Stand up to online prejudice

Photo: 

Social media and the Internet give a megaphone to a lot of things that shouldn’t be said, and Islamaphobic sentiments are one of them. 

Following recent stabbings at a high school in Pickering, Ontario, a popular right-wing U.S. blog posted an article entitled “Canadian Muslim Girl Goes on a Stabbing Spree”. In the article, Zahra Vaid, a student from the University of Toronto, was misidentified as the stabber. Vaid had only been interviewed for the Globe and Mail’s coverage of the incident, but the Globe article didn’t state her religion. 

Mistakes happen, but a news source that presents themselves as a credible, and has 38,000 Twitter followers, has a duty to be truthful. This blogger blatantly failed to do so. 

Instead, the blog falsely associated a tragic crime with a bystander’s religious identity.This assumption of guilt based on a person’s religion is the definition of prejudice. 

There have always been publications that proliferated hateful views. But the Internet gives far greater reach to views that we shouldn’t give a second thought. 

And while open discourse is integral to free speech, that doesn’t mean we should abandon our standards for truthfulness and decency. Real harm can still be done by spreading false information over the Internet, as was most recently proven by Vaid’s ordeal.

Vaid’s response, however, has been a heartening example of how open discourse can work against prejudice. 

Speaking up for herself in several interviews with CBC and The Varsity, U of T’s student newspaper, Vaid condemned the news blog. She also took up a stance for mental health after learning that the real suspect of the stabbing, a 14-year-old girl, struggled with mental illness. 

As much hate or intolerance as there is on the Internet, Vaid’s courage in speaking up for herself and others is truly admirable. 

Journal Editorial Board 

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.