Toronto girl says man cut her hi­jab while she walked to school

The Standard (St. Catharines) - - NATIONAL - DANIELA GER­MANO

TORONTO — An 11-year-old Toronto girl said a scis­sors-wield­ing man came up be­hind her and cut her hi­jab re­peat­edly as she walked to school Fri­day, de­scrib­ing the in­ci­dent as one that left her ter­ri­fied and con­fused.

Toronto po­lice said they were look­ing for a sus­pect and in­ves­ti­gat­ing the mat­ter as a hate crime, while the prime min­is­ter and On­tario’s premier said re­ports of what hap­pened did not re­flect who Cana­di­ans are.

The in­ci­dent took place in east Toronto, as Khawlah No­man, a Grade 6 stu­dent, was walk­ing to Pauline John­son Ju­nior Pub­lic School with her younger brother.

The girl said a man came up be­hind her, pulled off her jacket hood, and started cut­ting the bot­tom of her hi­jab.

“I turned around and I saw him with his scis­sors,” Khawlah said. “I screamed.”

The man ran off, Khawlah said, not­ing that she crossed the street with her brother to join other stu­dents walk­ing to school.

But a short time later, the man ap­proached her from be­hind again and started cut­ting her hi­jab once more, she said. Khawlah said she turned around to con­front him, but he smiled and ran off again.

“This is ter­ri­ble and I do not like it,” she told re­porters at a news con­fer­ence at her school hours af­ter the in­ci­dent. “I felt con­fused, scared, ter­ri­fied.”

Khawlah — who ap­peared along­side her mother and her brother — said she is now afraid to walk to school, but was com­forted by the sup­port of her school and fam­ily.

“What you’re do­ing is re­ally wrong, you should not act like this, and es­pe­cially, I’m a kid,” she said, ad­dress­ing her at­tacker di­rectly at one point.

Khawlah, who was wear­ing a white hi­jab loaned from a friend, said her own light blue hi­jab that she had been wear­ing ear­lier in the day had been left with a cut that was about 30 cen­time­tres long.

School staff re­ported the in­ci­dent to po­lice around 9:15 a.m., shortly af­ter Khawlah told them what hap­pened, Toronto po­lice said, not­ing that they were search­ing for a sus­pect in his 20s.

The girl’s mother said she was an­gry some­one would tar­get a child, but was re­lieved her daugh­ter was not phys­i­cally harmed.

“I don’t know why he did that, but it’s just not Canada,” Saima Sa­mad said. “I feel safe in this com­mu­nity, but this is not right and he should get help.”

Toronto po­lice com­mended Khawlah for the way she had han­dled the in­ci­dent.

“She was brave enough to con­front the man, make some noise .... and then pro­ceed to walk with a bunch of other kids re­al­iz­ing there’s safety in num­bers,” said Const. Jen­nifer­jit Sidhu.

The Toronto District School Board said it was of­fer­ing sup­port to Khawlah and her fam­ily, as well as other stu­dents, and work­ing with in­ves­ti­ga­tors on the case.

“It’s one thing to as­sault an adult, which is never ac­cept­able, but for this to hap­pen to a child — I can’t tell you how hor­ri­fied we all are,” spokes­woman Shari Schwartz-Maltz said.

The in­ci­dent caught the at­ten­tion of politi­cians at all lev­els of govern­ment.

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau said his heart goes out to the girl.

“I can’t imag­ine how afraid she must have been,” Trudeau said at a cabi­net re­treat in Lon­don, Ont. “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.”

Mean­while, On­tario Premier Kath­leen Wynne called the in­ci­dent “a cow­ardly act of ha­tred.”

“This does not rep­re­sent who we are,” Wynne wrote in a tweet. “We must stand firm in our sup­port of this young girl who was as­saulted sim­ply for wear­ing a hi­jab.”

STAN BEHAL/POST­MEDIA NET­WORK

Khawlah No­man and her brother Mo­ham­mad Zakar­i­jja leave school af­ter they ap­peared be­fore the me­dia with their mom Saima Sa­mad, to talk about the as­sault that hap­pened to Khawlah on their way to Pauline John­son Pub­lic School in Toronto this morn­ing. A man, sought by Toronto Po­lice Ser­vices, at­tempted to cut off Khawlah’s hi­jab, on Fri­day.

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