A verbal racist attack against two Muslim people has come to light in the Kingston area, according to the family victimized and local police.
Jena Badawi, who is 13 years old, was with her mother at the Canadian Tire on Division Street when they say they were harassed by a white customer.
Jena, who spoke for her family as she was the most fluent in English, says she’s still shaken after being verbally attacked by the stranger while waiting in line for a curbside order at the Canadian Tire on Division Street.
“She turned to me she started calling us names, saying we are not white, why are we over here, we don’t belong here,” Jena said.
Both Jena and her mother wear a hijab and are visibly recognized as Muslim.
This incident comes in the wake of what police called a targeted hate crime against a Muslim family in London, Ont., which left four dead and a nine-year-old boy orphaned and has sparked outcry about Islamophobic attacks and incidents in Canada.
The Kingston incident was reported to police, who have charged the woman in question with assault and determined the incident was motivated by hate.
“We take this seriously,” said Sgt. Steve Koopman.
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“We are treating this as a hate crime. We have a dedicated officer from the core office who is assigned to equity diversity and inclusion.”
For young Jena, the incident has been upsetting, but unfortunately, she says she’s not surprised it happened to them.
“This makes me feel sad that this is happening in Canada,” Jena said.
“I feel like people are getting the wrong idea of Muslims through fake news, and people might say Muslims are bad but that’s not true. We are very, very peaceful and we don’t like to hurt anyone.”
Canadian Tire employees say they are aware of the incident, but the company’s head office declined to comment, as the issue is under police investigation.
Koopman urged anyone who has been the victim of a hate-motivated crime to come forward.
“This quite often is a stranger on stranger. It is a real shock to the victim that this has occurred and we need to treat that seriously. So not only is it needing to come from a police perspective, but also a criminal justice perspective that they are aware, this is a hate crime, these are the aggravating factors. And when it comes to sentencing, it should be dealt with, in my opinion, more severely,” Koopman said.
As for Jena, she hopes sharing her story will help inspire others who experience these kinds of attacks to come forward.
“I’m hoping to see people standing up against racism and stopping it in any way they can,” she said.