Australian Muslims find support from fellow countryman

by Vanessa Garcia Rodriguez, |

SYDNEY, Australia (Christian Examiner) -- Australian Muslims are finding support from their fellow countryman after the social media campaign #illridewithyou launched by local TV editor Tessa Kum went viral during Monday's 17-hour Sydney hostage crisis in Lindt Chocolat Café.

The siege, which ended Tuesday when special forces stormed the cafe, created anti-Muslim sentiment when the gunman's demands included an Islamic State flag. The shooter was later identified as self-proclaimed Muslim cleric Man Haron Monis.

Kum (@sirtessa) first offered support via Twitter, suggesting the #illridewithyou hashtag, after reading about a gesture by a woman named Rachael Jacobs who offered to walk with a Muslim woman who removed her hijab while riding public transportation for fear of a retaliating attack.

Rueters reported that at the time at least one man shouted anti-Islamic remarks near the cafe during the standoff and elsewhere women wearing the hijab were being spat on. The news source indicated that Sydney is home to around half of Australia's 500,000 Muslims.

The campaign quickly spread on social media when women, including those of Muslim faith, rallied to thank Kum for the gesture. By Tuesday, the hashtag was trending world-wide with more than 300,000 tweets and the celebrity support of Australian actor Russell Crowe.

Though motives are still unclear, according to the Religion News Network, Monis, 50, acted alone, had a lengthy criminal record and a history of mental instability. He and two hostages died in the fiery end to the crisis.