Last week, 11 year-old Khawlah Noman said that she was walking to school in Toronto when a man came up behind her, pulled off her jacket hood, and began cutting her hijab with scissors. “I turned around and I saw him with his scissors,” Khawlah said. “I screamed.” She said that her scream caused the man to run away, before coming back to do it again.
Police were called and the story quickly went viral. A news conference was held at the school that day at which Khawlah said “This is terrible and I do not like it. I felt confused, scared, terrified.” She addressed her attacker, saying “What you’re doing is really wrong, you should not act like this, and especially, I’m a kid.”
Police Constable Jenniferjit Sidhu praised the girl, saying “She was brave enough to confront the man, make some noise …. and then proceed to walk with a bunch of other kids realizing there’s safety in numbers.” Politicians at all levels quickly shared their support as well.
Toronto’s mayor John Tory said “”No child should ever be afraid walking to school in Toronto because of what they are wearing or for any other reason. Intolerance and hate of any kind, including islamophobia, has no place in our city, our province, or our country.””
Ontario premiere Kathleen Wynne Tweeted “This is a cowardly act of hatred, and it has no place in Ontario. This does not represent who we are. We must stand firm in our support of this young girl who was assaulted simply for wearing a hijab.”
This is a cowardly act of hatred, and it has no place in Ontario. This does not represent who we are. We must stand firm in our support of this young girl who was assaulted simply for wearing a hijab.
— Kathleen Wynne (@Kathleen_Wynne) January 12, 2018
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau even weighed in the same day.
My heart goes out to Khawlah Noman following this morning’s cowardly attack on her in Toronto. Canada is an open and welcoming country, and incidents like this cannot be tolerated.
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) January 12, 2018
“My heart goes out to Khawlah Norman following this morning’s cowardly attack on her in Toronto. Canada is an open and welcoming country, and incidents like this cannot be tolerated,” he tweeted.
These are all great sentiments. The problem? Nobody waited to find out if it actually happened. Monday, Toronto Police announced that it didn’t. Toronto Police spokesman Mark Pugash said that this was determined after a thorough investigation. “It is absolutely unusual,” Pugash said.
It’s really not, and that’s the problem. The media and politicians hear these stories, confirmation bias kicks in, and they get reported. The stories go viral before anyone has a chance to find out, or care, if they’re true, and the corrections never get as much press as the accusations. Winston Churchill famously said “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” And that was before Twitter