New Yorker re-creates Canadian Hug-a-Muslim experiment

Inspired by a Canadian viral video, a New York actor tested the tolerance of average people by standing blindfolded in public with a sign “I’m Muslim and I Trust You. Do You Trust me Enough for a Hug?”

Inspired by Canadian viral video, New Yorker tests if people will offer hugs to Muslim on street

The original Blind Trust Project video shot in Toronto's Yonge-Dundas Square asked strangers to hug a Muslim in a public space to help break down barriers and raise awareness about Islamophobia. (Time Vision Productions)

Are New Yorkers as tolerant as some Torontonians? That’s the question a New York actor attempted to answer as he re-created a Canadian social experiment aimed at breaking down barriers and raising awareness about Islamophobia.

New Yorker Karim Metwaly brought the Blind Muslim Trust social experiment to the Big Apple to test the city's tolerance. He was inspired by a Canadian video shot a few weeks earlier. (Screen Capture)

The premise: A young Muslim man stands in a public square, blindfolded. Beside him a sign that reads "I'm Muslim and I Trust You. Do You Trust me Enough for a Hug?"

It's based on a video shot in January in Toronto's Yonge-Dundas Square. Called the Blind Trust Project, it was created by activist Asoomii Jay in response to recent hate crimes and bullying against Muslims. In her video, the subject stood between two signs. One read:  "I am a Muslim I am Labelled as a Terrorist", the other read "I trust you do you trust me? Give me a hug."

In the three-minute video some passersby stare, others take photos. But many more stop and give the man a hug. The huggers are young and old, male and female and from various ethnic backgrounds. The Toronto video has more than 1.8 million views on YouTube.

Can't see the video? Check it out here.

So would New Yorkers be as open? Actor Karim Metwaly stood in public in Manhattan on a chilly afternoon. Watch and see what happens next:

Can't see the video? Check it out here.

While at first he seems a curiosity, eventually people make their way over and give him a hug. 

"That’s pretty good activism you’re doing here, man," one man said 

"I’m Muslim too, peace be upon you," says another.

Jay was unaware that her project would catch on with another version in the U.S.

"To see so many positive reactions, it's touching and inspiring," she told CBC.

Jay said she is in favour of any project that helps encourage people to spread love and learn about co-existing together.

"It is a first step in helping educate people that not all Muslims are 'bad people' and a reminder for radical Muslims as well that if we want to defend Islam, we should do so in a way Islam teaches, not with acts of violence [which are] forbidden in Islam."

About the Author

Steven D'Souza

CBC News New York

Steven D'Souza is a Gemini-nominated journalist based in New York City. He has reported internationally from the papal conclave in Rome and the World Cup in Brazil, and he spent eight years in Toronto covering stories like the G20 protests and the Rob Ford crack video scandal.


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