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, a student at Pauline Johnson Junior Public School, 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.
Soon after, politicians at the upper echelons of the Canadian government 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. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne promptly called the alleged attack a “cowardly act of hatred.”
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.” Toronto police later described the suspect as an Asian male. Many others condemned Canadian and Western society for being “Islamophobic.” Police quickly announced that they would be treating the incident as a hate crime.
From Portland, Oregon, I watched the unfolding story with unease. Like most, I was horrified by the child’s report that she had been assaulted by a man in broad daylight. But I also wondered why the school and family were parading the young girl in front of the media when her testimony appeared to be rehearsed and inconsistent. Nevertheless, the story was duly sensationalized and uncritically reported as a confirmed crime rather than as an allegation.
Read more by clicking here: http://quillette.com/2018/01/25/islamophobia-hoaxes-rush-judgment/
Andy Ngo is a graduate student in political science at Portland State University, studying the intersection of political Islam and women’s rights. Follow him on Twitter @MrAndyNgo