A Muslim mother and daughter in Hamilton, Ontario hid behind bushes after police say a man threatened them using Islamophobic slurs and later threatened to kill them.
The incident comes just over a month after a Muslim family was run down and killed in London, Ontario, and has renewed calls for a national strategy to tackle Islamophobia in Canada.
In a news release, Hamilton police said a mother and daughter were walking through a parking lot Monday night when a driver nearly hit one of them with his vehicle while pulling out of a parking spot.
The driver then threatened the pair using slurs, prompting the women to run across the street and hide behind bushes, police said.
“He eventually located them and threatened to kill them. One of the victims ran screaming for help and witnesses intervened as the suspect fled the area,” the release said.
Soon after, police reported that they arrested a 40-year-old man and charged him with three counts of uttering threats, two counts of assault with a weapon, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, and failure to comply with probation. The incident is also being investigated as a hate crime.
In a statement issued through the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), family members of the victims said they are “shaken but unbroken after the attack on our family.”
“Let us be clear: this individual attempted to terrorize our family. While we cannot share many details in light of an ongoing criminal investigation, we can generally say what happened last night. An individual drove dangerously up to our family members. He swore at them. He cursed them with a number of racist and Islamophobic slurs. He threatened to murder them. He tried to tail them home in his vehicle.”
Fatema Abdalla, a spokeswoman for the National Council of Canadian Muslims, told VICE World News the advocacy organization has been receiving more calls about anti-Muslim hate in the wake of the London attack, which left four members of the Afzaal-Salman family dead and orphaned a nine-year-old boy.
“It’s almost once a week that we're picking up the phone and we hear of a new attack that has taken place against either a Muslim woman or anyone else who is identifiably or visibly Muslim,” she said. “This showcases that it is a rising concern and that is why we have continuously called for a national plan of action against Islamophobia.”
The London attack prompted members of parliament to unanimously vote in favour of a motion that called for a national summit on Islamophobia—a measure that was repeatedly raised by Muslim leaders at a vigil for the mass killing. The summit will take place on July 22.
Ahead of this summit, the NCCM has been hosting ongoing consultations with mosques and Muslim-led organizations. It also launched an online platform that allowed any Canadian Muslim to make policy recommendations and highlight the issues that matter most to them.
This consultation process has resulted in a 50-page document containing about 61 policy recommendations aimed at federal, provincial, and municipal levels of government. According to Abdalla, it will be publicly available through the NCCM on Friday, July 16.
One of the recommendations is to establish specific, freestanding penalties for hate-motivated assault, murder threats, and mischief in the Criminal Code. Another is to stop requiring the consent of the provincial Attorney General in order to lay charges related to hate crime—“a uniquely high bar that should be abolished,” said Abdalla.
Abdalla said the killing of the Afzaal-Salman family has awakened the nation to the fact that hate-fuelled attacks against Muslim people is an ongoing issue that needs to be addressed. But she said, politicians need to take action.
“At the end of the day...the outcome and the results of the summit is what will be the real test to see how much they are committed to (enacting) real, tangible policy change that will combat Islamophobia (in) Canada.”
While there are no datasets yet that tell us whether there has been an marked uptick in Islamophobic incidents so far this year, the latest available information from Statistics Canada shows that police-reported hate crimes against Muslims increased by 9 per cent in 2019.
Stats Can also notes, however, that two-thirds of all hate crimes are not reported to police and are therefore not included in the agency’s reports.
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