On Monday evening, Australia bore witness to one of the greatest national tragedies we’ve seen in decades with the Sydney hostage siege. In the wake of the devastating loss of two innocent lives, anti-Muslim sentiment has swept across the city in response to allegations that the crisis was politically motivated. However, instead of undertaking a series of reprisals against the Islamic community, Australians have stunned the world by doing the last thing expected: encouraging love, compassion, and kindness under the #IllRideWithYou hashtag banner.
The hashtag appeared last night when a commuter posted on Facebook about helping an Islamic woman who’d removed her hijab in fear on a Sydney train. In response, another user began the #IllRideWithYou hashtag to offer to ride with anyone who felt frightened catching public transport if the expected anti-Muslim backlash became reality. The hashtag then snowballed, receiving over 166,000 tweets and trending as the number one topic worldwide on Twitter as Australians took a stand against hatred and intolerance.
Social media often gets a bad wrap when it comes to its ability to mobilise people and effect mass demonstration, but the #IllRideWithYou campaign is testament to the good it can do too.
Our country has an enduring legacy of mateship and compassion, something that is easy to forget when seeing our fellow countrymen lining the streets of Kutar in Bintang singlets hurling racial expletives – an all-too-familiar picture, as painted by Dumb Drunk and Racist. But in times of adversity, we glean not the expected undercurrent of racism and bigotry, but of humanity and mateship.
The heinous acts committed on Monday night intended to divide a strong people by igniting fear and terror, and they failed. Not because the antagonist was inept or poorly prepared, but because the spirit of mateship is alive and well in modern Australia.
That’s why I can say, wholeheartedly, that I’m proud to be Australian.
Jack Cornwell is a Research Assistant at BCM