LONDON, CANADA: According to Toronto Star, 11-year-old Khawlah Noman says she was walking to school with her younger brother when the man approached and cut her hijab . Police say they are treating the attack as a hate crime. They are seeking one suspect described as an Asian man in his 20s.
Khawlah Noman was walking to school with her younger brother on Friday when she felt somebody pull the hood of her winter jacket down. Protected from the rain was the 11-year-old’s light blue hijab – the target of a man holding a pair of scissors with a blue handle.
Over the next 10 minutes, she said she was attacked not once, but twice, by a man who is now a suspect in a Toronto police hate crime investigation.
“I felt really scared and confused,” she told reporters Friday afternoon, recounting the traumatic incident in a Scarborough neighbourhood near Birchmount Rd. and Sheppard Ave. E.
“I didn’t feel comfortable about what was going on.”
When her attacker pulled her hood down, she said he cut her hijab from the bottom up. Terrified, she turned to face him – a young Asian male, roughly 5-foot-8 to six feet tall, wearing black pants, a black hoodie and brown gloves. He had a moustache, the girl told police, and glasses, too. He was smiling at her.
She looked at him and screamed. Her attacker ran away.
Frightened, Khawlah and her 10-year-old brother, Mohammed Zakariyya, rushed to join a group of children walking nearby so they wouldn’t be alone with the attacker.
Together, they continued their morning walk to school down Birchmount Rd. Held up at a traffic light at Bay Mills Blvd., the brother and sister were separated at opposite ends of the crossing.
Mohammed didn’t make the light in time to safely cross, so his sister waited for him while the group moved on. He said he watched as his sister’s attacker again approached her, scissors in hand.
The little boy was scared, worried his sister would be hurt. “I’m so glad that she’s safe and I’m safe,” he said.
When they got to school, they discovered the bottom of Khawlah’s hijab had been cut by about 30 centimetres.
The incident was deeply upsetting for the children, and for their mother, Samia Samad.
“I don’t know why he did that,” Samad said, visibly shaken and in tears.
“It’s just not Canada. I’m frustrated and I’m angry, but I do believe in peace in Canada. I am so proud to be a Canadian, and I want to give (the attacker) the same message.”
The assault against Khawlah, a student at Pauline Johnson Junior Public School in Scarborough, is being condemned by leaders from all three levels of government as unrepresentative of Canadian values.
“I can’t imagine how afraid she must have been,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in an unprompted statement of support for Khawlah at a news conference in London, Ont.
“I want her and her family and her friends and community to know that that is not what Canada is and that is not who Canadians are.”
Premier Kathleen Wynne was outraged.
“Everyone in our province has the right to worship and dress however they choose,” she said. “And everyone has the right to feel safe and respected no matter what they are wearing or where they go.”
Mayor John Tory said he was “shocked and appalled” by the incident, stating, “No child should ever be afraid walking to school in Toronto because of what they are wearing.”
The school’s website says 68 per cent of the junior kindergarten through Grade 6 students in attendance speak a language other than English at home.
“For something like this to happen to one of our kids here is piercing to my heart,” said TDSB spokesperson Shari Schwartz-Maltz.