Snorkelling through Islamophobia


I’ve been thinking about blogs a fair bit recently, and about the torrent of comments that they receive.  I have also been thinking about what I would call the act of reading those comments: and I can describe it best as “snorkelling”.

Often, as a blogger, you are reminded by your peers that you should not “look below the line”, that you should “avoid the bottom half of the Internet”.  Gary Younge, writing in the Guardian, recently revealed that he had long ago stopped reading comments below his online posts, since he had grown weary of sifting through the bile to find any constructive criticism that might be nestling in the effluent.

I tend not go snorkelling all that much anymore, at least not when it comes to my articles: this is due to a pretty unpleasant insult against a family member, which served as the tipping point for me.  But I had a good read of the thoughts posted underneath Mehdi Hasan’s compelling and important piece on Islamophobia, and it’s some of the most productive snorkelling that I’ve done in months. 

There, I found – amid the bile – a notable number of people offering balanced critiques of the post, who were anxious that their concerns over religious dogma should not be interpreted as racial prejudice.  It was the type of response that tempted me to go and read the comments under my own work, in the hope that I might benefit.  I don’t have that fortitude as of now, but it definitely made me think.  Who knows – I may submerge myself again, before long.


  1. William Hancox says:

    As you’re not going to read this, all I’m going to say is- wibble.

    In all seriousness, it’s a downside of the free speech really. When you open the window you let in the sunshine and the rain.

    It’s quite difficult to control as well, you can have a “karma” system where users rate comments and if they drop to low they’re blocked from view unless you decide to open it separately. The issue with it being, especially with politics, people are too partisan and “passionate” (read- blind) to consider anything other then their already pre-constructed ideologies. But then, again I’m a cynic and if you disagree with me I’ll ignore you 😉

  2. Naomi Woddis says:

    Really interesting piece Musa. There’s something I want to add. I’ve been living with M.E/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome since last year and the one thing I’ve found is that the chronically ill are great bloggers. For those of us whose social interaction takes place mostly online (many of the chronically ill community are housebound) ‘below the line’ is often a place of connection, sharing and support. Snorkeling is a good way to describe it. Being ill feels like living underwater. It’s a totally new environment alien to those bound to the land. I know that’s not your point but I wouldn’t be a good poet if I didn’t try to extend the metaphor just a tad !

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