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Stop Shaming Yasmin Seweid

Stop Shaming Yasmin Seweid

yasmin seweid

On Wednesday, Yasmin Seweid, an 18-year-old Muslim girl from New York who claimed that she was attacked by three drunk Trump supporters on a subway, was arrested and arraigned for falsifying a police report and obstructing government administration. She could serve up to two years in jail if indicted.

On Dec. 1, Seweid reported that she was attacked on the No. 6 uptown subway train near 23rd Street by three White males who tried to remove her hijab. Seweid was later reported missing and was subsequently located.

Police officers couldn’t find any eyewitness reports or surveillance videos to consolidate Seweid’s story and became increasingly suspicious of her account. In a Facebook post, Seweid’s sister wrote that NYPD officers tried to disapprove and discredit her sister’s story from the get-go.

According to PIX 11, Seweid confessed that she concocted the story to evade getting in trouble with her parents.

In a Facebook post, Seweid’s sister wrote that NYPD officers tried to disapprove and discredit her sister’s story from the get-go.

Since her confession, Seweid has been ruthlessly shamed and attacked by media personnel, police officers, non-Muslims and Muslims alike for various reasons, including garnering bad press toward the Muslim-American community.

The negative responses from within the Muslim community are most alarming. We’re always quick to criticize and condemn mainstream media coverage of Muslims, but when a teenage Muslim girl makes a public mistake, full blame is cast on her, in addition to tarnishing her reputation. Moreover, if a teenage Muslim boy committed a wrongful act with the same public attention and scrutiny, his actions would’ve been dismissed as “boys will be boys.”

Although her actions are unjustifiable, the outpouring of vitriol from those criticizing Seweid is repugnant and fails to identify the underlying issue: the difficult reality of being a Muslim female teenager living in America with mounting societal, religious, parental and cultural pressures.

For starters, all we know about what actually happened has come from sensationalized media reports that no doubt have seized this as an opportunity to erroneously reinforce a patriarchal oppressive narrative of Muslim women and to delegitimatize other, actual, hate crimes against Muslims. No official police report has been released to offer a more conclusive account.

Yasmin’s story, from her initial police report to going missing and finally to her confession, is incomplete, messy and replete with themes of strict parenting, police indifference, cultural assimilation, societal pressures, beauty standards and verbal abuse against women.

Although her actions are unjustifiable, the outpouring of vitriol from those criticizing Seweid is repugnant and they fail to identify the underlying issue.

The reality is that Seweid’s story is not uncommon. Perhaps others’ are not to the same intensity or notoriety, but Seweid’s isn’t the first, and will certainly not be the last, teenager to lie to avoid any retribution from her parents or whomever.

Yes, her story was disproportionate, politically buzzed and affects many others, but let’s consider something. If we weren’t living in a Trump era with heightened Islamophobia and rampant anti-Muslim rhetoric, Seweid would’ve probably fabricated any other story with different details to gain sympathy from her parents, as early reports claimed.

To be clear, I’m not trying to psychoanalyze her intentions or to reduce her story to a simplistic, or even nuanced, explanation to justify her actions and heroize her.

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But, the fact remains that conservative parents, immigrants or not, can be suffocatingly strict, almost exclusively to their daughters, because they think they’re molding them into their vision of “righteous” individuals. As a result, a culture of fear is fostered at home that leads to a relationship of dishonesty and habitual fabrication of stories to get away with actions that would otherwise break parental standards.

The reality is that Seweid’s story is not uncommon.

Honestly? It’s disappointing because the amount of shame and guilt that ensues is enormous and emotionally tolling. Many times all these girls want is to be brutally honest with their parents and to be able to do what they desire without feeling guilty and without feeling like they have to choose between what they want and what their parents want.

Add to that being visibly Muslim in America—as a hijabi you’re seen as the infallible ambassador for Islam—and the pressure increases tenfold. Every public, and sometimes private, action is not seen individually, but rather as a collective and monolithic representation of all Muslims. It’s immensely burdensome, especially if there are no adequate support systems.

Robina Niaz, founder of Turning Point for Women and Families, an organization founded to help Muslim women and girls, told Newsweek that the pressure on visibly Muslim women and girls in America is “enormous.”

She said, “I’m not condoning her [Seweid’s] behavior at all. It’s understandable that Muslims, including myself, are upset and worried, but I feel we need to pay even more attention to young women and the kind of support and help we can provide them, so that anyone else who is struggling with things at home or outside feels a little safer talking about them and getting help.”

Shaming Yasmin will not make the situation any better. It will only contribute to her distress. Instead, we should internally reflect on the conditions that led to her decisions and make changes to prevent its recurrence.

View Comments (5)
  • Without knowing the entire story, not to mention that it’s strict non of our business, we should not be discussing the motives behind this sister’s actions or her integrity or character. We will be held accountable for the words we use especially when discuss the character of another. SakeenahBegum.com

    • The sister should have maintained a low profile and apologize on behalf of her sister and also future victims whose real incidents would be tarnished by what Yasmin did. Sure a lot of girls in the past have pulled stunts but no presidential candidate emboldened them to act out and fabricate. Susan Smith claimed a black man kidnapped her two boys who were later found drowned yet she did it. She was believed. A white girl claimed a black woman threw acid or some corrosive chemical on her face after addressing her as “pretty girl.” She was believed.The difference is most of these women were white and they were readily believed as “victims” of blacks. Same with Charles Stuart who shot and killed his wife in Boston then blamed it on a black man. But the difference is they did not need a presidential candidate to instill in them hatred. They did it because they knew we live in a society where their stories will be readily believed if a black person is the perpetrator. This girl knows that Muslims are already hated by many and she being Muslim makes her crime beyond contempt. She should have just said she was robbed which is a believable story that can happen to anyone and it would have never garnered all the publicity. People get robbed every day. But since Trump won there have been many incidents of hate crimes. So the police were under pressure to solve her complaint unlike if she was just another victim of robbery the police won’t feel pressure if someone stole her iPhone to solve that crime.

  • The thing about strict and conservative parenting is that in my view using fear, shame and guilt to manipulate and intimidate a child to “do the righteous thing” is extremely unloving and leads to rebellion or worse to a duplicity of mind that fosters so much insecurity and confusion as to what Love is and isn’t. I have this battle every hour, and I am a Christian by choice. I struggle everyday with hatred for the way i was raised,but love for those whom raised me. There are really two “Christian” communities in America (just as I suspect there are two Muslim communities in this world of ours). One says we are in a spiritual war for the world and that we must win or else all.is doomed for we will be held to account before God or Allah (depending on your religious choice or background). The other says we are in a spiritual war of love vrs hate… Which really should unite peace loving Christians and Muslims against the radical elements of fear, guilt and shame based radical conservatives (which I personallly call Fascist not American conservative). Modern progressive liberalism is another real enemy of souls in this modern world. They exploit the hurting heart and soul coming out from aggressive usually religious and conservative homes to move people to believe that “freedom” is doing whatever you want to do and being supported in those endeavors… And the fact is that while the human soul is granted the dignity of choice, choosing wisely is to learn how to discipline your behaviors so that you don’t get trapped into having to make a catastrophic decision (for your soul) like having your life trapped by an unwanton pregnancy or ending an innocent baby’s life to avoid such. So, in conclusion… Learn to discipline your life for YOU! Love yourself best by shedding the bonds of relationships and pressures as soon as you are able (by getting out on your own)… Take upon yourself the personal responsibility to care for yourself and then be responsible for your decisions so that you aren’t feeling manipulated by anyone, and you aren’t living a life of “false freedom”.

  • Well the difference is people are looking for an excuse to hate or dismiss Muslims so she made it easier for them to dismiss any real victim that comes along. Like we had a Muslim policewoman in Brooklyn whose young son was attacked and she was threatened with violence. But she is a police office and I’m sure there were videos in the area so the man was quickly arrested. Also a Muslim woman who is a MTA worker was pushed down the stairs by someone who yelled anti-Muslim sentiments. Her incident I’m sure occurred around witnesses so easily believable. In the past we have had girls making up stuff but they don’t make a big deal of that is because no presidential candidate was saying things while campaigning that would embolden them to fabricate bogus scenarios. White girls have made up lies about imaginary black men and most times white people believe. Charles Stuart shot and killed his wife in Boston and made up a story that a black man did it. Most white people believed until his story fell apart that he had set out to kill his pregnant wife. Lots of black men were rounded up.

    Yasmin’s story is different from those white people making up stories. There have been a series of hate crimes around the country since Trump won and even before he won. People like Susan Smith who made up stories about an imaginary black man did not happen in an atmosphere of white women being attacked by black men. But Muslims are being attacked for real. This is why she is not representative of the other people who make up stories that most of use eventually forget about. She could have easily said she was robbed which is a believable story in NYC. But to be accosted on an uptown #6 train full with passengers and no one will stand up for a young girl, regardless of her religion, does not sound like the New York City I know. That’s why she’s being excoriated from every angle.

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