Sydney siege: Internet world hails trending Twitter hashtag #illridewithyou, slams selfies at scene

Journalists and onlookers gather in Martin Place in the central business district of Sydney on Dec 15, 2014. A hostage situation at a cafe in downtown Sydney, Australia, has rocked the country, but its people have found a way to stand as one. --
Journalists and onlookers gather in Martin Place in the central business district of Sydney on Dec 15, 2014. A hostage situation at a cafe in downtown Sydney, Australia, has rocked the country, but its people have found a way to stand as one. -- PHOTO: AFP

A hostage situation at a cafe in downtown Sydney, Australia, has rocked the country, but its people have found a way to stand as one.

The hashtag "illridewithyou" is making its rounds, with more than 50,000 tweets mentioning it.

The hashtag is an offer from Australians to ride on public transport with any Muslim.

The string of tweets are believed to have been started by an Australian - Rachael Jacobs - who offered to walk with a Muslim woman who had apparently taken off her headscarf, or hijab, to avoid being identified as a Muslim.

This solidarity against anti-Muslim sentiment is in the wake of fears that the hostage incident is linked to Islamic militant action.

Some of the hostages held by a gunman at the Lindt Cafe in downtown Sydney were seen holding a black flag with white Arabic writing, according to Australian reports.

Wire agency AFP reported that the wordings on the flag appeared to be the shahada, or profession of faith in Islam, and could be translated as: "There is no god but Allah; Mohammed is the Messenger of Allah."

An unknown number of people are being held, after five of them earlier fled.

See here, how the Internet world is rejoicing over the Australian spirit.

 At the same time, there are those who decided to take selfies at the location of the incident.

 They are not getting any love from the Internet community.

Mr Michael Netzley, a social media expert from the Singapore Management University, said that taking a selfie in the context of someone's suffering is "poor form".

"This is using the misfortune of others to promote yourself," he explained.

He added that what cuts out the ambiguity in whether those selfies are right are wrong is the clear establishment of the context.

jalmsab@sph.com.sg