A mother of four from Whitby, Ont., says a complete stranger hurled insults at her for wearing a hijab, an alleged incident that is now at the centre of a Durham police investigation.
Sara Moumani, 31, says that she was approached by a man on Tuesday morning while she was with her five-year-old son, Yasseen.
“He said, ‘You f**-ing terrorist,'” said 31-year-old Sara Moumani, a mother of four. “‘You deserve to die.'”
Investigators say Moumani returned to her car and drove past the man, warning him she was going to call the police.
Moumani alleges that the man insulted her religion. “I shrugged my shoulders, and I said, ‘You know what? Well, that’s good for you.’ And then…when he saw me say that, he got really upset and he said to me, ‘You’d better take that scarf off your head before I rip it off.'”
Police are still looking for the suspect, who is described as white, about 50 years old, with a short stocky build and brown hair.
Dave Selby, a spokesperson with Durham police, says it is too early on in the investigation to know which charges will be laid. But, he says to report to police anyone who is threatening or asking someone to remove a religious symbol. “Everyone benefits from the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and that protects your ability to worship who you want to worship and to wear what you want to wear and to believe what you want to believe,” he said. “As a police service, we reinforce those rights.”
The alleged Whitby encounter is just one of the latest in a string of suspected incidents against Muslims across the Greater Toronto Area.
“What we’re seeing really concerns us,” said Leila Nasr of the National Council of Canadian Muslims. “We’ve had nine hate crimes or hate incidents reported to us in the month of July across the country. Six of those occurred just in the GTA and surrounding areas.”
This includes the confrontation at the Toronto Island Ferry Terminal in July. Toronto police have since arrested and charged 50-year-old Lombray Ball with two counts of assault and threatening death.
In another recent encounter, 38-year-old Muslim father Muhammed Abu Marzouk was viciously beaten, allegedly by two brothers, in Mississauga, Ont. Peel police say it was a hate-motivated crime, and they have charged 19-year-old Janis Corhamzic and 27-year-old Adem Corhanzic, both of Brampton, Ont., with assault.
Moumani says she will not stand down if she is confronted again. “The piece of cloth on my head doesn’t really make me any different,” she said.
Anyone with information, video or pictures related to the alleged Whitby incident is asked to contact police.
— With files from The Canadian Press