We’ve all been there: While browsing online, you come across a great video, post, or article. You’re elated about how it shows Muslims in a good light, speaks out about a certain social or political issue, or is just a positive, light-hearted start to your day.
Then the trolls arrive.
Almost immediately, people lash out and, understandably, become defensive. The only problem here is that this is what trolls feed off of. They live for attention, even if it’s negative. And while they’re basking in this attention, everyone else is getting increasingly upset. They write out lengthy responses, finally feeling like they’ve let out some steam and made the troll see sense, only to have the troll return with a vengeance. Sometimes, all it takes is a one-word or one-sentence response, goading them on, which sets them off again.
All the while, the troll is like…
So how do you actually deal with something like this, specifically as a Muslim?
DON’T Feed the Trolls
I know, this is easier said than done. But the people who are able to control themselves in such an irritating, even infuriating, situation are from Allah’s (swt) favorites. “The special slaves of Ar-Rahman (The Extremely Compassionate) are those who walk around humbly on the earth, and when aggressive, ignorant people talk to them, they respond peacefully” (25: 63). I know troll comments can be nasty and offensive— Islamophobic, xenophobic, racist, sexist, or just plain annoying. But don’t give them the time of day. You’re above that.
DO Take Action
Even though we’re not supposed to stoop down to their level, it doesn’t mean we should sit around helplessly like..
The Prophet (saws) said, “Whosoever of you sees an evil, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then [let him change it] with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart (by hating it and feeling that it is wrong) — and that is the weakest of faith.” [Muslim]. It’s better to report that person, rather than responding to them. This would be an example of fixing something bad with the hand rather than the tongue. As with most things, there is power in numbers when it comes to this. So if you need to, leave a comment asking others to report the troll as well. Even if they come back with another account, at least they’ll know that people won’t tolerate them for long.
DON’T Fuel the Fire
By responding harshly, you may confirm the troll’s erroneous opinion about Muslims, or whichever other group of people you are trying to defend. That means they’ll just be at it again the next time they get a chance, and believe that their speech is justified. You may not have the power to “fix” the way they think or act, but you can at least not fuel the fire. “And the good deed and the bad are not equal. Repel [evil] by that which is better…” (41:34). Remember that trolls are just provoking people to get a reaction. Don’t get carried away in the heat of the moment and do damage, when you had the chance to potentially do good.
DO Raise Awareness
“Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good instruction, and argue with them in a way that is best…” (16:125). This concept can be applied to whichever issue the troll is speaking negatively about. Do what you can to peacefully and intelligently spread awareness of the truth, whether it is related to Islam and Muslims or not. This may be through your words or your actions. Just do it somewhere other than where the troll is offering his/her unwelcome comments.
And most importantly, remember… If you’re not a troll yourself, you’re already winning at life compared to all of them.