Sarah Adams Professor Dawn Lilley Source Evaluation #4 Current Research Question:How does the unique mode of Muslim-American comedy combat harmful stereotypes about Islam and Muslims in the post 9/11 era? Further, how does it contribute to the process of young Muslim-Americans finding their identity in the midst of these stereotypes? Citation: Sills, Liz. "Hashtag Comedy: From Muslim Rage to #Muslimrage."ReOrient, vol. 2, no. 2, 2017, p. 160., https://doi.org/10.13169/reorient.2.2.0160. Author: The author of this paper is Liz Sills, who completed her PhD in communication studies in Louisiana State University, where she focused on rhetoric and performance studies. She is currently an assistant professor in communication studies at Northern State University. Summary: This paper discusses the phenomenon of "#MuslimRage", a hashtag that emerged as a response to a tweet promoting discussion around theNewsweekarticle "Muslim Rage and the Last Gasp of Islamic Hate" and its corresponding cover entitled "MUSLIM RAGE". Rather than promoting the stereotype of Muslim anger and humorlessness, however, Muslims took over the hashtag to produce comedy about everyday situations in their lives that caused them "MuslimRage", like having a good hair day but nobody being able to see it because they wear hijab. Through this, Muslims rebelled against the stereotype that the article attempted to reinforce about them, adding to a long history of comedy easing fears and being used against oppressive forces. This discourse was helped by the nature of Twitter itself, which allows a unique for of interaction and unity for users under a hashtag and for those who were genuinely posting about their thoughts on "MuslimRage" to inevitably see these humorous tweets (and vice versa). This hashtag, according to Stills, served as a form of mobilizing those against Islamophobic stereotypes towards "counter-propaganda", allowing users to "question and alter" them. They propose that comedy might serve a useful role in combating the Trump era of Islamophobia. Key Terms and Concepts: #MuslimRage: A hashtag that was first created by Newsweek to respond to an article and cover furthering the stereotype of Muslim anger and humorlessness which was then used by Muslims in a humorous manner to dispel this stereotype with examples like "Having a great hair day - Hijabi" or "Lost your kid Jihad at the airport. Can't yell for him. #MuslimRage". Hashtag: A method of finding Tweets on a specific topic spanning current events to jokes, which serves a significant purpose of uniting those under a certain hashtag and spurring discourse.
Enthymeme/Enthymematic reasoning: A syllogism based on an already accepted premise, which may or may not be truthful. These can be demonstrative towards audience agreement or refutative and serve an important purpose in humor when causing an audience to accept new conclusions. Individual autonomy: In the context of this movement, this concept emphasizes the ability of individuals using Twitter to combat Islamophobic stereotypes, which is important in causing societal change and facilitating the creation of a counterculture/counter-trope- both of which can have very real consequences (ex: Arab Spring). Othering: A way in which Muslims and Islam are framed to separate and alienate them from normal society (ex: Muslims are angry) which this movement fought against. Quotation Analysis: "Maintaining the theme of hijab issues, "Hend" tweeted, "I'm having such a good hair day. No one even knows. #MuslimRage" (3). Obviously this is funny because hijabi women have their hair covered, but the tweet also invites readers to imagine a happier, more introspective approach to Islam than that indicated by the Ali article. The contrast in affect between these tweets and the original article is stark, but they are intriguing for more than just their reanimation of a scary idea" (163). This quote uses a tweet about wearing the hijab as a case study towards understanding the incongruous, comedic effect of #MuslimRage tweets. While they serve as simple humor, they also contribute towards normalizing Muslim lives and traditions like the hijab and dispelling the notion of Muslim rage through causing those who enjoy the joke to gain a more humorous understanding of Islam. The contrast between this tweet and theNewsweekarticle and cover allow for a reckoning and questioning of stereotypes on Muslims in the media that are obviously untrue, at least for this woman in particular. "Icons are, in this fashion, similar to Lakoff's (2004) conception of framing as bringing together a cluster of ideas that springs involuntarily to mind when a particular word or image is evoked - hence, one cannot negate something without evoking it, or one cannot praise #RomneyRyan2012 without brushing up against other tweets that criticize it. But the hashtag icon also compresses people - a crucial element to understanding the nature of hashtag humor. The #MuslimRage hashtag is employed by diverse individuals" (166). The hashtag serves a uniquely powerful purpose in movements like #MuslimRage. Rather than a one-dimensional, back and forth discussion as it would be if one were debating in real life or reading a news article, this method of sorting tweets "frames" the issue in the form of a decentralized, loud discourse. It is also significant in that the hashtag forces users to encounter those who use the hashtag in ways that go against their opinions, breaking the bubble that commonly forms in spheres of political discourse as the author demonstrates with the #RomneyRyan2012 hashtag. "Emphasizing human autonomy to critique and change is, for Furedi, an essential part of promoting the sense of humanism that can effectively combat the vulnerability paradigm into
which the broader stereotyping behind Ali's Newsweek article feeds. Once an individual has taken the step to create a funny #MuslimRage tweet, they have expressed their autonomy to critique the trope of Muslim-as Other and disrupted the stasis that the trope had achieved in- between 2001 and 2012." (169). The individual nature of protest in the #MuslimRage protest is particularly important because it allows readers to understand the effects and dishonesty of stereotypes like Muslim anger on a human-to-human level. This is significant in a protest against Islamophobic stereotypes as it emphasizes the autonomy that Muslims, especially Muslim women, are stereotyped as lacking. Rather than existing on the fringes of society as "Others", Muslims regain authority in telling their own narratives on the individual level, acting as one in rebelling against the portrayal of Muslims as strange and humorless and simultaneously displaying the diversity present in the Muslim community. Synthesis: In writing about how Muslim comedy helps to dispel stereotypes, Amarasingam notes that "From this standpoint, their humorous responses often disarm a potentially tense situation and create the space for planting "new sedimentations" for mutual understanding" (469). Aside from simply being funny, Muslim comedy in the form of comedic responses to questions that promote Islamophobic stereotypes serve as a unique form of dispelling them. From the "tense situation" of misunderstanding, they cultivate "new sedimentations for mutual understanding" through a form of humor that both the misunderstanding and misunderstood feel in on. The role of these comedic responses can be demonstrated by the response to the "MUSLIM RAGE" Newsweekcover, which promoted stereotypes about Muslim anger but ultimately became a platform for Muslim humor that normalized Islam and rebelled against ideas of Muslim humorlessness for Twitter users. In her analysis of this situation, Sills states that "The tweets resonated because the premises on which they were based already resonated. The use of the hashtag brought about a kind of critical consciousness unique to that mechanism" (172). These tweets were so powerful because they served as a form of incongruous humor that made use of "old sedimentations", or stereotypes about Muslim rage and otherness, and then flipped the switch by "planting new sedimentations for mutual understanding" for those who saw these tweets and, as a result, saw Muslims in a new light. Overall Evaluation of Source: I found this source useful as a case study of the powerful effects of Muslim humor, and as an example of a unique space that fosters stereotype destruction because of the tools and expectations of the platform, similar to the atmosphere of comedy clubs. I found the idea of the "enthymeme" fascinating and am wondering if I can apply it to my analysis of other sources and forms of Muslim comedy as well. I also found the discussion well grounded in the political context of that time (Obama, Trump in 2016) which can be useful for my introduction and contextualizing my argument. I wish that the source had also done an overview of other Twitter Muslim humor movements in the past to better contextualize #MuslimRage. It would also have been interesting to read about differences in amplification of voices on Twitter (ex: Muslim celebrities' or
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