The aftermath of the Paris attacks on Nov. 13 brought out some of the best of humanity, as the world stood in solidarity with France. But it also spurred a resurgence of racial and religious tensions, as some lashed out against Middle Eastern communities. No one knows this better than a man who was slandered as an ISIS terrorist in the aftermath of the Paris attacks. So who is Veerender Jubbal, the man photoshopped to look like a Muslim extremist? He's neither an extremist nor Muslim — he's a Canadian Sikh who likes Twitter and cats.
On Saturday, Jubbal discovered that one of his photos had been photoshopped to make him look like a suicide bomber. Someone took one of his selfies, turned his iPad into a Quran, put a suicide bomber vest on him, and childishly inserted a dildo into the background. The photo, with an accompanying caption labeling him as one of the Paris suicide bombers, quickly spread. By Sunday, it had been picked up by several international publications, and Jubbal's face was featured on the front of La Razon, a daily Spanish newspaper. Later, it was used on an Italian website and tweeted out.
The photo is clearly a fake. One look at the image makes it abundantly clear, as Qurans typically don't take photos. Additionally, Jubbal's turban clearly indicates that he is Sikh, and not Muslim — these are two completely different religions. Those who still aren't convinced need only take one look at Jubbal's Twitter, which is filled with cute little animated Sikhs and a profile which describes him as a "diversity consultant" and "social justice healer." So how did a Canadian man's selfie make it around the world like this? Some cite Jubbal's connection to Gamergate as the likely motive.
For those who are unfamiliar with the confusing online movement, Gamergate started last summer, and sent shock waves through the gaming industry. It's supposedly about advocating for ethics in video game journalism, but it has quickly devolved into producing misogyny and the harassment of female gamers and developers. The entire movement has been marked by vitriol, death threats, and severe harassment toward those opposed to it. Jubbal, a game critic, was highly involved in the controversy, starting the #StopGamergate2014 hashtag and criticizing gamers who were harassing and threatening women in the industry.
As a result, Jubbal was subjected to a good deal of harassment, often revolving around his religion, ethnicity, and appearance. His turban was repeatedly mocked, and he was constantly spammed. On one occasion, Gamergate supporters used the hashtag #CatPicsForVeerender (which was originally intended to share pictures of cats) in order to bombard Jubbal with graphic images of Sept. 11. He eventually left Twitter as a result.
On Monday, Jubbal and the Sikh Coalition released a joint statement on the situation. "While the past 48 hours have been deeply disturbing on a personal level, the broader impact of this image going viral for the Sikh community is what upsets me the most," the statement read. "Sikh articles of faith, such as our turbans and beards, represent a commitment to universal justice, equality, and helping others (seva), yet Sikhs continue to be mistakenly and offensively associated with terrorist networks abroad."
To clear up any future confusion, Jubbal helpfully shared a link, "10 Things I Wish Everyone Knew About Sikhism," and encouraged individuals to learn more about his religion. In addition, he requested apologies from the media outlets that mistakenly ran the image. Thus far, La Razon has issued an apology.
But despite the nightmare of waking up and finding your face wrongly associated with terrorism, Jubbal has remained somewhat positive throughout the ordeal, tweeting how he is "cute as gosh" and noting that he is "valuable and rad." In addition, other Twitter users have reached out to him with support and kind words. So let's make it clear once and for all: Veerender Jubbal is not a terrorist.