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.
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
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