Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday posted a message of support to Muslims in the Facebook community and around the world.
Zuckerberg’s post stands in stark contrast to presidential candidate Donald Trump’s verbal attacks on all Muslims, including his call earlier this week to ban them from entering the United States. Supporters cheered when Trump suggested the ban at a rally.
“As a Jew, my parents taught me that we must stand up against attacks on all communities,” wrote Zuckerberg.
“Even if an attack isn’t against you today, in time attacks on freedom for anyone will hurt everyone,” he added.
“If you’re a Muslim in this community, as the leader of Facebook I want you to know that you are always welcome here and that we will fight to protect your rights and create a peaceful and safe environment for you,” he added.
Within less than 24 hours, the post accumulated upwards of 1.3 million likes, 195,000 shares, and 62,000 comments.
“I’m not … a member of any religion but I stand … against bigotry and hatred,” responded William Petto.
“I have worked with many Muslims and … they have always treated me, a Christian, with respect. America is supposed to be a place where people of all faiths can live, prosper and not fear being attacked or mistreated,” wrote David Singleton.
“I married into the Muslim community and everyone I know there are amazing people,” wrote high-tech journalist Robert Scoble.
The Impact of the Zuckerberg’s Stand
Zuckerberg’s statement “will be a signal to other leaders that Trump is no longer an entertaining buffoon, but a serious danger to religious liberty and American values that must be confronted,” said Drew Halfmann, an associate professor of sociology at the University of California at Davis.
It’s important that Zuckerberg referenced his Jewish background, because “Trump’s animus towards Islam resembles that of Americans in earlier times who vilified and discriminated against a variety of religious groups — Jews, Catholics, and evangelical Christians,” Halfmann told TechNewsWorld.
The decision to take a public stand could have repercussions for Facebook and its chief.
“CEOs are the face of their firm … and … what they say will impact their employees and their families, investor perceptions, and customer perceptions,” said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.
“For a service as widely used as Facebook, this doesn’t come without risk for him,” Enderle told TechNewsWorld.
The Fear of Islam
Islamophobia has been on the rise in recent years, “in part because organized groups, such as the Center for Security Policy and Fox News, have been promoting it,” Halfmann remarked.
GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz on Thursday joined three other senators in voting against a nonbinding proposal to refrain from vetting would-be immigrants by their religion. The proposal passed 16-4.
A woman on Wednesday yelled insults at Muslim men praying in a park in California and assaulted one of them who filmed the incident.
Fear of Muslims has intensified following last week’s terrorist attack in San Bernardino, which was carried out by a radical Muslim couple.
Meanwhile, Trump’s lashing out against Muslims may have reinvigorated interest in white supremacist activities. Stormfront, a prominent white nationalist, white supremacist and neo-Nazi Internet forum, reportedlyupgraded its servers to cope with a recent increase in traffic.
Zuckerberg the Politician
“We must participate in policy and advocacy to shape debates,” Zuckerberg said earlier this month, when he announced he’d give away the bulk of his fortune.
His statement of support for Muslims takes him further into the political arena.
“Like most super rich people, Zuckerberg … is now in the process of converting his billions into social and political power,” Halfmann said. “I think we can expect him to publicly join many more political debates in the future.”
Zuckerberg “may have the core skills of a good politician,” Enderle said. “He didn’t call out Trump or what Trump was doing — he focused on a countermessage of trust, safety and security instead. It was nicely nuanced and elegantly done.”
As for Trump, he “would be unstoppable if he had this skill set,” suggested Enderle, “given the current environment.”