One woman has decided to transform the negativity of online abuse into something positive.
Dr Susan Carland, an Australian university lecturer, donates $1 (47p) to a children's charity every time she receives a hateful message on Twitter – and has so far given hundreds of dollars.
Writing in The Sydney Morning Herald, Carland – who converted to Islam in her teens – explained that her trolls focus on her faith, and that by giving money to Unicef every time she receives a hate-filled tweet, she adheres to the idea of “driving away darkness with light,” which is mentioned in the Qur'an.
“While these trolls are desperate to tell me what I believe in order to wedge me into their own miserable world-view, I am not defined or confined by that. My response to them is not an act of angry defiance but a calm reaction that is deeply rooted in who I am and the faith that defines me […]
“I'd tried blocking, muting, engaging and ignoring, but none of them felt like I was embodying the Koranic injunction of driving off darkness with light. I felt I should be actively generating good in the world for every ugly verbal bullet sent my way.”
She described those behind the messages as “the brave freedom-fighters behind determinedly anonymous accounts telling me that, as a Muslim woman, I love oppression, murder, war, and sexism” and revealed that the spiteful missives ranged from “requests to leave Australia, hope for my death, insults about my appearance (with a special focus on my hijab), accusations that I am a stealth jihadist, and that I am planning to take over the nation, one halal meat pie at a time.”
Carland chose Unicef particularly as they work with children whose unfortunate circumstances were often “the direct outcome of hate – war, poverty due to greed, injustice, violence”.
While Carland has donated nearly $1,000 (approximately £480) of her own money, the charity will no doubt also benefit from the publicity generated, and she's been encouraging supportive followers to give money too.
Carland is active on Twitter, with more than 11,000 followers, and has been donating for the past few months.
She and husband Waleed Aly, fellow academic and presenter of Australia's current affairs show The Project, are often referred to in the Australian press as “Australia’s Muslim power couple”. She was named Australian Muslim of the Year in 2004 as well as being listed as one of the international Muslim Leaders of Tomorrow by the UN Alliance of Civilisations.
She now says that online abuse is easier to brush off thanks to the charitable move: “Now when a ghastly tweet comes my way, I barely bat an eyelid. It represents nothing more than a chalk-mark on my mental tally for the next instalment to UNICEF.
“And this has been an unexpected outcome; by refusing to let the hate of others mould me, I am more secure and relaxed in my own identity than ever.”
Image: Rex Features