The “Do you trust me?” hugging exercise isn’t a new thing, but it came to the U.K. only last week, when a teenage boy offered free hugs to the people of Nottingham.
Yusuf Pirot, 16, stood in the Nottingham city centre for two hours, blindfolded and holding a sign saying: “I trust you. Do you trust me? Give me a hug”.
“I grew up in a society where I was called a terrorist every single day”, Yusuf said on the video. “I was taught to be a good Muslim towards people, but yet we are looked upon as terrorists. But I am not”.
Initially it seems like nobody is going to hug him. But then he is embraced dozens of times by passersby.
The Kurdish schoolboy, whose family moved to the U.K. from northern Iraq in 2007, uploaded the video of the touching experiment to social media, where it was shared by Facebook page The LAD Bible and has now received over 2.1 million views.
Yusuf said he was compelled to carry out the experiment in response to the wave of anti-Islamic feeling following the Paris attacks.
“I wanted to combat the stereotype about my religion and prove that not all Muslims are terrorists. We want peace”, he said. “I was shocked by the Paris attacks — why would anyone want to hurt another human being, and why would they kill innocent people for no reason? The stereotype is not right, and these extremists are brainwashed — what they’re doing is not what Islam is about”.
Wendy Feargrieve was one of many who stopped to give Yusuf a hug. “He was blindfolded, and he couldn’t see who was going up to him and what they were going to do”, she said. “I walked up to him, and he put his arms around me, and I told him he was very brave to do what he was doing”.
An unnamed, blindfolded Muslim man did the same thing in Paris last week, offering hugs of empathy to mourners at a vigil for the Paris attacks. According to media reports, the man carried a placard which read: “I’m a Muslim and I’m told I’m a terrorist. I trust you, do you trust me? If yes, hug me?”