Muslim woman speaks out following attack at grocery store in London, Ont.
A young Muslim mother, who said she was spat on, punched and had her hijab pulled in front of her baby while shopping at a London, Ont., supermarket earlier this week, says she is worried about the safety of all Muslim women, according to a report.
“I do worry about the safety of all Muslim women who wear hijab,” the 25-year-old woman told the London Free Press in an interview Wednesday.
“Before I thought it was just a statistic that I would see happen to people, but now I know it’s real and it happened to me.”
London police said Wednesday a 38-year-old woman has been charged with assault. Police say the suspect, whose identity has not been released, was arrested Tuesday night .
Images taken by the woman at the time of the incident show a suspect angrily gesturing at the camera.
According to the Free Press, the mother said she slapped the attacker with the back of her hand in self-defence after being spit on.
The woman says the suspect then yanked her by the head, dragged her away from her son, pinned her to the wall and punched her several times in the face. During the assault, her hijab fell off her head revealing her hair.
“If she was more angry, she might have pushed my baby,” the woman told the Free Press. “She was so close to where my baby was, she could have done anything. She could’ve pushed the stroller and he would’ve crashed and died.”
The woman said she suffered a black eye and chipped teeth in the attack.
The London assault is one of two high-profile incidents this week that have drawn outrage from the Muslim community. In the other, a pig’s head was left outside a Quebec City mosque Monday.
“We are saddened and disappointed that these sorts of incidents are occurring at all,” Amira Elghawaby, a spokesperson for the National Council of Canadian Muslims, told Global News. “Obviously we would recognize that this is not representative at all of Londoners, or Quebecers, or Canadians overall.”
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Elghawaby said her organization tracks hate crimes and hate incidents in Canada, and has seen a rise in reports of people being harassed and victimized based on their religious identity.
London police Const. Sandasha Bough said investigators are still gathering evidence to determine whether the attack “has elements of a hate or bias-motivated offence.”
Police are also investigating the Quebec incident, where a pig’s head was left at Quebec City’s Islamic cultural centre along with a note saying: “Bon appétit.” The consumption of pork is prohibited by practising Muslims.
In April, Global News reported that the number of police-reported hate crimes targeting Muslim-Canadians more than doubled over a three-year period despite the total number of hate crimes dropping.
The latest numbers from Statistics Canada showed that in 2014 police forces in Canada recorded 99 religiously motivated hate crimes against Muslims — up from 45 in 2012.
Elghawaby said she has seen a spike in attacks targeting Muslims that coincides with the charged-up political rhetoric that follow events like last fall’s federal election campaign, which featured a debate on the niqab and in the wake of terrorist events like the Ottawa shooting and the attacks in Paris and Brussels
“We saw attacks on visibly Muslim women, we saw the vandalism of mosques,” she said.
Following the shootings in Orlando, Fla., where a gunman killed 49 people at a gay nightclub, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump ratcheted up his rhetoric by calling again for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations has charged that Trump’s comments have led to increased attacks against Muslims.
Elghawaby said Canadians are very much in tune to what is going on in the U.S.
“[Trump] has made a number of divisive comments about a number of different groups,” Elghawaby said. “The fact that he is allowed to say these things and being provided a very large platform may give people license to share those bigoted and racist sentiments and perhaps act on those sentiments.”
*With files from David Shum and Will Campbell
© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.