By RYAN NAKASHIMA, Associated Press
LOS ANGELES (AP) — If Newsweek intended its latest cover story to spark conversation, it certainly got what it was looking for.
The magazine's cover essay, "Muslim Rage: How I Survived It, How We Can End It," has spawned a huge response on Twitter.
The essay by Somali-Dutch activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali addresses the issue of free speech in light of deadly riots in the Middle East over an anti-Islamic film. The story is illustrated on the magazine's cover with a photo of two bearded protesters in the midst of a mob.
Newsweek created the hashtag (hash)MuslimRage to promote discussion of its cover story. But most of the tweets using it have mocked the subject, rather than adopt the article's serious tone.
Many of those who poked fun at the article's headline appeared to be Muslim. "MuslimRage" was the sixth most-talked about topic — or "trending topic" — on Twitter among U.S.-based users early Monday. It was also a top trender in Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates.
The Twitter conversation peaked Monday morning and by late afternoon there were about 75,000 tweets using (hash)MuslimRage hashtag, Twitter said, citing data from social media tracking firm Topsy.
One of the most popular posts came from "Hend," a user whose profile photo features a woman in a Muslim head covering: "I'm having such a good hair day. No one even knows. (hash)MuslimRage".
Another reads: "Lost your kid Jihad at the airport. Can't yell for him. (hash)MuslimRage".
Yet another tweet laments: "Head & Shoulders still hasn't made a beard conditioner. (hash)MuslimRage".
"On a plane and people mishearing me when I say I'm a 'tourist'. (hash)MuslimRage," reads another post.
Los Angeles-based author Reza Aslan, a frequent writer on Muslim issues, hailed what has come to be called the "hijack" of the Newsweek hashtag: "Memo to those few violent MidEast protesters, this is how you fight Islamophobia. You make fun of it. (hash)MuslimRage".
Newsweek spokesman Andrew Kirk said the magazine's covers and hashtags "bring attention and spark debate around topics of major global importance. The Internet is an open forum for people to continue their own discussion."
The essay's author, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, also became a trending topic on Twitter, although the comments were more pointed and critical.
Ali describes in the essay how she cooperated to make the short film "Submission," which criticized the treatment of women in Islam. Her co-filmmaker, director Theo van Gogh, was murdered in 2004 by a man who left a note called a "Jihad Manifesto" that also threatened Ali.
Despite the levity expressed on Twitter, violent protests continued across the Muslim world. The death toll has reached 14, including 10 protesters and 4 Americans who died in last week's attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.