The episode about an 18-year-old Muslim teenage girl, who claimed to have been harassed by white supporters of president-elect Donald Trump in a New York subway train, has taken a twist.
New York City police arrested yesterday the Muslim student Yasmin Seweid who had said that she had been a victim of hate crime by Trump supporters in a subway train on Dec 1.
The police said that she had made up her story about the train harassment incident, and was charged her with filing a false report, according to The New York Daily News.
Seweid had created quite a stir in the media and among the Muslim community and other minorities with her sensationalised story of Trump supporters harassing her in a subway train and trying to forcibly remove the hijab (headscarf).
They also heaped insults on her, she alleged, calling her a terrorist and shouting Trump’s name. The incident, she further alleged, took place as other train commuters merely sat and watched her get assaulted.
The New York Daily News reported police sources as saying that they gave Seweid several opportunities to bring her story in order as it lacked credibility.
Finally, yesterday, she admitted she made the whole thing up, saying she did it because she had problems with her family.
US print and broad media, particularly on the east coast, have had a field day bringing out reports about the incident and the sudden twist in the story which local tabloids are calling the “surprise ending”.
Police say there was many inconsistencies in her story, but at first they assumed that the inconsistencies were typical of traumatised victims. They also claim the investigation into the false hate crime entailed using “a lot” of resources.
Doubts cropped up in the minds of some experts about Seweid’s story, especially because no witnesses to the attack in the train - she claimed there were other commuters in the train - came forward and only one of the men she described could be found on the metro transit authority’s security tape.
But things became even more suspicious after Seweid went missing last weekend only to re-appear two days later, saying she was visiting a relative.
The media which went into a frenzy reporting of the false hate crime, with some outlets even foregoing the use of qualifying terms like “alleged” and “claimed”, had reported the fake assault appear like a factual incident.
The incident was reported as yet another assault case in the growing list of attacks on Muslims and other minorities since Trump’s election victory on Nov 8.
Also charged with misdemeanours
Seweid, a student at Baruch College in Manhattan and residing in New Hyde Park in Long Island,, was also charged with obstructing the governmental administration, the police said. Both charges are misdemeanours.
Meanwhile, the Muslim community is speculating about the teenager’s plight. However, a spokesperson of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Ibrahim Hooper, told the media yesterday that Muslims in America faced “tremendous psychological stress and pressure” that can result in an episode like this one.
He was quoted as saying that “no one out of the blue” decides to make this kind of a report. He cautioned against using these “rare instances of alleged false reports - it’s still an allegation at this point - it’s used by the growing Islamophobic community to delegitimise and undermine the many legitimate anti-Muslim incidents”.