Two US-based influencers with a combined following of more than 10 million followers have apologised after they were accused of Islamophobia.
Content creators Savannah Demers, 22, and Michelle Kennelly, 19, have been accused of mocking a Muslim woman wearing a hijab at an Amazon Prime event to celebrate the premiere of Lena Dunham’s Catherine Called Birdy.
In a video shared to her Instagram story, Demers filmed herself and Kennelly with blankets over their heads.
Above the blankets and in the background, a Muslim woman wearing the hijab could be seen sitting behind them using her phone.
The now-deleted Instagram story quickly began circulating online, with social media users criticisng the pair for allegedly mocking the Muslim woman.
Another TikTok creator named Maya Abdallah, who can also be seen in the background of the video, weighed in on the controversy and accused Demers and Kennelly of being “extremely Islamophobic”.
“They went out of their way to put those blankets over their head to film a hijabi woman without consent to make fun of her on their platforms with millions and millions of followers,” Abdallah alleged.
“The woman I’m sitting next to [the woman wearing the hijab] is not an influencer. She did not come to this event to be mocked or to be laughed at. She came to this event to enjoy the event that she was invited to.”
The backlash comes amid new data from the UK Home Office, which reveals that Muslims faced 42 per cent of all religiously aggravated hate crime in the year ending March 2022.
Additionally, a survey of more than 1,000 US adults by the Othering & Belonging Institute at University of California, Berkeley found that 76.7 per cent of Muslim women had experienced a personal encounter with Islamophobia.
The Independent has contacted Amazon, Demers and Kennelly for comment.
Both Demers and Kennelly have responded to the backlash separately.
In a video shared with her TikTok followers on Sunday (9 October), Kennelly denied making fun of the woman.
“It was just us being cozy in our warm pink blankets and I realised that there was a girl wearing a hijab behind us when we showed the location around and what the event looked like.
“We did not see her, we never spoke about her, we did not make fun of her, and absolutely had no intention of hurting anybody’s feelings.
“I removed the story because the last thing I want right now is to hurt somebody, especially with the situation going on in the world.”
Kennelly continued: “My dad is Muslim, I come from a Muslim background. My manager is Iranian, and I respect and love all cultures.
“I never made fun of anyone, I never bullied anyone, and I just wanted to sincerely apologise if I did hurt anybody.”
In a separate video, Demers said she hadn’t noticed the woman in the background until she received a message from a friend alerting her that the video may be deemed “disrespectful”.
“I genuinely posted this and had no idea until this morning what was going on in the background of this video.
“I see the video and I see how bad it looks. I hate that I posted that and not even realising what I did. It just goes to show how careful you have to be.”
Demers added: “We had no idea who was sitting behind us, that video, the intention of it was us being coy in our blankets just trying to show where we were at and what we were doing. I understand how bad it looks.
“I would never ever do that, especially with what’s going on in the world right now. I am so sorry, and I will be so much more careful with my actions.
“Genuinely from the bottom of my heart I apologise to anyone who was offended by that, who are affected by that, and to the girl in that video: I am so sorry.”/Independent