Days after an 11-year-old girl alleged that a man cut off her hijab with a pair of scissors on her way to school, police are saying that based on their investigation, the incident never happened.
On January 12, Khawlah Noman told police she was walking to Pauline Johnson Public School in Scarborough on Friday morning when a man dressed in black approached her from behind, pulled off her hood and cut off her hijab with a pair of scissors, not once but twice.
He didn’t say anything to her but smiled, and ran away when she screamed, Noman said. Her mother Saima Samad had said the cut was about 30 centimeters in length.
Noman had described the attacker as a young Asian man, about 5-foot-8 to six feet tall, wearing black pants, a black hoodie and brown gloves. He had a moustache and glasses, she told police.
Samad told reporters she was “very sad” after she got a call from the school, but was happy that her daughter was safe.
“Sadly, someone insulted me by cutting my hijab two times,” Noman told reporters Friday afternoon. “I felt really scared and confused because I didn’t feel comfortable.”
'DID NOT HAPPEN'
The Toronto Police, who said last week they were investigating the allegation as a hate crime, said Monday morning that they now believe the incident never took place.
“After a detailed investigation, police have determined that the events described in the original news release did not happen,” police said in a statement.
They did not provide any further details about what led to their conclusion.
The alleged incident was condemned last week by leaders from all three political parties, who said it wasn’t representative of Canadian values.
“My heart goes out to Khawlah Noman following this morning’s cowardly attack on her in Toronto,” tweeted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “Canada is an open and welcoming country, and incidents like this cannot be tolerated.”
The latest development is already being used by by right-wing commentators as fodder to attack the mainstream media for what they describe as liberal conspiracies over Islamophobia and “unpatriotic” smears of Canadians.
Muslim advocates have taken to social media to express their disappointment after finding out the incident had been made up.
“I am devastated most by the realization that an 11-year-old girl would make something like this up,” tweeted activist Amira Elghawaby. “Kids do stuff like this but we're in a highly sensitive time as we lead up to the anniversary of the January 29 massacre. I'm bracing for the hate this will engender.”
The police follow-up statement comes about two weeks before the one-year anniversary of the Quebec City mosque shooting, in which six Muslims were gunned down and killed while praying.
“What we also need to do is think about this 11-year-old girl and how she must be feeling right now, and hope that those around her are going to try and understand why she said what she said,” Elghawaby told VICE News in an interview.
“We’re living in a climate where there’s anxiety around being Muslim, and our kids are clearly being impacted by that."
Hate crimes against Muslims decreased slightly in 2016 after a dramatic rise of 60 percent in 2015.
Experts told VICE News when the latest stats were released in November that one possible reason for the slight drop is that hate crimes recorded as targeting South Asians and Arabs included incidents that were meant to target Muslims.
Meanwhile in Quebec City, the number of police-reported hate crimes and incidents targeting Muslims doubled in the last year.