A Canadian Sikh man has once again been wrongly accused of committing terrorism after a fake photo of him wearing a suicide vest went viral on social media after the attacks in Nice, France on Thursday night.Just after the Paris attacks last November, an unknown person photoshopped an image Veerender Jubbal took of himself in the bathroom to make it look like he was wearing an explosive vest and holding a Qur'an. A dildo has also been photoshopped into the background. In the original image, Jubbal, who wears a turban and lives in Toronto, is just smiling at his reflection in the mirror and holding up a black iPad, which he used to take the photo.
A number of mainstream media outlets picked up the image, and it spread widely on Twitter and Facebook.Jubbal was accused of being responsible for the attack and received countless messages of hate. He took to Twitter to defend himself and quash the rumors. "Learn the difference between me being a Sikh, and a Muslim," tweeted Jubbal, who has identified himself as a journalist who covers gaming and entertainment.
The image resurfaced after the Brussels attack in March. And now Jubbal has once again been forced to clear his name after the exact same image began circulating online late Thursday night following a truck attack in Nice that killed more than 80 people and injured dozens more at a Bastille Day celebration.Jubbal's friend, Simran Singh, tweeted the original and fake photos of Jubbal on Thursday night, saying that people are again accusing him of being responsible for the latest terror attack in France.Singh told VICE News that Singh is a "wonderful kind-hearted person who has long been committed to standing up against discrimination, especially against women and minorities," and that he was targeted because of his anti-discrimination work.Singh said when news outlets published the false accusations last year, Jubbal had to be increasingly careful about his personal safety. "It completely changed his life for the worse, which is very sad for me to observe…It's really a shame that he has become targeted in such vicious hate."
He added that stunts like this not only impact innocent people like Jubbal, but also negatively affect minority communities in general."In a world where we are seeing surges of divisive rhetoric and hate violence, such false accusations perpetuate negative stereotypes and contribute to the fear-mongering," he said. "It's not something we can dismiss as "a joke" because it deeply impacts so many innocent people."After asking his followers to fill his mentions with kind messages last December, Jubbal announced he'd be going off Twitter for a while, waiting things out until they calmed down. He hasn't tweeted since.
But just last week, Jubbal spoke publicly again in a piece for the Guardian about his experience of being wrongly accused of committing heinous acts of violence over the last year.Jubbal said he thinks he's been targeted by supporters of Gamergate, a movement against women in the video gaming world that took off in 2014. Jubbal started the #StopGamergate2014 hashtag against it.He told the reporter about how the doctored photo came back to haunt him after the Brussels attack, with people yet again sharing the photo online and tweeting things such as "Did the police not catch you?" and "Are you still bombing places?"
Going to be off Twitter for quite awhile. Not really sure how long. Just have to wait things out, so they calm down. Take care, friends.
— Veerender Jubbal (@Veeren_Jubbal)December 27, 2015
Jubbal also spoke about how he received a death threat a few weeks after the photo first went viral in November, and how that exacerbated his existing mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, and OCD. It wasn't until this March that he started going out again on his own."The last time I tweeted from my account was in December, and even though I really want to go back, I don't know if I will," he concluded.Tamara Khandaker contributed to this report.Follow Rachel Browne on Twitter: @rp_browne