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Why are we holding an 11-year-old more accountable for her tall tales than the President of the United States?

By Shadi Bozorg

Recently an 11-year-old Canadian Muslim girl, who claimed to have her hijab cut off by a scissor-wielding male stranger, fabricated the story for reasons unknown. As expected, the world quickly turned against her.

People’s responses on social media went from shock and sadness about a hate crime against an 11-year-old, to angrily condemning the child, even going as far as saying she should be charged with criminal offenses. Did she make an error? Yes, and she will have to live with it for the rest of her life. Her name and face have been published for the world to see, and public opinion convictions often come with dire consequences.

Is she a child? Yes, and that’s what many people are forgetting.

Why are we holding an 11-year-old more accountable for her tall tales than the President of the United States? According to the wise people of Twitter and Facebook, this is because she clearly had a hidden agenda.

[TW/CW: The following tweets include islamophobia.]

Accusations of her operating on behalf of a sinister organization, and her family being terrorists began to fill comment sections of national articles. After all, it’s widely understood that children never lie. No, children only speak factual truths and they never make mistakes. Yes, this specific 11-year-old must be linked to something deeper and darker. She doesn’t deserve to be treated like every other child, for she’s Muslim and there must be more to this than a kid thinking they’re getting away with a lie.

Just for clarification, almost all children lie in some capacity, almost consistently. And if you’re thinking “mine doesn’t’!” it’s because they are doing a good job of lying to you. This lie snowballed to the point of no control, going viral on social media and becoming national news in a matter of hours.  Being a child, this girl must have assumed she would just have to play along with it until it played out. Wrong? Absolutely. Evil? An Islamophobic reach.

The hypocrisy of human beings is nothing new, but both of these reactions so perfectly showcase how fleeting empathy is in our society. When something bad happens in the trends it’s all “thoughts and prayers”, “this is tragic”, “let’s make this better.” Yet, once someone makes a mistake it’s “let’s ruin this person’s life forever using just the pads of our fingers.”  We are not rational or consistent in our responses, just reactionary.

Related: WHITE SUPREMACY AND ISLAMOPHOBIA LIVE EVERYWHERE, INCLUDING LIBERAL COMMUNITIES

This girl has been on the planet for just over a decade, half of it spent not being able to properly put together sentences, and the other half spent trying to understand social cues and fitting into this very horrible, very weird world we are living in. Now imagine on top of being an awkward 11-year-old person, being a girl who is Muslim and living in a predominantly white country. With one quick browse or click of her remote she is exposed to the racist rhetoric of the President of the United States and his followers — and yes, this does affect us in Canada. She has more than likely personally experienced racism and Islamophobia in some form, or seen her family members experience it. I say this because as a little brown girl living in a “liberal” white Canadian neighbourhood, I was called a terrorist on more than one occasion.

When I was experiencing racism in my public school 15 years ago, it was in the wake of 9/11. Other than the occasional remark about how hairy I was and how Osama Bin Laden was my uncle, there were a few situations that sent me to the bathroom crying. One afternoon before lunch was over, a 11-year-old white boy in my class casually referred to people living in Afghanistan as “sand-niggers.” I quickly reported this to my white teacher and though she agreed that what he said was wrong, she assured me it was a “bad time for all of us.” Nothing else was done. I was 11, I was a minority, I was a student and she was my teacher, therefore all I could do was nod my head. This was the second time I had reached out to a teacher because of hurtful words and the second time I was essentially told to just shake it off. I came to realize that I would be hated because of my skin and that I would have to deal with it on my own. After all, it was a bad time for all of us.

I think about my experience in public school, and I wish I did more for myself and for other kids who experienced similar things. I wonder what I could have done, but my mentality then was that getting my parents involved would only worry them, telling on people would only lead to being scrutinized, and fighting back with my own words would get me in trouble. Perhaps if something drastic enough happened to make people actually feel sympathy for me, something bigger than throwing hurtful words at me, something physical, I would have been heard. Perhaps something would have changed then.

Related: AFTER FINSBURY PARK AND THE MURDER OF NABRA HASSANEN, BEING ATTACKED SEEMS MORE LIKELY THAN NOT.

Watching this 11-year-old girl’s interview, knowing she’s making this particular story up, I see that she just wanted to feel some sort of community, sympathy, attention in a manner that wasn’t to look at her and judge her for her religion. Despite her fabricated story, it’s evident how this world treats girls like her. It’s a fact that she did this all for a reason — not because her family set her up, not because she wanted to see her face on the news, but because she was likely never heard until that moment.

I do feel sympathy for her, and for what she’s going through now, because yes, her plan backfired. She was caught, and she will definitely learn her lesson. What she did was wrong, but what the media did was sensationalistic and lasting damage to an 11-year-old, and that is not her fault. I just hope she knows she doesn’t need to tolerate any abuse she may face in the future just because she made a mistake as a kid. Because that is what the world often does to little girls of colour; it makes us feel like we deserve everything that happens to us, and we often carry that into womanhood.

 

Author Bio: Shadi Bozorg is a freelance writer currently living in Toronto. Shadi was born in Iran, moving to Canada as a toddler with her family. She aims to be an advocate for all marginalized people, and is passionate about topics concerning the human condition.

 

 

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