Ah, free love…
Following the Paris attacks Yusf Pirot, from Nottingham, took to the streets to offer free hugs to strangers while blindfolded to combat Islamophobia and demonstrate he is not a terrorist.
Why would people think he’s a terrorist?
They have no good reason to, but an awful lot of British people have treated Yusf, a Kurdish Muslim, with suspicion and hurled abuse at him simply because of his religion and ethnicity. In 2007 the 16-year-old moved from northern Iraq to the UK; he says that since then he has "been called a terrorist nearly every day of my life".
That paints a pretty bad picture of the UK.
Instead of reacting with anger, Yusf grew determined to tackle prejudice he encountered.
By giving out free hugs?
Exactly. The schoolboy stood in Nottingham city centre for two hours sporting a blindfold and a sign around his neck reading: "I trust you. Do you trust me? Give me a hug." Yusf said. "This idea was in my head for a long time – I wanted to send a message out to the world and tell them that I am a Muslim. There are 1.7 billion of us in the world – that doesn't mean that every single one of us is a terrorist. Deep inside I do care – and it hurts me.”
What was the experience like?
Quite scary but ultimately uplifting. "When I was blindfolded I heard a few people saying negative things – one person said to his friend, ‘What would happen if I punched him in the face?’" However, dozens of people of all genders, ages and backgrounds couldn’t resist his open arms and went in for a hug.
Will he repeat the gesture?
It was only going to be a one-off social experiment, but footage of the stunt uploaded to YouTube has touched the hearts of people around the world, accumulating over two million views, so expect to see more of Yusf. "I was really shocked and surprised,” he said of the reaction. “I thought it would be a normal video and ... not a big deal. I was like 'wow'," he added.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies