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#IllRideWithYou: Australians unite against intolerance as hostage drama grips Sydney

Following the death of cricketer Phil Hughes, Australians proved they had a unique ability to unite in grief and spread a message of joy and hope with the viral ‘Put Your Bats Out’ campaign.

In the wake of the Sydney Siege, a people often mistakenly considered to be closed and less than generous to outsiders, have once again united, this time to spread a message of tolerance.

Hours after a lone Islamist took dozens hostage inside a Sydney cafe, residents in the city took to Social Media network Twitter with a unique hashtag against some anti-Muslim sentiment that threatened to divide the city and the country. 

Thousands of people began tweeting #IllRideWithYou in solidarity with the cosmopolitan city’s Muslim community, some members of whom had spoken of their fears of a backlash after the hostage-taking.

#IllRideWithYou began after a tweet from Michael Jones who witnessed an unfortunate incident involving two Muslim women using Sydney’s metro.

Minutes later another user, Rachel Jacobs related an incident where a young Muslim woman took off her hijab after news began coming in about the siege. 

Ms Jacobs tweeted: “I ran after her at the train station.  I said ‘put it back on.  I’ll walk with you’.  She started to cry and hugged me for about a minute”.

In the intervening hours, tens of thousands of people have offered to ‘ride with a Muslim’, offering to accompany people going into Sydney and other cities. 

The hostage-taking at the Lindt cafe inside Sydney’s busy Central Business District began early on Monday morning and is continuing with authorities currently negotiating with the lone gunman who is reportedly holding 40 people inside the premises.

Security has been tightened across Australia in recent months after intelligence had revealed the country could be targeted by militants aligned with Islamic State over country’s role in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

That heightened level of security has invariably meant that the country’s Muslim community has been placed under ever greater scrutiny.

Hours after the siege began the Australian National Imams Council said it “condemns this criminal act unequivocally”.

The joint statement with the Grand Mufti of Australia said that “such actions are denounced in part and in whole in Islam”, noting they awaited further information about the identity and motivations of the perpetrators.

The Grand Mufti and the council pledged their “full support and solidarity with the victims and their families and aspire to a peaceful resolve to this calamity.”

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