Editorial: Hate hoax sad for many reasons

By now everyone is familiar with the harassment hoax perpetrated by a Muslim Baruch College student. Because of her actions the headlines have been fast and, understandably, furious. But curiously what seems to have been included in the stories merely as an afterthought is the fact that since the hate crime drama turned out to be a lie, the student, Yasmin Seweid’s, head was shaved, apparently as a punishment by her parents. Additionally, her once thick eyebrows appear to have been shaved down as well. Gone also is the hijab she claimed white Trump supporters tried to pull off her head on the train although the meaning behind its absence hasn’t been made clear.

According to a Daily News story the punishment wasn’t just over lying to the NYPD, the press, her family and everyone else about the bias incident. It was also because she’d been dating a Christian. She had also reportedly been out past her curfew and the reaction from her parents at the time seemed far scarier to her than the risks associated with making a false police report.And now we know why. To describe her parents simply as strict would be an understatement when considering that this particular punishment was inflicted with the intent of humiliating their adult daughter in a very public way.

That said, Seweid, being an adult, did absolutely deserve to be charged with a crime. Not only did she waste police time and resources, but her tall tale could have easily ensnared innocent individuals had they resembled her made up racist tormentors. Additionally, the president elect, who’s been accused repeatedly of promoting anti-Muslim and racist sentiment, was in this instance wronged with the description of the meathead perps as Trump supporters. So should Seweid face justice? No doubt. However we would like to see the disciplinary methods used by her parents looked into by the law as well.

And on the matter of the law: If anything positive came out of this bogus complaint is was that law enforcement does in fact take reports of hate crime and harassment seriously. Additionally it does come as some relief to know that straphangers did not in fact callously stand by and do the mannequin challenge while three men zeroed in on a young woman and insult her because of her religion.

Incidentally, at the time this story was unfolding, from the reported harassment to the young woman going missing to her turning up again soon afterwards at her sister’s home to her finally admitting she concocted her whole thing, Town & Village wasn’t giving it much in the way of coverage. This wasn’t because we didn’t feel it was important, not to mention local – the imaginary incident was reported to have taken place at the 23rd Street/Park Avenue South subway station — but because due to the sheer volume of news coverage it generated and has continued to, we didn’t feel we could compete with the dailies.

As for reports of bias incidents in general, despite this hoax, it’s important not to simply dismiss complaints from others who feel they’ve been discriminated against.

Here’s an example:

Recently, graffiti alongside a building on 14th Street and First Avenue reading “Jew man” was discovered, not long after State Senator Brad Hoylman found a swastika scratched into a door in his building. Around the country, reports of bias crimes have soared since the election (though it’s unclear how many are actually election related.) That said, some people have claimed things like the aforementioned two incidents, which are relatively minor, are being over-reported. This debate was even had in the Town & Village office.

However, ultimately we would disagree with that assessment. The question should actually be whether previously such incidents were being underreported. The Jew man graffiti for instance was apparently there since October though people are finally starting to pay attention. Whether or not “Jew man” is actually just someone’s tag isn’t the point. Nor does it matter if it was related to the election. The point is these kinds of crass “statements” are upsetting to people, especially during politically turbulent times, and serve no legitimate purpose.

So, New York, to borrow a phrase, if you see something, say something.

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