An 11-year-old girl was assaulted in Toronto Friday by a man who twice tried to cut off her hijab with scissors and then fled, local police said as attacks against Muslims are on the rise in Canada and other western countries due to a surge in conservative Islamophobic politics.
Khawlah Noman told reporters that she was walking to school with her younger brother when the man came at her with scissors. "I felt confused, scared, terrified," Noman, who is in Grade 6, told reporters at her school Friday.
"I screamed. The man just ran away. We followed this crowd of people to be safe. He came again. He continued cutting my hijab again." Police said the man was at in his early 20s and at least 6 feet tall, 180 cm.
Local police told reporters that when the man tried to cut Noman’s hijab the first time she had turned and confronted him, making loud noises to scare him off and then she ran away with her little brother.
Then the girl noticed a 12-inch cut from the bottom up on the back of her hijab, according to the police. Afterwards she and her brother joined a group of other students also walking to school, for safety, before being separated from the group and each other at an intersection. Shortly after the same attacker then approached her again "smiling" and trying to cut her scarf before fleeing.
The attack comes as Canada approaches the first anniversary of a deadly shooting in a Quebec City mosque that killed six people at prayer.
Researchers have documented an increase in far-right extremist activity in Canada, much of it targeting Muslims. A survey conducted last year by Ontario's Human Rights Commission found that more people reported harboring "very negative" feelings about Muslims than about any other group.
The National Council of Canadian Muslims has called on the federal government to declare Jan. 29, the day of the mosque shooting, a day of remembrance and action on Islamophobia.
“This is a cowardly act of hatred. It does not represent who we are [as Canadians],” Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said in a Twitter message in response to the attack. “We must stand firm in our support of this young girl who was assaulted simply for wearing a hijab,” she said.