In early December, Baruch College student Yasmin Seweid filed a report with the New York City police stating that she had been harassed by three men on the subway, USA Today reports. Seweid, who is 18 years old and Muslim, told officers that “three drunk white men” shouted “Donald Trump” at her, attempted to take off her hijab and called her a terrorist.
Yesterday, however, news broke that Seweid herself was arrested on charges of “obstructing government administration and reporting a false incident.” According to police statements to the news, “Seweid has been in a dispute with her parents regarding a romantic relationship that did not meet the parents [sic] approval.” Hopefully at some point we will hear from Seweid firsthand about her case.
Seweid’s older sister, Sara, has become the subject of recent news reports, as she has come out to criticize NYPD’s conduct in the investigation. In a post on her Facebook page that has since been deleted, Sara Seweid stated “The NYPD leaked private information that my sister has disclosed to them which has now been aired publicly and is a topic of discussion among everyone.” This wouldn’t be surprising, given that the police have a demonstrated history of bias against people of color and other marginalized groups.
In her post, Sara Seweid commented on the mental health of Muslim women who have to take drastic measures to ensure their own safety, which might explain her sister’s actions. She went on to ask “You don’t think calling for an 18 year old girl to be jailed for lying to be violent and abhorrent?”
Yasmin Seweid's sister has posted about the incident on Facebook: pic.twitter.com/pW3cgEVBsP
— Sara Yasin (@missyasin) December 15, 2016
A number of other cases of individuals reporting hate crimes have also been exposed to be fabricated, according to USA Today. These include other reports of Islamophobic harassment and racist intimidation.
The fact that Seweid’s case was so believable shouldn’t be ignored. As stated in the USA Today article, in the immediate days following the election of Donald Trump to the presidency, the Southern Poverty Law Center“collected 437 reports of ‘hateful intimidation and harassment.’” The vast majority of these instances were anti-immigrant in nature, followed closely by anti-black, anti-LGBT and anti-Muslim.
This unfortunate mistake will likely keep others who deal with Islamophobic harassment from coming forward with their stories for fear of shame or being told they’re making things up. It will also likely prompt even more Islamophobia as people inhumanely attack Seweid for her actions without considering that the circumstances that may have prompted them are the real problem.