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Police Say Muslim Woman Attacked, Called a 'Terrorist' While Picking Her Kids Up From School in Canada

The attack happened the same day Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned Canadians he “will not abide innocent and peaceful citizens being targeted by acts of vandalism and intolerance.”

by Justin Ling
Nov 17 2015, 4:15pm

Congregation members hold prayer outside after Ontario mosque deliberately torched Saturday. Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press

Toronto Police say a Muslim woman was likely the victim of a hate crime after she was reportedly punched in the stomach and called a "terrorist" as she was picking up her children from school on Monday.

The attack follows a string of other possible hate crimes that have drawn the attention of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who swore that "will not abide innocent and peaceful citizens being targeted by acts of vandalism and intolerance."

Trudeau issued the statement in response to another attack, which saw the only mosque in a small Ontario city torched over the weekend in the wake of the Paris massacres.

"The recent terrorist attacks in Paris have shocked peace-loving people in all countries around the world," Trudeau said. "We must remain focused on those responsible for the atrocities committed in France. It is equally important for Canadians to understand that Muslims around the world are also being persecuted regularly by these violent extremists."

The attack on the woman happened in the afternoon outside an elementary school in Flemingdon Park, an ethnically diverse neighborhood in Toronto.

The woman's brother told 680 News that she was attacked from behind by two white men, who grabbed her by her hijab, threw her to the ground, and punched her repeatedly in the stomach and face while yelling obscenities like "you terrorist, you don't belong here, you piece of shit" and "go back."

"At that point she's already saying 'stop, stop'. And the other gentleman decided to take the cell phone and take off while the other guy was wheeling away at her face and at stomach," said the brother, identified as Owais. "Nobody should go through this. Not here. Absolutely not. It's not right."

He said this sort of attack, in the densely populated Muslim community, is "unheard of" and has traumatized his sister and her children,

"When I saw her, obviously, she was crying. Her kids were crying, which is a scene no human wants to see," he said. "The fact that two guys can beat a woman on the floor, it's absolutely heartbreaking."

Police in Toronto say the attack was hate-motivated, confirming she was "punched all over" and had insults that were "bigoted in nature" hurled at her. Investigators in Peterborough are also treating the arson at the mosque as a hate crime.

A fundraiser for the Kawartha Muslim Religious Association raised over $110,000 after just a day. The Ontarian who started the fundraiser says he's received death threats because of it. 

While the association repairs the damage, local churches have offered space to the city's Muslim community. 

The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) denounced the attacks, and an incident of vandalism in Toronto in which someone wrote "Muslims go home!!! We do not want you here!" across the hallway from a Muslim woman's apartment.

"Such hateful and cowardly acts are abhorrent to all Canadians who stand united in condemning xenophobia and hatred," says NCCM Executive Director Ihsaan Gardee. "While disturbing, we believe these attacks on members of the Toronto Muslim community do not represent the sentiments of the vast majority of our fellow Canadians or residents of Toronto."

The statement from the prime minister is an unusual, but a clear signal that the Trudeau government is committed to reaching out to Canada's Muslim community, especially following Friday's attacks in Paris.

Related: Canadian Muslims Report More Backlash After Ontario Mosque Torched

The prime minister echoed a line from Conservative Party leader Rona Ambrose from Saturday: "We are in this together."

Ambrose said the same when asked what her message is to the Muslim community in Canada who may be fearful of xenophobic violence.

Trudeau offered a warning to any Canadian looking to channel misdirected frustration over the Islamic State-organized attack against Muslim-Canadians, vowing to "make every effort to apprehend any perpetrator" responsible for such an attack.

Another act of vandalism, this time directed at a Kitchener Hindu temple, may be the product of a similar, albeit religiously ignorant, form of xenophobia.

Vandals hurled large rocks into the temple's windows as the practitioners inside said prayers for the 129 victims of the Paris attack.

Follow Justin Ling on Twitter: @justin_ling

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