Newsweek, owned by Tina Brown's The Daily Beast, shocked members of the media as well as the general public Monday when it shared on Twitter the cover of its Sept. 24 issue, which depicts a crowd of angry Muslims presumably reacting to an anti-Muhammad film made in the U.S. What's more, Newsweek invited Twitter followers to discuss the cover story, written by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, with the hashtag "#MuslimRage!" which they have done – but perhaps not in the way Newsweek expected.
"[You are] a mediocre tabloid, bravo!" responded Schams El Ghoneimi, a former assistant at the European Parliament, in a tweet directed at Newsweek. He added the hashtag "#Sensationalism," writing, "Use of shocking stories/language at expense of accuracy to provoke public interest."
Another Newsweek follower, Chris Stevenson, also scolded the publication as well, writing: "People are dying in riots incited from a U.S. source and @Newsweek sees fit to double down on anti-Muslim rhetoric? #MuslimRage is shameful."
Jillian C. York, Director of International Freedom of Expression, described the Newsweek "Muslim Rage" cover as "a wholesale attempt at achieving obsolescence" in a Storify post, in which she shares reactions from several journalists and "writer-scholars."
Newsweek has pushed back at the criticism, however, with PR Director at Newsweek & The Daily Beast Andrew Kirk telling Politico.com: "This week's Newsweek cover accurately depicts the events of the past week as violent protests have erupted in the Middle East (including Morocco where the cover image was taken)."
The cover story written by Ayaan Hirsi Ali attempts to uncover the reasons behind the volatile protests raging in the Middle East, which started last week in Lebanon and Egypt and by Monday had spread to numerous other African and Asian countries.
Ali, a former Muslim known for her writings critical of the faith, paints the protest as stemming from "false outrage," and ironically occurring amid the publication of author Salman Rushdie's new book Joseph Anton: A Memoir – which has elicited a new bounty of $3.3 million on the decades-old fatwa issued against the Satanic Verses author.
"Islam's rage reared its ugly head again last week. The American ambassador to Libya and three of his staff members were murdered by a raging mob in Benghazi, Libya, possibly under the cover of protests against a film mocking the Muslim Prophet Muhammad," Ali writes. "They were killed on the watch of the democratic government they helped to install. This government was either negligent or complicit in their murders. And that forces the U.S. to confront a stark, unwelcome reality."
Some have chosen to react to Newsweek's "Muslim Rage" cover and Twitter request for feedback on Ali's story by injecting a bit of humor into the discussion. Gawker, taking notice of such reactions, chose to highlight "13 Powerful Images of Muslim Rage" on its website, showing photos of Muslims in Egypt and Iraq doing "terrifyingly" mundane things like dancing, swimming and blowing bubbles.
The Newsweek "Muslim Rage" cover also appears to be on its way to becoming an Internet meme, as users have uploaded a Photoshopped version of the image with Princess Diana in the midst of the protest and another showing "Jewish Rage" over the treatment of non-Jews in Israel.
Politico also noted that the Sept. 24, 2012 issue is reminiscent of Newsweek's Sept. 28, 2001 cover that shows a young Muslim boy holding a gun, under the caption "Why They Hate Us" for a story written by Fareed Zakaria.
Most recently, Newsweek has been criticized for a cover image of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and America's "Mormon Moment," as well as one of President Barack Obama with a caption declaring him "The First Gay President."