Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Facing the Islamaphobic trolls


Young birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig


As many people know, as well as blogging I am active on social media with a FaceBook Page and Twitter, to talk about what I care about.


I am open about being British Bangladeshi combined with my Dad's British heritage. I post a lot about what I feel is wrong about the world, whether this is about conservation,  environmental issues, hatred, sexism, LGBT rights, human rights or indigenous rights.



I rarely talk about my religion as this is personal to me but sometimes when I see Islamaphobic posts, I respond as a Muslim being attacked not just an activist. When people tag me and say vile and disgusting things to me about my religion or my community, they are attacking my very heart. I can't separate myself from what I was born into and what I'm part of.



Since the Brexit referendum started, I have been regularly attacked by Muslim hating trolls. Some might say that they have the freedom of speech to do that, but I don't agree. They don't have the right to come onto the social media of a child (age 12 when these particular trolls started) and say hateful things. Because I have been bullied on-line so much, my parents check my accounts during the day and block trolls before I can see them, which I think ends up being 1-2 times a week. However, I still see plenty of them. I don't respond, I just block them. Although it's hard to forget something you have seen and is stuck in your head. I've never mentioned it before as it's been something we've dealt with on our own as a family.

The hate against Muslims is everywhere.  I see it school, on TV, on social media, in all my local shops where papers like the Daily Mail stare up at me from the shelves with their racist headlines, from parts of my white family who think it's OK to buy the Daily Mail or Sun and leave them lying around when I visit or who want to argue about race, Islam, terrorists or refugees. Basically it's everywhere.



Since Donald Trump won the election in the USA, these racists trolls have the space to shout out louder. On Sunday 29th Jan 17, 4 particularly vicious trolls made me angry. I don't know how they found me or how they knew I was Muslim. I blocked them and then tweeted this:



"I am a 14 year old Muslim birder. I have had to block 4 islamaphobic trolls today. That is what life is like 4 UK Muslims, let alone in USA" @BirdgirlUK


The link is to me tweet is
https://twitter.com/birdgirluk/status/825791555927736321

After tweeting, I went out birding and then came home and went to bed early. I was expecting a few close friends to like it but was shocked when I saw in the early hours that  I'd had a huge number of responses. It was overwhelming. In the end my tweet had 766 likes, 412 retweets and lots of supportive comments (and a few more trolls of course). Almost all were people I had never heard of, many from the USA. Some were birders I knew, birders I didn't know, teachers, villagers; people all around me showing me that they were "with me". The quote that sticks in my mind from the comments is Michelle Obama's "as they go low, you go high".

How many normal birders read that tweet and think to themselves, you know what, I'm going to reply to that child's tweet and tell her why it's OK to hate Muslims. Who thinks you know what, I'm going to tweet her and tell her what I think about Muslims or why Brexit wasn't racist or why Trump is doing the same think as Obama etc. What kind of people are they? What has any of that and the anti Muslim comments that go with them got to do with my tweet? All the positiveness gave me the courage to speak to the Bristol Evening Post when their reporter Michael Yong contacted me.

This is the article on the front page of today's Bristol Evening Post, http://bit.ly/2lzUKG2. If you are a UK birder, you may notice a few errors, but they're not really important to the current issue, so please don't focus on them.







Since talking about it, I do feel better but I think it will be a long while until I am able to read the Evening Post article or deal with some of the comments. It is just too painful....

Postscript:
There has been a very supportive article in The Sun, a right wing  racist tabloid newspaper, about my Islamaphophic trolls. What is really ironic is that they have caused much of the hatred in the UK against Muslims with their own Islamaphobic articles. I am hoping that a few of their readers will see this article and maybe think about the impact hatred has on people or a child like me. We haven't read the article as my Dad is from Liverpool, so we boycott The Sun anyway because of the nasty lies they told about those at Hillsborough just a few days after the disaster in 1989. This is a recent article in the Guardian about the Sun and Liverpool Football Club http://bit.ly/2kcJQkQ. This is the link to The Sun, but I don't want to encourage anyone to look at the article unless you are really interested in The Sun and it's usual racism http://bit.ly/2laOgwA. Maybe they will use the  article to able to say that they're not racist?

Another local article is the following one in SomersetLive http://bit.ly/2lzYKqo

This is another article in the Local Newspaper The Somerset Guardian 






I think what has been hardest to deal with is the lack of support from those around me in school and outside in the white rural area where I live. I have always been aware of the few Minority Ethnic people where I live, but it is only now that I realised how little they understood or the impact of being the only muslim in my school of 1200 pupils. 



About the Author

Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig in Antarctica
Photograph copyright Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig


Mya-Rose Craig is a 14 year old young British Bangladeshi birder, naturalist, conservationist, environmentalist, activist, writer and speaker. She is based near Bristol and writes the successful Birdgirl Blog, with posts about birding and conservation from around the world. She loved seeing Mountain Gorillas in East Africa and Penguins in Antarctica over Christmas 2015, her 7th continent.

Mya-Rose was a Bristol European Green Capital Ambassador along with Kevin McCloud, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Tony Juniper, Simon King, Miranda Krestovnikoff and Shaun the Sheep! See the full list of Bristol Ambassadors. She has also been listed with the singer songwriter George Ezra and actress Maisie Williams from Game of Thrones as one of Bristol's most influential young people
She organised a conference, Race Equality in Nature, in June 2016 aiming to increase the ethnic diversity in nature. She has also set up Black2Nature with the aim of working with organisations to increase the access to nature of BAME people. Please connect with her on LinkedIn (Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig) so that she can invite you to join the Race Equality in Nature LinkedIn Group and be part of the change. Please like her Birdgirl Facebook Page and follow her on Birdgirl Twitter







46 comments:

  1. Sorry you've been subjected to such vile abuse. No words can erase the pain, but know you are supported by decent ordinary people everywhere. This behaviour should not have be tolerated.

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    1. Thank you. I have just felt able to read the comments here and really appreciate your best wishes.

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  2. Hi Mya-Rose
    For each one of these haters/trolls, there are so many more people who admire and support you.
    Never forget that!
    Never let these people have a negative impact on your life, Never let them stop you from doing the things you love doing.

    Sending love and support to you and your family.

    Jim

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    1. Hi Jim, it has felt really hard to remember your advice and keep up the blogging. I think I can start writing again and go back onto twitter without feeling constantly worried about what I find there. Thank you.

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  3. Mya-Rose, thank you for sharing your experiences of the awful abuse you have been subjected to online. I think it is really important that the good people in the world (and there are still plenty of us) hear stories like yours so we can understand the sorts of behaviour that some people seem to think is acceptable - if we don't know what is happening we can't take action to help stop it. I am so sorry that you have had to deal with this, but well done for doing so in such a constructive way - it must have taken considerable emotional fortitude to write this blog. I have always thought that people who feel the need to criticise or discriminate against others on the basis of religion, race, gender, age, etc only do so because they are incapable of forming a rational explanation for disagreeing with you. This sort of behaviour only demonstrates their own weakness; in their attempts to belittle you they only belittle themselves. Keep doing what you are doing, the world needs more people like you.

    Lucy

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    1. Hi Lucy, it has really meant a lot to hear from people who know me and value me enough to still want to support me. I have wanted to hide away all this time, but now feel like maybe I can get my strength back. Thank you again. M xx

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  4. Stay strong and don't let the ignorant, bigoted, and Islamophobic win. I can't imagine dealing the level of vitriol you do as a 40-year-old, much less as a 14-year-old.

    You have a ton of support and I have to think that the vast majority of the birding world has your back.

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    1. Hi Corey, thank you very much. Sometimes I have thought back to what people have tweeted to me and wondered whether I am exaggerating how nasty they are. Am I being over-sensitive? It helps to know that by any decent normal person's standards they are vile and unacceptable. Thank you for helping me understand that.

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  5. Mya-Rose, you are a brilliant young woman. Its unfortunate that you have had to listen to such hatred and negativity at this time in your life. There are far more positive and good people in this world than there are bad. The bad ones do tend to be louder. Put them behind you, and keep your face to the sun. Take strength from all the good people and the great beauty of this world.

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    1. Hi Patricia, your words really helped me. I have bee repeating "keep your face to the sun" to myself and it feels beautiful particularly against the ugliness of what is now behind me.

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  6. I owe you a hearty "Thank you!", Mya-Rose. I get really depressed about the future of the world, and not having children myself I often lose faith in the ability of the next generations to save the Earth and save humanity. Then I see you doing your thing - fighting for birds with one hand and fighting off bigots with the other, all the while keeping your head up. I see that and I know that no matter how ugly things get, we're going to be OK. Just remember to take a break when you need to and let others carry the fight. Get lost in the birds for a while and we'll hold the fort until you're ready. That's how we're all going to get through this. Thank you, Birdgirl!

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    1. Hi Kirby, thank you for your message which really moved me and made me feel that I can carry on. The last weeks have been hard for me. I have thought about stopping everything. I have been taking a break from the world of social media, in the knowledge that when I start to re-emerge my friends, people like you, will still be there. Thank you again for your amazing words.

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  7. Hi Mya-Rose, do not ever let trolls and racists impact you nor your life at all. Most people in this planet are nice & kind, normal humans, and trolls and mean people are just a loud minority. Remember that and stay strong, enjoy your life and keep on doing what you love!

    Olli

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    1. Hi Olli, thank you for our very supportive message. It's hard to forget vile words, but I have been trying to think of all the kind support. I'm almost back to myself, with the support of people like you. Thanks again.

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  8. I have been enormously encouraged by your dedication to wildlife and to see young people continuing our struggles to preserve and conserve our natural heritage. Mya-Rose you are a shinning example to many and a threat to those subhumans who begrudge intelligence and kind heartedness of the tolerant and compassionate. Never believe you stand alone, there are many of to support you in any hour of need. Reach out we are there. Warmest best wishes to you and your family, Peter

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    1. Hi Peter, thank you so much. At times over the last few weeks I have convinced myself that I am alone, isolated in my rural base. Then I remember things that have been said to me, like you "Never believe you stand alone" and "Reach out we are there". So that's what I'm doing tonight, reaching out, so I can get back on my feet. Thank you again.

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  9. The grace and strength you show in the face of this ignorance is an inspiration to us all. I love knowing that you're out there making this a better world for all creatures great and small. Thank you. Be well.

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    1. Thank you. It makes me feel that everything that's happened is manageable when you say things like "I love knowing that you're out there making this a better world"

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    1. Thank you, your vibes were definitely received here!

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  11. Hi Mya-Rose, like you I started birding at an early age. High school was incredibly awkward for me, and it wasn't until college when I fully embraced who I am and what I do. Today, many would consider me an accomplished field ornithologist in Minnesota, having achieved my master's degree in wildlife ecology and contributing to the science and understanding of our birds for almost two decades. Next year I will be president of the Minnesota Ornithologists' Union and have big plans for furthering the science and conservation of our birds.

    All of these accomplishments will never mean as much as what you have already done and no doubt will continue to do in your young birding career, and that is to show that birding and the natural world are for everyone regardless of gender, religion, or ethnicity. I am honored to be associated with you simply through our shared passion for birds, and expect no less than the brightest future ahead of you.

    Bob

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    1. Bob, I really appreciate you taking the time to post a comment. You have achieved so much in your birding and conservation life, it was an honour to read your message.

      My inclination has been to retreat into the nearest hole (the black hole of my bedroom!), but I don't want to give up on all those people who might not otherwise ever see the brightness of nature in their lives. So here I am, tentatively back. So thank you again for believing in me.

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  12. Hey Mya-Rose,

    Remember that the haters of the world are still a tiny minority, they are just especially loud now. Anyone who thinks it worthwhile to criticize a 14 year-old's religion truly has zero credibility in anything they do. You are a superstar and an inspiration. Stick to Michelle Obama's words and keep shining.

    Brendan
    NY

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    1. Hi Brendan, thank you for your message. I think I can start to try and shine again and may well be knocking on your door in NYC in a few years, for a morning of birding in Central Park. I loved it there!

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  13. Stay Strong Mya. There is no place for this in birding or any other aspect of life. I'm rooting for you from the other side of the Atlantic. Dom (a Brit in America).

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    1. Thanks Dom. When I first saw messages, they didn't mean much to me as I was impacted. Though now that I am getting back to myself, they mean so much. So thank you for rooting for me.

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  14. I am so sorry you have had to put up with this sickest. You are am exceptional young woman. You hang in there.

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    1. Hi, thank you for your support and I think I have just about managed to hang on in there and here I am back.

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  15. Love to you! I admire your courage to stand for your beliefs, who you are and your love of birds. Know that millions of us in the US stand with you, shoulder to shoulder.

    Eileen Loerch
    Boise, Idaho, USA

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    1. Hi Eileen, thank you for your amazing words of support. There are so many of us from around the world who are with you all too in the US. I don't think I've ever spoken to anyone from Idaho before, so it was great to hear from you, and you have definitely burst some of my pre-conceptions.

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  16. Mya-Rose, you have all my respect and admiration !

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    1. Hi Suzanne, thank you so much, your message really made a difference.

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  17. You go, girl! (Please come and join us in the Facebook group World Girl Birders!)

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    1. Hi Lisa, thank you so much. At some point I will feel brave enough to have a FB account for myself and join the World Girl Birders FB Group. I don't think that will be for a while, as I still get inappropriate comments and messages on my page, which my parents deal with for me. I bet non of the teenage boys who are birder get sexual remarks, but it makes me want to fight sexism even more. I will not be objectified!

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  18. I don't watch birds much...except ravens. I always watch them. but I just want to give a shout of support, when I read un-American comments towards real Americans it pisses me off. Keep watching the skies!

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    1. HI Brianne, thank you for your support and kind comment. It has really helped me deal with things, knowing that there are people I don't know who have made the effort to leave a comment for a stranger.

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  19. You are a brave and admirable person. Enjoy those birds!

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  20. Just cowards. They are all around us. Good for you. Just stand up and be proud. No ones skin color, ethnicity, religion or whatever should be held against them for anything. One people one planet.

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    1. Hi Kerry, "one people one planet", exactly! Thank you.

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  21. The best thing about birds is they are birds. It is easy to forget about ugly politics when we are surrounded by birds. We are lucky to have them. I know, you know. I wish for the whole world to get to know birds. It would be a much better world if more earthlings were aware. Thanks for helping us get there.

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    1. Thank you Liz. I have been out with the birds the last few weeks, and know I am lucky to have nature to fall back on. Thats why I know that everyone should have that.

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  22. If there were more people like you in the world then it would be a better place. These trolls only write the filth they do as they are able to hide behind their online names none of them would have the courage to do it without hiding. Ignore them they are not worth your time and are beneath you. Stay strong and keep birding.

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    1. Hi Chris, thank you so much for your support and advice. I have been trying to stay strong and keep birding, it is where I can lose myself. Thanks again.

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  23. You have a lot of friends standing behind you. It is disgusting how vile some people can be. We are not as different as they think. Keep your head held high and keep being you.

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    1. Hi Melissa, thank you so much for your support. I have been trying to hold my head up high, but it's hard. It's hard to ignore something that's been said to you, even if it's by low life losers. People keep saying "you're not affected by it are you?", well yes I am. I am affected by these scum. So would most people be.

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Thank you for posting a comment. Please can you make sure that it is positive and is about me or my blog and not about promoting you or your business. Thanks. Mya-Rose Craig