An 11-Year-Old Muslim Girl Was Attacked By A Man Who Cut Off Her Hijab — Twice

by Seth Millstein

Police are investigating an attack on a 11-year-old Muslim girl in Toronto whose hijab was cut twice by an assailant while she was walking to school, Reuters reported Friday. Sixth-grader Khawlah Noman says a man approached her on the street and sliced her hijab twice within a 10-minute period, running away after the first attack before returning and doing it again.

"Me and my brother were walking together to school and sadly, someone insulted me by cutting my hijab two times," Noman told reporters. "I felt the man and I turned around and I saw him with his scissors, and he ran away." Noman added that she "felt really scared and confused" after the incident.

On Twitter, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne called the attack a "cowardly act of hatred." Police are currently searching for the assailant.

The news comes as Canada approaches the one-year anniversary of a deadly attack in Quebec City, in which a shooter with far-right political views killed six Muslims at a Mosque. That attack raised many concerns about Islamophobic attitudes in Canada — as did another incident in December wherein a man was charged with assaulting a Muslim woman on a train in Vancouver.

"I feel this is terrible, and I do not like it, and I feel like this should stop." Noman said while addressing reporters. Addressing her assailant, she said that "what you're doing is way wrong. You should not act like this. And especially [because] I'm a kid." She added that she's now "really scared" to walk to school.

Anti-Muslim hate crimes in Canada rose 60 percent in 2015, according to the country's national statistics agency. Some have blamed this on then-Prime Minister Stephen, who ran an unsuccessful reelection campaign that year based, in part, on fervent opposition to niqabs — a different type of head garb worn by some Muslims — in Canadian public life. Harper said that niqabs were "rooted in a culture that is anti-women," a comment that his opponent Justin Trudeau denounced and likened to anti-Semitic rhetoric during World War II. Trudeu defeated Harper that November and is now the country's prime minister. Anti-Muslim hate crimes in Canada fell slightly the next year — but there were nevertheless up 40 percent from two years earlier.

Trudeau condemned Friday's attack in an unprompted statement at a press conference in Ontario.

"I can’t imagine how afraid she must have been,” Trudeau said Friday. “I want her and her family and her friends and community to know that that is not what Canada is and that is not who Canadians are.”

Noman said Friday that after the assailant cut her hijab the first time, he smiled and ran away. She and her brother then spotted a larger group of students up ahead and, as a safety precaution, ran up to join them. Less than ten minutes later, however, Noman's brother became separated from his sister and the rest of the students a crosswalk. As Noman waited for the light to turn for her brother, the group of students continued walking, and after they had left, the assailant returned and cut her hijab again.

Police Constable Jenifferjit Sidhu praised Noman for thinking on her toes, calling the sixth grader "very, very smart" for joining a nearby group of people and and shouting when attacked. She added that in her 20 years on the job, she's never seen an attack like this.

Noman's hijab, which the assailant reportedly cut by 12 inches, is now in police custody as evidence. In the meantime, a friend loaned her another hijab to wear during her press conference.