It was a concerning story of a mother in a hijab attacked by a woman wearing a Canada T-shirt in what looked like an example of Islamophobia.
“Saddened to hear about the recent attack on a Muslim woman in London, Ont. This deplorable act has no place in Canada,” tweeted Canadian Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale.
He’s right. Intolerable. But there’s a wrinkle.
“It is not being investigated as a hate crime,” London Police Const. Sandasha Bough said Monday.
The London force’s initial June 20 release stated “a female was with her four-month-old son, shopping in the Superking Supermarket, located at 785 Wonderland Rd. S., when she was approached by another woman, unknown to her” and “began yelling at her for no apparent reason ... spat on the victim, then punched her several times” creating “minor injuries” before grabbing “onto the victim’s hijab and attempted to pull it off of her head before pulling the victim’s hair.”
Police released a picture of the suspect, but never called it a crime of bigotry or intolerance — and still don’t.
“We don’t have any evidence to show religion or race was the motivation,” said Bough. “It is being treated as an assault but not as a hate crime.”
Not everyone agrees.
“Unfortunately, this is the second time in less than a month that a Londoner has been the victim of such hate,” Eaman Fahmy, of the Muslim Association of Canada, told the London Free Press’s Hala Ghonaim.
Ghonaim reported in May a “Western University student from Iran was punched by two men” who allegedly called him “an Arab and told him to go back to his own country.”
In an exclusive interview, Ghonaim quoted the victim, 25, of the latest attack as saying: “I do worry about the safety of all Muslim women who wear hijab.”
She added: “Before I thought it was just a statistic that I would see happen to people, but now I know it’s real and it happened to me.”
In Toronto, we have seen similar stories on the TTC, as well as a Muslim woman alleging she was assaulted by two men outside the Grenoble Public School.
In London, as the Free Press reports, the victim said she was shopping for “cheese and mushrooms” when “she noticed a woman glaring at her and mumbling in a foreign language” and “asked the woman what her problem was?”
The story says the alleged attacker approached the woman and her “four-month-old in a stroller” and “spat at the mother.” Ghonaim’s story said the victim slapped the attacker “with the back of her hand as a natural reflex.”
In a country where you are innocent until proven guilty, we don’t yet know the other side of this story. The suspect was arrested and released on conditions.
Requests for her identity and next court date have been denied, which seems unusual since her picture was tweeted around the globe. Bough explained when London Police release a suspect’s photograph “we don’t provide a name” once the person has been apprehended.
In this case, she said, there have been concerning comments made on social media about the woman who is not known to police. Fearing potential safety risks “we don’t want anything to happen to her.”
Police have not released a motive. What motivated the attacker remains unclear.
Bough, who noted there has been no statistical spike of hate crimes in London, said the investigation is ongoing and “we would still like to talk to witnesses.”
It would be interesting to look at surveillance video to see what exactly did transpire in the grocery store.