The internet is often a place where random, casual, senseless cruelty to total strangers can flourish. On the other hand, sometimes it can bring people together in unexpectedly heartwarming ways. The story of a Bangladeshi man named Nazer al-Islam Abdul Karim involves both.
Karim is a janitor who was photographed — completely without his knowledge — window shopping for gold chains in Saudi Arabia. This photograph was uploaded to Instagram with the caption "this man deserves to look only at rubbish" and began to make the rounds on the Internet in the Arabic-speaking world, where Karim was mocked for his poverty.
السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته ارجو ممن يعرف هذا العامل ان يتواصل معي. فله طقم ذهب مجاناً . https://t.co/Md3fVUjqUB— انسانيات (@انسانيات) 1480800422.0
According to the Telegraph, a Muslim humanitarian found the post and started a Twitter campaign to find the man:
Outraged Abdullah Al-Qahtani – whose Twitter handle Ensaneyat means humanitarianism in Arabic – set out to find him by tweeting the image and asking for others to help identify him.
The internet sprang into action, with some users identifying the actual store where the man was shopping based on a reflection in the shop window. Eventually, Twitter users were able to find Karim himself, who was completely unaware of either the mockery he had endured or the campaign to find him. After his identity was posted, gifts from all over began to pour in. Karim was stunned to find himself the beneficiary of extraordinary generosity, including some of the chains at the store where he was window shopping:
As well as being unaware of his picture being posted online, Mr Karim was oblivious to the search that was also underway. He was shocked and delighted when the gifts started rolling in.
"I was just doing my job as a cleaner in the municipality and found myself in front of the gold shop. I am very happy about the gifts and very thankful," he told CNN .
Al-Qahtani, 38, said money is still being sent to Karim as well as bags of rice and honey, return tickets to his home country and two smartphones, an iPhone 7 and a Samsung galaxy.
The cleaner was also allowed to choose his own set of gold chains and earrings.
Mr Al-Qahtani posted pictures of the cleaner and his new gifts on Twitter.
اللهم لك الحمد والشكر والف شكر لمن قدّم الخير ❤️ https://t.co/sHRd7DWqGj https://t.co/pp0Mb48nnp— تركي الدعجم (@تركي الدعجم) 1480868777.0
Karim's story is a useful reminder that the internet can be used to belittle and degrade our fellow man, but it can also be used to show random kindness to strangers.