Man cuts Canadian schoolgirl's hijab in 'cowardly' attack

Man cuts Canadian schoolgirl's hijab in 'cowardly' attack
2 min read
12 January, 2018
A Canadian 11-year-old has told police a man cut her hijab with scissors while she was on her way to school, as the country continues to tackle growing anti-Muslim sentiment.
Toronto police are investigating the assault on a schoolgirl [Stock image: Getty]

An 11-year-old girl was assaulted in Toronto on Friday by a man who twice tried to cut off her hijab with scissors and then fled, police said.

Khawlah Noman told reporters that she was walking to school with her younger brother when the man came at her with scissors.

"He tried cutting (off) my hijab two times," she said. "I felt really scared and confused. I didn't feel comfortable that people are doing this."

Police described the assailant as an Asian male wearing a black hoodie and glasses. He was said to be about 20, nearly six feet tall and with a medium build.

Authorities are investigating the incident, which occurred at about 9am (2pm GMT) near the Pauline Johnson school in Toronto's east side, police spokeswoman Katrina Arrogante told AFP.

Constable Jenifferjit Sidhu told a press conference that Noman had turned and confronted her assailant, making loud noises to scare him off and then she ran away with her little brother in tow.

Afterward, according to Sidhu, the girl noticed a 12-inch cut from the bottom up on the back of her hijab.

She and her brother joined a group of other students also walking to school, for safety, but the siblings became separated from the group and from each other at an intersection crossing.

At that moment, less than 10 minutes after the first assault, the same man suddenly returned. Smiling, he allegedly tried again to cut off her hijab, before fleeing.

"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. 

"We must stand firm in our support of this young girl who was assaulted simply for wearing a hijab," she said.

The school serves nearly 300 kindergarten to grade six students "of diverse cultural and socio-economic backgrounds," according to the local school board.

More than two-thirds speak a language other than English at home.

Hate crimes targeting Muslims doubled between 2012 and 2014 across Canada, and in January last year six Muslim men were killed in an attack on a Quebec City mosque.

Community members called for greater action to combat hate speech, and in March, Canada's parliament passed a motion condemning Islamophobia and all other forms of systemic racism.

Canada also vowed to open its arms to Muslim refugees after Trump's controversial immigration ban prompted outrage around the world.

Last month, a legal challenge forced Quebec to suspend plans  to ban the niqab face veil.