NCCM urges investigation of Toronto assault as potential hate crime

Calls on all political leaders to refrain from divisive rhetoric

(Ottawa – October 5, 2015) The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), a prominent civil liberties & advocacy organization, condemned the physical assault reported today of a Muslim woman in Toronto and called on authorities to investigate it as a potential hate crime.

Safira Merriman was entering a Toronto mall when she was assaulted by a man at the doorway of the Shoppers Drug Mart. She was with her two daughters, ages four and nine. She filed a report with police and with the NCCM.

“This attack is once again raising concerns about safety for Canadian Muslim women,” says Amira Elghawaby, NCCM’s Communications Director. “Ms. Merriman was understandably shaken by the incident, as were her two daughters. No one should feel unsafe because of their choice of clothing.”

The attack comes just days after a similar attack in Montreal in which the headscarf of a pregnant Muslim woman was grabbed by young teenage boys. And earlier this year, Muslim women have been accosted in Laval, Quebec and Calgary, Alberta. The NCCM documents incidents on its online anti-Muslim incident map.

“It is time for our political leaders to put aside the divisive, and potentially dangerous, rhetoric that has created an unnecessary climate of fear and anxiety among Canadians,” says Ihsaan Gardee, NCCM’s Executive Director.

“Canadian Muslims, like their fellow Canadians, want to hear about issues that impact on their day-to-day lives, not about an issue that affects very few and which is before the courts. Beyond the citizenship ceremonies, this entire debate risks marginalizing and putting at risk the safety of the very women the federal government claims to be defending. It also casts a negative light on Islam and Muslims which risks alienating diverse communities.”

NCCM launched a national hate crime awareness campaign last June, on the day in which Statistics Canada released figures showing a 44% spike in the number of hate crimes reported against Muslims in Canada.

“We continue to urge community members to report hate crimes or incidents to the police, as well as to the NCCM, in order to establish a clear record of such incidents.”

The NCCM provides a community safety kit for community leaders, and presents workshops across Canada to educate communities about their rights and responsibilities when confronted with a possible hate crime.