Maha Elmadani, a daughter of one of the New Zealand mosque attacks, triggered a backlash against a Muslim celebrity trip to visit Christchurch survivors. On April 4, 2019, the online platform the organization Muslims of the World (MOFW) ran an Instagram contest. The contest teased followers with a free trip to New Zealand to meet the Christchurch survivors and families of those killed. The winners would accompany MOTW founder and well-known American Muslim personalties Khaled Beydoun and Suhaib Webb.
On Instagram, Elmadani snapped back at the contest for its exploitative self-aggrandizement:
“I don’t know who you think you are but you and your idiot friends are not welcome to come here and look at us like animals in a zoo.”
Elmadani’s father died in the Christchurch terrorist attack. She further added:
You guys are turning this horrific massacre into some f***ing excuse to vacation in NZ and you’re doing it on the backs of the victims that died.
The contest was immediately canceled and MOTW offered an apology. Beydoun, who is an author on books peddling Islamophobia, as well associate professor of law, deleted his Twitter account.
Writing for Al Jazeera, Vanessa Taylor published a stunning larger commentary on the story titled “The Problem with Muslim Celebrity Culture,” where she rightly pointed out:
This type of social media-related opportunism has many manifestations and is very much rooted in Muslim celebrity culture and trauma tourism inspired by Orientalist attitudes.
The trend of Muslim figures rising to almost untouchable celebrity status has been noted in closed circles for some time, but many have been reluctant to speak out about it on a public platform.
Part of this is due to fear of being ostracised and harassed.
The piece by Taylor is worth reading in its entirety. She goes on to elaborate on the willful silencing and manipulation of narratives that exists in these spheres, circling back to how figures like Beydoun were also misrepresenting or drowning out authentic local narratives following the Christchurch attack, along with Twitter plagiarism that couldn’t even get the facts right.