a political identity, be stakeholders in political conversations that have traditionally been dominated by men, advocate for what they believed in, and create an impact even if such impact meant changing a colleague’s ideas about something through extensive debating in the comments section. Targeted hate speech against these women then obviously harmed them much beyond their online presence.

The title of this report comes from what one of the interviewees said in response to the ‘liberal claim’ that while Muslim women are being targeted today, tomorrow, other marginalized women will be, and then all women will be. ‘Today is it us’, she had said, ‘tomorrow it will be us, and yesterday it was us’. In asserting so, she reemphasized Muslim women’s victimhood in light of the Hindutva project and drew a critical distinction missed by many- that hate and violence against Muslim women is not a way for misogyny to fulfill its agenda, but that misogyny against Muslim women is yet another way to fulfill the Hindutva agenda. Such a distinction is significant as we are confronted with political leaders and groups regularly insisting that the issues that Muslim women face are ‘women’s issues’ and not Muslim women’s issues.

Based on a series of interviews with activist-victims, this report seeks to complicate our understanding of the impact of targeted hate speech and push us to explore what meaningful solidarity and action centering Muslim women should look like. Allowing the interviewees a free-flowing space to mold their own narratives has helped this report move beyond cliches of oppression and marginalization to allow Muslim women the space to explore their hurt outside of narratives that they are socially forced to perform.

Through this report, the author has sought to contextualize the lives, work, and hurt of Muslim women who have been affected by digital hate speech. In order to convey the same, the report is divided into three distinct chapters: the first dealing with the hurt itself, the second dealing with the impact and aftermath of being subject to this hurt, and the final chapter dealing with the action and advocacy that is particularly being taken up by civil society initiatives at various levels in order to emphasize the bottom-up nature of digital hate speech.

tomorrow it will be us