Michigan police: Hijab incident didn’t happen; charges possible
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (CNN) — Police in Ann Arbor say that a University of Michigan student’s claim that a man threatened to light her hijab on fire did not occur. They said an investigation into the woman’s report yielded virtually no evidence.
The student, who has not been publicly identified, had claimed that an unkempt man who appeared intoxicated had approached her near campus, displayed a lighter and threatened to light the garment. The student said that after she removed her hijab, the man fled.
After the incident was reported on November 11, police say they collaborated with the FBI and University of Michigan police on the investigation.
Lt. Matthew Lige of Ann Arbor police said that a number of factors contributed to the investigation’s conclusion.
No surveillance video from the purported scene of the crime existed of either the alleged victim or the perpetrator. Additionally, Lige told CNN that there were inconsistencies in the student’s statement, and that witnesses came forward that further invalidated the report.
“It quickly became a priority investigation for us, and relatively early in the investigation some inconsistencies were developed that led us to this conclusion six weeks later that this never happened,” Lige told CNN.
The police sent their final report to the Washtenaw County prosecutor’s office for review. A false report to law enforcement is classified as a felony, according to Lige. CNN reported on this incident at the time of its initial report.
“In this case, as she describes this interaction with us, we’ve classified it as ethnic intimidation,” Lige said. “That’s a felony crime in Michigan. Therefore, the falsification of that crime also becomes a felony.”
The Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Michigan chapter had initially condemned the incident and said President-elect Donald Trump needed to speak out forcefully against “the wave of anti-Muslim incidents sweeping the country” after the election.
Following the announcement that this incident had been proven false, CAIR Michigan Executive Director Dawud Walid said that he hoped this incident wouldn’t lead people to reject other such reports.
“We’re happy that she wasn’t attacked but very disturbed that she launched this bogus complaint,” Walid said. “We hope that the few bogus claims that have been made around the country pertaining to hate crimes after the election are not used to dismiss the very real uptick of hate incidents that have in fact been verified as taking place against communities of color.”