When hearing the story of an 11-year-old girl who claims to have suffered a hate crime, supported and corroborated by her family, you wouldn't believe for a moment it could be a lie, would you? Only the most cynical of people would do that.
Well it seems Canadian schoolgirl Khawlah Noman's tale of her hijab being cut twice by a man in Canada was actually a hoax - and it's brought a tide of islamophobia bubbling to the surface.
Noman, a Muslim from Toronto, originally claimed she was walking to school when a man came up behind her and cut her hijab on Friday (January 12).
She is said to have screamed at the act, prompting the man, allegedly in his 20s to run away, only to return again in another attempt to cut her headscarf.
Later that day, in a press conference at her school, the girl said she was "scared and confused." Her brother said he saw the attack and her mother also appeared - in tears.
Many were affected by the story and even the Prime Minister of Canada tweeted: "My heart goes out to Khawlah Noman following this morning's cowardly attack on her in Toronto. Canada is an open and welcoming country, and incidents like this cannot be tolerated."
Police started an investigation into the hate crime and gave an alleged description of the suspect, who was said to be thin, about 5 foot 7 inches tall with black prescription glasses. He was also allegedly wearing black clothing and brown gloves.
But now it is claimed the incident was a complete work of fiction, a figment of Noman's imagination.
Yesterday (January 15) police said: “After a detailed investigation, police have determined that the events described did not happen. Our investigation is concluded and we don’t expect anything further.”
It's still not clear why the story would have been made up, or even whether it was made up at all. Some articles, such as this one, suggest the truth might be more complicated. Others suggest Noman might be guilty of nothing more than a child's fib, which has been blown out of all proportion by people acting with the best intentions.
What is certain is that the whole saga has brought a volley of islamophobic Tweets and Facebook posts, exposing the hard-line anti-Muslim elements in Canadian society. One Tweet accused Nolan of being a "brainwashed Islamist puppet", and others suggest Canada needed to stop the advance of Shariah law.
Whatever the truth of the case, whatever the rights and wrongs, it's become an open goal for the islamophobes, the perfect PR opportunity for those who believe, to quote one Tweet, that there is a "Muslim/liberal agenda" corroding Canadian society and laying the groundwork for an Islamic takeover.
This hate crime may well have been fabricated, and one hopes, for all concerned, that the furore surrounding Khawlah Noman will die down soon.
But, sadly, it seems this whole shambles will pave the way for very real hate crimes to take place in the near future.