A Hashtag to Speak Up

Media Analysis
Message Testing
Public Opinion

In the lead-up to the 2016 election, anti-Muslim rhetoric was at an all-time high, driven by then-candidate Trump. To counter this anti-Muslim prejudice, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton invited Gold Star parents Khizr and Ghazala Khan to the Democratic National Convention to speak about their son, Humayun, an Army officer who was killed in Iraq. 

News outlets across the media spectrum portrayed the Khans as among the most compelling speakers at the convention. Trump, however, was quick to misleadingly exploit one aspect: only Khizr had spoken, while Ghazala stood stoically and silently beside him. Trump questioned whether the Khans’ religion prohibited Ghazala from speaking. She responded in a poignant op-ed in The Washington Post, explaining that she had not spoken because it was still too painful for her, and that she still cried every time she tried.

Advocates in the Muslim, Arab, Sikh, and South Asian communities wanted to launch a campaign supporting Ghazala and condemning Trump’s hateful (and insensitive) attack.

We knew from our own research that even amongst our “base” of supporters, many people had misguided ideas about Muslim women. To counter those assumptions, we designed a rapid response campaign to educate voters, while denouncing the anti-Muslim sentiment rampant in the presidential campaign. We encouraged the community to post on social media to spotlight the many ways that Muslim women use their voice, contribute to their communities, and improve the world around them. And we urged the community to use the hashtag #CanYouHearUsNow to illustrate that these Muslim women have been speaking up and speaking out the whole time… and that maybe people like Trump just need to listen.

The #CanYouHearUsNow campaign produced more than 67,000 tweets from 45,000 people around the world, with an estimated 390 million impressions. It also lifted up new voices and taught people that these Muslim women have plenty to say and are perfectly capable of speaking their minds.