The family of the 11-year-old girl who lied about an assailant cutting her hijab as she was on her way to school offered their “sincere apologies to every Canadian” Wednesday night.
The story remains strong in Canada as politicians, the media and the public wrestle with what the incident reveals about attitudes toward Muslims.
In a statement first released by the Toronto Star, the family said that they were unaware that their daughter’s story had no basis in fact and “assumed it to be true just like everyone else.”
“We are deeply sorry for the pain and anger caused in the past several days,” the family said.
But questions remain about the way in which the story was handled, including why the girl’s name was released by the police right after the accusation was made and who was able to organize a news conference for the national media so quickly.
The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) immediately inserted itself into the story giving the media the name of the girl’s mother, Saima Samad, who quickly consented to speak to reporters. Both Norman’s school and the TDSB were criticized for linking the media with the family, but the board’s spokesman Ryan Bird, told the National Post, “This was the decision of the family, not the TDSB.”
Most Canadian politicians are urging the public to forgive and forget. Former Ontario premier and past leader of the federal Liberal Party, Bob Rae, tweeted Thursday morning: “An 11 year old told a whopper. Let’s show her some love, compassion and forgiveness, people. #gimmeabreak.”
A column in the Globe and Mail suggested even though the story was a hoax, Canadians should still focus on alleged Islamophobia.
Amira Elghawaby, described as a “human-rights advocate” by the paper, wrote: “I am left wondering what would compel a young girl to make up this story. … The story went to the core of many Muslim community fears that even our children are at risk of hate-motivated crimes and incidents. It’s not difficult to imagine, because the truth is, they are.”