A 24-year-old Muslim entrepreneur reportedly became the target of online death threats and harassment following a Twitter post she made and an article which revealed her as a homeland security advisor.
Laila Alawa had tweeted in 2014 that 9/11 changed the world "for good," the Religion News Service reports. The phrase "for good" can mean "for the better," but it can also mean "permanently." Alawa maintained that the tweet was meant to convey the second meaning, as in "9/11 changed the world forever." According to CNN, the same tweet read, "I just hope we keep having open conversations about our differences."
But that very tweet became the subject of an article on The Daily Caller, which was titled "Syrian immigrant who said 9/11 'changed the world for good' is a homeland security advisor."
Alawa is Syrian but was born in Denmark. She lived in Japan for several years and immigrated to the United States when she was a child.
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The Daily Caller story was released after the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a report titled "Countering Violent Extremism"; Alawa was part of the subcommittee that helped brainstorm ideas for the report.
Beginning on June 14, a deluge of hateful, angry and passionate tweets was directed at Alawa:
"I hope you die slowly in a pool of pigs blood."
"Can I use that towel on your head to wipe my a**"
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"You’re not American, you’re a terrorist sympathizer immigrant that nobody in America wants and for good reason."
"This c**t needs to be packed in a freight container, deported+ dumped mid-ocean like the garbage she is."
The author of the Daily Caller article said he stands by the story but added that he condemns any harassment or threats to the woman's life.
Alawa said the DHS has done very little to defend her against these attacks.
"I understand that this is a really difficult political climate," she told CNN.
"People are afraid ... but it is entirely defamatory," she continued, adding that the article and the harassment that followed have tarnished her reputation and have made it more difficult for her to raise money for her company.
Many young female Muslims have turned to the Internet to establish a presence for themselves over the past decade or so, according to Religion News.
"A lot of times Muslim women have no choice but to go to the online space," said Middle East policy analyst Wardah Khalid.
"If you look at some of the traditional institutions that are purporting to speak for Muslims, the vast majority of their boards are male. That’s why Muslim women have taken such a large online presence. They created that space for themselves."