HOUSTON, Texas — One tweet was all it took for Jennifer Williams, a Brookings Institute researcher that had studied religious extremism and converted to Islam, to go from an ordinary blonde with tattoo’s from Texas to a star on Twitter with a concerning amount of followers that may be Islamic terrorists.
Williams tweet was a result of her having studied the Middle East and religious extremism, which lead her to realize she had never actually read the Quran. After reading, she felt a sense of understanding to the morality and belief questions she had her whole life. She converted to Islam three years ago. On September 23 Williams had been using the hashtag #MuslimApologies as it was trending, she tweeted the below tweet.
The Huffington Post reported that her message has been retweeted more than 12,000 times as of Friday evening. She started with 40 followers, after the tweet, she now has more than 5,000 and counting. However, after looking through her newly acquired followers, she noticed many were not the type of followers that she wanted.
Williams wrote, “I soon began to notice a disturbing trend: of the thousands of people who were retweeting and following me, many of them had the black flag of ISIS as their Twitter profile photos,” she wrote. “Others had pictures of themselves holding swords, standing in front of the black ISIS flag. Uh-oh.”
Williams also explained the radical nature of some of these new followers, “One guy told me how beautiful I would look in hijab (in other words, how beautiful I would look once I covered myself up and stopped looking like an infidel),” she wrote on the blog Lawfare about her growing Twitter fandom. “Another just straight up asked me to marry him.”
She then tweeted out a picture of ISIS graffiti she came upon at a traffic stop due to the fact it was on a street corner in Washington, D.C. Williams wrote, “Call me naïve, but it didn’t occur to me at the time that this tweet might be construed by the pro-ISIS folks on Twitter who were already excited by my conversion tweet as an endorsement of ISIS, but that’s exactly how it was construed.”
Williams wrote about her distaste for these new followers, “I detest the twisted interpretations of Islam espoused by the likes of Al Qaeda and ISIS just as much today as I did before I converted — in fact, probably more so…”
After realizing how certain people were interpreting her tweet, she tried her best to clarify by sending the out a tweet reading, “JUST SO WE’RE CLEAR: The tweet w/the pic of ISIS graffiti WAS NOT MEANT TO EXPRESS MY SUPPORT OF ISIS. Can’t believe I even have to say that.” but it was too late. Williams even often tweeted pro-LGBT tweets, and tried to get the “#No2ISIS” hashtag to trend, but none of it matter, the radical followers kept increasing. One of her extremist fans even tweeted out a blurred photo of her profile picture, which Williams commented on by writing, “You know you’re dealing with some serious Islamic hardliners when they blur out your face to protect Islamic modesty,” she wrote. “It’s also interesting that they chose to make it blurry rather than to black it out entirely — I suppose they did that so you could still tell that I was a blonde, white American girl. The holy grail of Muslim converts — so to speak.”
Follow Marie Proctor on twitter @marieemazzanti