#IllRideWithYou: What We in the Arab World Can Learn from the Inspiring Australian Initiative


The #illridewithyou hashtag went viral and spiraled to Internet fame following Monday’s #SydneySiege, where patrons and workers at a popular downtown Sydney cafe were taken hostage by an armed gunman.

During the siege, a flag depicting the Islamic shahada was plastered against the window. This, of course, was feared by many to spark anti-Muslim sentiment not only in Australia, but all over the world.

The #illridewithyou hashtag, however, was created to express religious acceptance, fight bigotry and refute any generalizations being aimed at Muslims in general.

It all started with an Australian woman named Rachel Jacobs, who described an incident she witnessed right after the siege was reported: She saw a woman next to her on the train slowly take off her hijab, presumably out of fear.

Rachel, then, went up to her and said that she should proudly put her head scarf back on and told her that she would happily walk with her despite the news. Upon hearing about this incident, Tessa Kum, a Syndey resident, started the #illridewithyou hastag on Twitter.




The hashtag specifically aims to show support to all those who wear any religious apparel and/or accessories or ornaments that signify their religious affiliation. It aims to show them that other Aussies will readily “ride with them” on public transport and that they do not have to fear being ridiculed and/or physically or emotionally attacked or harmed.




The question to pose here is: Can this hashtag be applied to our own Arab societies? Do we practice tolerance and acceptance in the Middle East towards others? Would we harmoniously “ride”, both metaphorically and literally, with those who express different religious, social, political or intellectual sentiments than us?

Personally, we can think of a few very recent examples and events that prove how our society thrives on not accepting the “Other”. We find it difficult to understand that the vastness of human existence cannot be limited to a few ideologies and social constructs. We find it unintelligible to accept the fact that maybe we are not all made to conform to a certain rule book of how to act, dress, think and even spiritualize.

Moreover, why do we rigorously practice stereotyping? We do it so often to the extent that it has become almost an automated, unconsciously done action? We feel the need to intricately arrange everyone we perceive into little, predetermined boxes, failing to appreciate the true beauty of human diversity in the process of doing so.

Finally, allow us to leave you with one last concluding thought: Only when we realize that celebrating, rather than alienating, non-conformists will we truly begin to appreciate humanity as a whole. Many before us have devoted their lives for their causes that all ultimately called for the same thing: acceptance. Let us not walk all over their achievements.

It’s high time we started celebrating our differences instead of quelling them by marginalizing those whose differences we do not accept. We truly give all Aussies who are actively supporting this initiative every ounce of respect we have – you represent genuine humanity and pure, selfless unity.



WE SAID THIS: Don’t miss 11 Times My Headscarf Defined Me in the West.