An “anti-Muslim attack” in which a man tried to cut the hijab off an 11-year schoolgirl on a Canadian street simply did not happen, BBC News reported police as saying. The story gained widespread traction in Canada with the girls mother deploring the alleged hate crime in a press conference.
On Friday, Khawlah Noman told police she was on her way to Pauline Johnson Public School in Scarborough when she felt a man trying to cut her hijab off with scissors. She said she screamed and ran away, but the man returned 10 minutes later and attacked her again. The girl gave a news conference alongside her mother, who told media “this is not Canada.”
The news generated an outcry in Canada. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted his disgust about the incident, as did Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, Toronto Mayor John Tory, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and many others.
However the incident may not have ever taken place.
“After a detailed investigation, police have determined that the events described in the original news release did not happen,” the police said in a brief press release on Monday morning. “The investigation is concluded.”
“It’s very rare for an allegation to be investigated and we later find out that it does not happen,” Toronto police spokesman Mark Pugash said on Monday, according to CNN.
“We are very thankful that this assault did not in fact happen,” the Toronto School Board said in a statement. “We won’t be commenting further.”
Incidents like this undermine public trust in believing victims of genuine hate crime and should be condemned for that reason. However they are not a reason to take other incidents of anti-Muslim hate crime less seriously in the future.
Clarion Project takes anti-Muslim bigotry very seriously. We are aware that incidents of anti-Muslim bigotry, while still mercifully low, are on the rise and we regularly speak out against it.
Please see Clarion Project’s full statement on anti-Muslim bigotry.