Ann Arbor police: Woman forced to remove hijab after man threatens to set her on fire

Incident reported in 600 block of East William near S. State Street

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – A woman was forced to remove her hijab after a man threatened to set her on fire with a lighter near the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor.

UPDATE: Detectives determined the woman may have fabricated her story. According to the Ann Arbor police, numerous inconsistencies in statements provided by the alleged victim were identified and detectives determined the incident in question did not occur.

READ: Woman’s story about being forced to remove hijab did not occur, police say

Ann Arbor police said the incident happened in the 600 block of East William near S. State Street between 5:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Friday.

Police said the man approached the victim and demanded she remove her hijab or he would set her on fire. The woman complied and was able to leave the area.

The University of Michigan is warning students to watch their surroundings. It issued a campus safety alert. The threat leaves most students, regardless of religious faith, disturbed.

"Disgusted honestly that someone would do that," student Regina Onishchenko said. "I was upset pretty angry."

Osama Siblani, with the Arab American News, believes what happened in Ann Arbor reflects to a larger problem, especially since the recent presidential election.

"This Islamic phobia has really been uncovered by the presidential race, but it's been brewing for a long, long time," Siblani said.

Witnesses say the man is white, 20-30 years old, of average height with an athletic build. He had bad body odor and was thought to be intoxicated, they said.

"Intoxicated or not, he's probably more intoxicated with hate speech than liquor. It's no excuse," Siblani said. "I'm very pleased to hear police are taking this as ethnic intimidation."

For now, Muslim students are urged to stay vigilant while campus-wide students hope the threats stop completely.

"If you see something, say something," Onishchenko said. "Having the courage to say something and help others is really important."

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call the University of Michigan Division of Public Safety and Security at 734-763-1131.