‘Islamophobia’ Hoaxes and the Rush to Judgment

‘Islamophobia’ Hoaxes and the Rush to Judgment, by Andy Ngo.

Two weeks ago, Canadians responded in horror to a disturbing news story in Toronto: before a bank of cameras, a tearful 11-year-old girl said that a man had repeatedly cut her headscarf with scissors as she walked to school. …

Khawlah Noman … told the roomful of reporters that the brazen attack had left her terrified and screaming. She was flanked by a Muslim activist, her mother, and younger brother Mohammad. Mohammad confirmed his sister’s story, stating that he had witnessed the attack while walking with her to school. …

Politicians … rushed to express outrage at the incident, even though details remained scant. “My heart goes out to the young girl who was attacked, seemingly for her religion,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said during a televised speech. …

Passionate reactions to the incident were swift on social media. Echoing a common belief, Twitter user @Sakira_writes said: “A no doubt white male monster did this.” … Al Jazeera splashed with the following headline: “Toronto Muslim girl ‘scared’ after attacker cuts hijab.” …

But then, three days after the family’s emotional press conference and the collective rush to judgment, Toronto Police released a terse statement: “After a detailed investigation, police have determined that the events described in the original news release did not happen. The investigation is concluded.” Khawlah Noman and her brother, it turned out, had fabricated the attack. They will not face legal consequences for falsely reporting it. …

Khawlah Noman’s elaborate tale is unfortunately not a one-off incident on the continent. A series of hijab-related attack stories marred the American media landscape shortly after the election of Donald Trump.

  • In November 2016, a University of Louisiana at Lafayette student claimed she was violently attacked and had her hijab torn off by two white men, one of whom she said was wearing a Trump hat. She later admitted to making the whole thing up.
  • The same week, a student at the University of Michigan said a man threatened to set her hijab on fire. A Michigan police investigation subsequently determined that the incident did not happen.
  • The following month, Yasmin Seweid, a college student in New York City, claimed she was assaulted by white men who tried to pull off her headscarf during a subway ride. CCTV footage later confirmed that the incident never happened.

While activists and politicians are keen to move on when these stories unravel, I wonder if anyone bothers to consider how much damage is left in their wake and who stands to benefit from “Islamophobia” hysteria.