US Muslims Concerned That 'Few False Reports' of Hate Crimes Will 'Unfairly Discredit' Real Ones

Advocacy groups are concerned dozens of real crimes will be unfairly discredited

December 22, 2016, 5:37 PM

— -- After two reports of anti-Muslim hate crimes were determined to be fake by authorities this month, the Muslim community is concerned that these "few false reports" are going to "unfairly discredit and delegitimize the dozens of real anti-Muslim hate crimes and instances Islamophobia out there," according to the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC).

"The way our community is treated in the media is unfortunately very monolithic," MPAC spokeswoman Rabiah Ahmed told ABC News today. "When one person acts out -- whether it's making a false report or some other type of bad behavior -- it's often looked upon as if the whole community is responsible for it, and it's saddening."

One recent false report was made in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where a woman fabricated a hate crime incident in November, city police announced on Wednesday.

The woman, whom police are not naming at this time, alleged at the time that a man approached her near the University of Michigan campus and threatened to set her on fire if she did not remove her hijab, according to a spokesman for the Ann Arbor Police Department.

After poring over multiple surveillance videos, and after interviewing multiple witnesses, investigators determined "the incident in question did not occur," the police department spokesman told ABC News today. He added that the results of the investigation have been forwarded to the county's prosecutor's office, which will determine whether the woman will face charges.

In a separate case in New York City, police arrested an 18-year-old woman named Yasmin Seweid on charges of filing a false report and obstructing governmental administration, according to ABC's New York station WABC.

The NYPD said last week that Seweid falsely claimed that three men taunted her aboard a subway train on Dec. 1, yelling "Donald Trump" and calling her a "terrorist." The NYPD added that Seweid also falsely claimed that the men tried to take off her hijab and told her to "Get that f------ thing off your head!"

Seweid may have made up the story to get attention because of family issues at home, according to the NYPD.

Seweid's attorney, Benjamin Jon West, could not immediately be reached for comment on the case, nor the Manhattan Criminal Court for additional information, including if Seweid has entered a plea to the charges.

Ibrahim Hooper, national communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), told ABC News today that he believes the false reports are "statistically inevitable when you have such a large pool of reports."

"I think these cases are a function of the tremendous spike in the number of anti-Muslim hate crimes in recent weeks, particularly after the November election," Hooper said. "As with any type of reporting, a certain small percentage of them are going to turn out to be false."

Hooper added that he was concerned about how such reports are used against the Muslim-American community at large, which has been hurting and experiencing tremendous levels of fear, especially after the presidential election.

"These false reports unfortunately give ammunition to the industry of Islamophobes who promote the demonization and dehumanization of Islamic Muslims," he said. "But one or two false reports should not take away from the credibility of dozens of other real ones."

Hooper also told ABC News that the Muslim community "is under great psychological stress and tension right now, and that that in itself can cause mental health issues that lead to these types of incidents."

Ahmed echoed Hooper, saying that "we have youth going through a variety of issues" and "the community isn't immune to all the societal pressures out there that could lead someone to not tell the truth, exaggerate or report a false crime."

"We, as a community, need to do our best to try and make sure our people are supported and that we're verifying claims before they're shared," she said. "But at the same time, we really are facing an increase in anti-Muslim sentiment and hate crimes, and we need to shed a light on these issues and challenges."