It was the latest Newsweek cover to stir up a furor: the words “MUSLIM RAGE” over a photo of bearded, shouting protesters jostling against one another.
The headline promoted a story by author Ayaan Hirsi Ali, herself a subject of intense debate over her take on Islam, extremism and free speech.
Hirsi Ali, a Somali-born woman who fled an arranged marriage and became a forceful critic of Islam in the Netherlands, is loved and loathed for her critical stand on Islam -- a stand critics complain overgeneralizes and plays into Islamophobia. The debate over her argument, pegged to the recent international uproar over a video mocking Muhammad, sent her name trending on Twitter.
But the two words teasing her controversial story also took on an online life of their own as the story gained speed on Monday. As Newsweek urged readers to discuss the article under the hashtag #MuslimRage, annoyed readers around the world took up the hashtag to satirize it, offering their own tongue-in-cheek examples of what made them simmer with #MuslimRage.
“Lost your kid Jihad at the airport. Can't yell for him,” quipped one Twitter user who identified herself as a Lebanese woman raised in California, hitching it to the hashtag.
“Shawarma with no garlic sauce? #MuslimRage,” a Palestinian-Syrian user joked.
“I'm having such a good hair day. No one even knows. #MuslimRage,” a woman pictured in a headscarf tweeted, immediately getting a slew of new followers.
“Insane #MuslimRage,” it jokingly labeled a photo of a tiny girl in a pink jacket, her cheek painted with a small Syrian flag.
Amid the banter, however, others picked up the hashtag to air real grievances, complaining that news of religious extremists dominates media coverage of Muslims in the West. The Newsweek photo of furious, shouting Muslims, they argued, was too often the only image of Muslims that readers get.
“Young Muslims in the UK are more likely to be unemployed than any other group and are more vulnerable to job losses,” Muslim political commentator Mohammed Ansar chimed in.
Though the hashtag caught fire, many commenters said Newsweek ended up burning itself. “Welcome to the new digital age @Newsweek,” UC Riverside associate professor Reza Aslan tweeted. “Your attempts to use #MuslimRage to discuss your foul cover has become funniest joke on Twitter.”
-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles
Photo: Screen shot of the Newsweek cover as seen on the its website.