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Canadian Muslim sisters attacked in Alberta

16th Jul 2021

Elham Asaad Buaras

A Muslim woman was knocked unconscious in the western Canadian province of Alberta after she and her sister were attacked by a knife-wielding man screaming racial slurs.

The attack on the sisters, who are in their 20s and wear the hijab, is the latest in the Edmonton area, which police believe is an anti-Muslim hate crime.

The hate crime came weeks after a Muslim family was mowed-down and killed in London, Ontario.

A number of recent attacks targeting Muslim women have been reported in Edmonton, including earlier this month when a Somali Canadian woman wearing a hijab was reportedly grabbed by the neck and pushed to the sidewalk.

St Albert Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) who are working with Edmonton City Police on the incident, revealed the sisters were attacked while walking near Alderwood Park at around 12:35 pm on June 23.

A man wearing a bandana over his face approached, yelling racial slurs, before grabbing one of the sisters by the hijab and pushing her to the ground and knocking her unconscious.

The man then produced a knife, knocked her sister to the ground and pressed the blade to her throat, threatening them and using racial slurs before running away.

The women’s mother, Izdahar Gaib, said her eldest daughter was struck in the face and hit her head against a tree, which knocked her unconscious.

The younger daughter tried to call the police, but the attacker knocked the phone from her hands. “My daughters are traumatized and do not feel safe whatsoever to step foot outside again and have even begged me not to go out either due to the fear that was planted in them,” Gaib said in a text message.

“Alberta RCMP work collaboratively with other policing agencies, regardless of jurisdiction, as we stand together against hate and extremism,” RCMP Staff Sgt. Tony Dickens said.

The first woman regained consciousness and was treated in hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. The second woman suffered minor injuries and was treated at the scene.

The attacker is described as a white male, approximately six feet tall, with an average build and broad shoulders. He is believed to be around 50-years-old, with short, light-coloured hair and light-coloured eyes. He was wearing dark blue jeans, a navy shirt and a red and white bandana with graffiti lettering.

REACH Edmonton, a community safety group, confirmed one sister works as their Police and Youth Engagement Program summer coordinator and the other as their civil rights and anti-racism committee volunteer.

According to REACH, one of the sisters was the subject of significant online harassment after going public about a similar attack that happened a year ago.

A spokesperson for REACH told The Muslim News, “These women are our colleagues. We have the privilege of working with them and are heartbroken that they are being victimized in this way.

They are dedicating their time and energy to creating a more equitable city for all Edmontonians by working in the community on issues including anti-racism education and civil rights.

“In particular, the fact that one of these sisters works on the Police and Youth Engagement Program is an example of their dedication, which empowers racialized youth to explore solutions and actively create positive change. It’s essential that these young people, who are affected by hate incidents, are given the opportunity to guide and lead this work through community engagement; with any support they need from REACH and its partners.

The family has received an outpouring of support from the local community, as well as from Canadians across the country. REACH condemns these actions, and our hearts are with this family as they navigate this traumatizing experience.

We are working alongside Muslim community members, organizations and anti-racism groups to further discourse and collective action. The sisters are recovering with the support of their family and community, and we ask that their privacy be respected during this time.”

In a statement, Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson called the assaults “unacceptable.”

“It appears our Muslim community, in particular, is being targeted yet again in this way,” he said.

“Our Muslim neighbours, friends and family deserve to feel safe and welcome in their communities. I’m heartbroken that many of them are not feeling safe right now.” He said the city “supports calls to strengthen hate laws in Canada.”

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