"I asked her to explain Brussels," he wrote. The woman apparently replied: "Nothing to do with me."
"A mealy-mouthed response," Doyle concluded.
Such a response to a terror attack committed by Islamist extremists is hardly revolutionary. Mainstream Muslims and even non-practicing Muslims are often called upon to explain the actions of extremist minorities. It's a galling situation for many, who resent being asked to explain the actions of terrorists when, in fact, many Muslims already condemn them.
In reality, it may be just the tip of the iceberg. As The Washington Post's Caitlin Dewey pointed out this week, anti-Muslim messages such as #StopIslam tend to trend on social media after terrorist attacks. But things aren't quite as simple as they seem: As Dewey notes, while anti-Muslim rhetoric may spike in the wake of such attacks, it tends to then be overtaken by anti-anti-Muslim rhetoric.
As Doyle would soon discover, it would be no different this time as well.
The tweet by Doyle, who has just over a thousand followers on Twitter, soon went viral, but not out of support. Instead, Twitter users began criticizing him for sending the message, while others said they had informed police that he was harassing random women in Croydon.
Others parodied Doyle's tweet's distinctive style:
I confronted a dog today & asked him about that time when I was 4 and a dog bit me. “woof” he said. A mealy mouthed reply.— TechnicallyRon (@TechnicallyRon) March 23, 2016
I confronted a French woman yesterday in Croydon. I asked her to explain rien. She said "It means nothing to me". A mealy mouthed reply.— Ian Power (@IHPower) March 23, 2016
I confronted an English man about the colonisation of Nigeria and the post-colonial unrest. He said "dunno mate."— Kelechi Okafor (@kelechnekoff) March 23, 2016
A mealy mouthed reply.
The success of the anti-anti-Muslim backlash and subsequent mockery was remarkable: Croydon, a very unglamorous South London suburb, even briefly became a Twitter trending topic in Britain.
Doyle initially appeared to back down from his earlier position, deleting the tweet and suggesting that he had poorly described his exchange with the unnamed Muslim woman. “She was really nice, a lovely woman, as English as you and I,” he told Buzzfeed in an interview. “She told me she’d heard about the attacks and that it had nothing to do with her.”
However, again, we have to be reminded that this is the Internet and that arguments on social media rarely change minds. In tweets sent later on Wednesday, Doyle's perspective seemed to have reverted back to his original stance.
In a later interview with the Telegraph, Doyle said these and other tweets were a joke.
"I have a Muslim neighbor who got burgled, and I was one of the first people to go around to help," he said.
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