A Muslim college student who claimed to be the victim of a religiously based hate crime in New York City has been accused of fabricating the account, causing outrage and confusion around an incident that sounded all too real in the post-election climate, reports the Christian Science Monitor. After President-elect Donald Trump’s victory, reports of hate crimes and bias-fueled incidents have surged, causing alarm in racial and religious minority groups as well as among women and the LGBT community. While an overwhelming number of those will likely hold true, some will not. Hate crime hoaxes have occurred for years, says Brian Levin of California State San Bernardino’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism. “People will … falsify all kinds of events – from hate crimes to resumes,” he says. “This is nothing indigenous to hate crimes.”
Issuing a false report regarding a hate crime carries different consequences from falsifying fraud or theft. Much like high-profile sexual assault cases later proved untrue, fake hate crime reporting has a tendency to shed doubt over other cases with similar narratives, a phenomenon that doesn’t tend to happen with other types of crimes. “Auto theft, domestic violence, sexual assault, thefts – are all things where we have false reporting, yet, by the same token, we don’t use that to impugn the general category,” Levin says. The New York incident began when Yasmin Seweid, a Brooklyn native and student, told the New York Daily News that three drunk white man accosted her on the subway, screaming “Donald Trump!” and using anti-Muslim slurs toward her. Eventually, the incident escalated and they tried to pull her hijab from her head, she said. Police struggled to track down witnesses and failed to uncover any surveillance footage of Seweid’s attack. On Wednesday, they declared it a hoax, taking her into custody on misdemeanor charges of filing a false report and obstructing government administration.