Veerender Jubbal found himself on the defensive this weekend — and for the worst of reasons.
Jubbal is a freelance writer and active anti-Gamergate activist who created the hashtag #StopGamerGate2014. But this weekend, he became known as one of the terrorists connected to the coordinated attacks on Paris, thanks to a Photoshop job on a selfie Jubbal posted online months ago.
In the original photo, Jubbal is standing in a bathroom taking a picture of himself with an iPad. In the doctored version, he’s pictured holding a Quran instead of the iPad, and he appears to be wearing a vest filled with explosives.
A Twitter user with the handle @abutalut8 shared the photo in a tweet that has since been deleted, writing, “BREAKING, one Islamic State attacker in #ParisAttacks was a sikh convert to Islam.”
At least one Spanish newspaper and the Italian news channel TG24 picked up the doctored photo and ran it, assuming it was real. The picture went viral, and according to a report by the India Times, it even made its way to a pro-Islamic State channel on Telegram, the same app that the group used to take credit for the Paris attacks.
Jubbal tried to clear his name and damaged reputation with a series of tweets Saturday.
“People are editing, and photoshopping my selfies as if I am one of the people causing the issues/problems in Paris. So, like, it spread. Has spread to the point, where many people have had to tweet about the photos being photoshopped,” Jubbal wrote. “Any support/nice messages are welcome. You can all check the last retweets. Let us start with basics. Never been to Paris. Am a Sikh dude with a turban. Lives in Canada.”
Judging by Jubbal’s tweets, he suspects that he was targeted by Gamergate activists.
“Gamers are absolute garbage like I have been saying for a full year,” Jubbal wrote. “People will not stop harassing, and bothering me. I am cute as gosh. Learn the difference between me being a Sikh, and a Muslim. This image has been used, and placed on the front page of a major Spain newspaper — putting me as one of the people behind terrorist attacks. In gauging this entire incident — millions upon millions of people have seen the photoshopped images, and have placed me as a terrorist.”
Jubbal is not the first person to be targeted and labeled a terrorist because he is Sikh. In September, Inderjit Singh Mukker was brutally attacked in suburban Chicago, suffering injuries so severe that he required hospitalization. In 2012, six people were killed after a gunman opened fire on a Sikh temple in Wisconsin.
Jubbal’s purported crime was being Sikh and a vocal critic of Gamergate, the online movement that has been credited with targeting feminist and anti-racist gaming critics with death threats, forcing organizers to shutter events. Gamergate’s harassment of its critics has also included doxxing and “swatting,” the practice of making a false report to police so that law enforcement descends on the targeted person’s house with a SWAT team.
Even for someone who is a veteran of weathering Gamergate’s vicious attacks, Jubbal was shaken, Simran Jeet Singh, a personal acquaintance of Jubbal’s, told The Washington Post. Singh is a senior religion fellow for the Sikh Coalition and an assistant professor of religion at Trinity University in San Antonio.
“Veerender has been a champion of anti-racism in a world that is very racist,” Singh said. “Because of that he’s been, for the last couple of years, been targeted in very severe cyberbullying, so this is not new for him. Although, this takes it to a different level. He’s a kid. He’s a teenager. It’s very difficult for him. He’s very poised. He understands, and he speaks to issues of race very well, so I’m impressed by his ability, as a person, as a human, to handle these things in a way that’s very graceful and in a way that’s actually quite constructive despite the horrific, negative comments that he receives.”