By Waleed Ahmed -MuslimMatters correspondent from Toronto
It was supposed to be just another shopping trip when Inas Kadri ventured out to the mall with her two little children last August. As she was browsing through the shops and checking out the sales, a woman approached her and started cursing and yelling at her. This woman swore at Kadri, who wears a niqab, about her religion and told her to “Leave our country. Go back to your country”. In her anger and rage, this woman took her hate to the next level and pulled off Kadri's niqab. All this was caught in the mall's security camera.
Last week, Kadri's attacker, 66- year old Rosemarie Creswell, was given a one-year suspended sentence for assault. The judge also ruled she must serve 100 hours of community service, and suggested she educate herself about Muslims by attending a mosque. Creswell wrote a letter of apology to Kadri and said that, 'Since that day, I have researched Muslim customs. I now have a much greater appreciation for what I did to you'.
This level of hate is generally unheard of here in Canada. What shocks me even more is that the act was committed in my own city of Mississauga; one of the most densely populated Muslim cities in the nation. Sheridan Center is an area surrounded by a large immigrant population and women wearing hijab is a common sight.
While the niqab is certainly not popular in Canada, as is evident in Quebec's Bill 94, assaults on women wearing it is a first. It's hard to gauge at this point if this is a fringe incident or a part of broader rise in anti-Muslim bigotry. This past summer's movement to ban Friday prayers from Toronto schools and the apathy shown after PM's remarks on 'Islamicism' are certainly indicators of growing uneasiness many Canadians have towards Muslims.
Inas Kadri's intelligent and brave handling of this assault is a testament to her courage and confidence. Reporting such crimes is extremely important and many victims unfortunately are unable to do that. Doing so not only meant the attacker was brought to justice but it also allowed the average person to see the type of racism many Muslims experience. It also helps humanize niqab wearing women who often times are looked upon as the epitome of backwardness and subjugation.
As an outspoken woman with a degree in computer engineering, Kadri certainly helps bust many myths people have about niqabis. When asked about her decision to wear the veil, during an interview on national television, she made it clear; “Not my father, not my husband, not no one at all” she said, “it's me, and it's my choice.”