Police in Hamilton, Ont., say they are “not ruling anything out” after a Muslim teen was robbed in a weekend attack which his family suggests may have been a hate crime.
Hamilton police said Noah Rabbani, a Grade 10 student from Saltfleet Secondary School, was walking near Rymal Road East and Fletcher Road just after midnight on Sunday when two men got out of a vehicle and attacked him.
One of the suspects assaulted Rabbani with a baseball bat and both men fled the scene with the victim’s backpack.
“He noticed that a car was following him, but he didn’t think much of it until he heard someone get out of the car behind him,” the victim’s aunt Rehana Alam told Global News. “When he looked back he saw a baseball bat hitting his head.”
Rabbani, who is a Muslim of Pakistani descent, suffered injuries to his brain, jaw, limbs and spine and remains in the intensive care unit, said another aunt in a Facebook post which has over 10,000 shares.
“He is a quiet, kind boy. He’s an exceptional student who wins numerous academic awards including the Kiwanis Youth Recognition Award and is well liked by students and teachers,” Salima Hafeez wrote.
The family said it is appealing for the public’s help to identify Rabbani’s attackers whom police say were white men between five-foot-six and five-foot-eight inches tall.
“We can’t know for sure this attack was provoked by race. But we can’t deny it,” Alam said. “It was two white men. It was an innocent little 15-year-old walking down the street, minding his own business. We can’t really deny what’s going on.”
Hamilton police said they don’t believe the assault to be a hate crime but are looking at all aspects of the investigation.
“We always investigate all leads which relates to the offence and anything that has to deal with hate crime. We are not ruling anything out,” Det. Mike Hall said.
Rabbani’s family said they want to bring awareness to the community that incident like this are unacceptable.
“We need to take measures to protect our children, Muslims in general. Because Islamophobia attacks and hate crimes against Muslims and vandalism at mosques have been on the rise and its sort of makes us believe that this was a racially incited crime,” Alam said.
Police are asking any witnesses or someone with information on the case to come forward by contacting 905-546-4947 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.