This week anti Muslim hate crime charity Tell MAMA UK rocked up to the St. George’s Day celebrations across London and pulled off a prank that got far right nationalists campaigning for diversity without their knowledge. So far, so LOL.
This clever campaign was executed through a really simple mechanism. 100 specially designed ‘patriotic’ T-shirts. On the face of it, they bore the St George’s flag, often associated with the far right and British nationalism.
But patriotism can be expressed in many ways. And on an unusually hot April day, as the nationalists’ body temperatures rose, their t-shirts revealed a hidden heat-activated message that read, “St George was Syrian. #DefendDiversity”.
In their own words, Tell MAMA UK seized this opportunity to “reclaim the flag and teach a lesson about how important diversity is to our country”. England’s Patron Saint George had Syrian, Greek, Turkish and Palestinian heritage, after all. And this will have most definitely been a learning curve for those being ‘punked’ by their clothing.
Campaigns like this prove you don’t always have to spend serious bucks to make an impact. I’d guess 100 t-shirts cost around £1,500 - £2,000 max. In return, we’ve seen media coverage in the Metro, AOL, UNILAD, Joe.co.uk as well as a series of local news outlets.
Until this week, I hadn’t even heard of Tell MAMA UK, but I won’t be forgetting them in a hurry - and I don’t think I’m alone. Not to mention the image of members of the far right with the hashtag #DefendDiversity emblazoned across their chest has been safely added to the bank of ‘hero PR shots’ I wish I’d come up with. Right next to the image of the brave 24 year old Muslim woman Shaymaa Ismaa’eel, who flashed a peace sign to a hoard of anti-Muslim protestors in Washington the following day (24th).
However, Tell MAMA UK also argued they aimed “to champion the vital role that immigrants play in shaping our nation and to tackle the dramatic growth of far-right hate” with T-shirt gate. Whilst I take my proverbial hat off to whoever came up with and then signed the prank off, I’m sadly left feeling, unlike Shaymaa’s actions, it won’t deliver on the goal to dampen the hate. I’m not entirely convinced trickery is effective in getting a message such as this across, especially to a group whose views are so often dogmatic. So although it definitely made me both laugh and think, and will have boosted awareness of MAMA UK’s plight for Muslims, for the far right, it may well have just further stoked the fire.