SkyTrain at­tack on Mus­lim teen in­spires fear, anger and for­give­ness

Sin­gling out hi­jab wearer with in­sults and threats is ‘an as­sault on all peo­ple’

Vancouver Sun - - CITY - RANDY SHORE rshore@postmedia.com

Hate at­tacks like the in­ci­dent ear­lier this week sow fear in the com­mu­nity, es­pe­cially when the vic­tim is young and fe­male, lo­cal Mus­lim lead­ers say.

“It’s such a ter­ri­ble dis­ap­point­ing thing to hap­pen and ter­ri­fy­ing for the young woman who was ac­costed,” said Ha­roon Khan, trustee at Al Jamia Masjid Mosque in Van­cou­ver. “Women out­wardly show their faith and mod­esty with the hi­jab and this guy be­came un­hinged and as­saulted her. It’s an as­sault on all peo­ple.”

Eigh­teen-year-old Noor Fadel was rid­ing the Canada Line SkyTrain wear­ing a hi­jab Mon­day when a man ac­costed her, scream­ing in­sults and threats to kill “all Muslims.”

When he tried to grab her head, fel­low pas­sen­ger Jake Tay­lor in­ter­vened.

The sus­pect, Peirre Belzan, 46, is charged with as­sault and threat­en­ing to cause death or bod­ily harm. Tran­sit po­lice are also rec­om­mend­ing he be charged with sex­ual as­sault. While he has no crim­i­nal record, Belzan is known to po­lice and ap­par­ently home­less.

“In­ci­dents like this are up­set­ting and it makes you feel real anger,” Khan said.

There was also dis­ap­point­ment in the Mus­lim com­mu­nity that only one pas­sen­ger stood up for Fadel.

“I hope most of us learn from this in­ci­dent that keep­ing silent is as good as help­ing the at­tacker,” said Ajaz Ahmed, city man­ager for the Na­tional Zakat Foun­da­tion Canada.

“This gives courage to cow­ards like (the man) who at­tack peo­ple they think are weaker than them,” he added.

Fadel has since al­lowed her fear to turn to grat­i­tude, that some­one was brave enough to stand up for her.

Over­tones of racism and Is­lam­o­pho­bia in the pub­lic arena are en­cour­ag­ing the far right and strike fear in im­mi­grant and re­li­gious com­mu­ni­ties, Khan said.

“The over­all rhetoric out there seems to em­bolden this kind of thing,” he said.

“You can look back at this past sum­mer and the uptick in neoNazism. You see these char­ac­ters out there fan­ning the flames of ha­tred, putting out racist pam­phlets. Those things are very real.”

Far-right ex­trem­ism has flared up around the world and in Canada, ac­cord­ing to Ryan Scrivens, a mem­ber of the In­ter­na­tional Cy­ber­Crime Re­search Cen­tre at Si­mon Fraser Uni­ver­sity who stud­ies hate groups.

While Canada is home to wellor­ga­nized, far-right groups, this week’s in­ci­dent in such a di­verse city is “shock­ing,” he said.

But since the World Trade Cen­ter at­tack by ji­hadi ter­ror­ists, anti-ex­trem­ist law-en­force­ment agen­cies have been dis­tracted from other threats, he says.

“When we started do­ing this work in 2011, right-wing ex­trem­ism wasn’t even on the radar with law en­force­ment,” he said.

“The me­dia wasn’t re­port­ing on it, even though there were in­stances of hate and vi­o­lence not un­like what we saw in Van­cou­ver.

“That is slowly start­ing to shift, but it’s very dif­fi­cult to tell where (anti-ex­trem­ist) re­sources are be­ing spent,” he said.

I hope most of us learn from this in­ci­dent that keep­ing silent is as good as help­ing the at­tacker.

AJAZ AHMED, Na­tional Zakat Foun­da­tion Canada

ARLEN RE­DEKOP

Jake Tay­lor came to the as­sis­tance of Noor Fadel af­ter she was at­tacked on the Canada Line on Mon­day. A man has since been charged with as­sault and threat­en­ing to cause death or bod­ily harm.

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