Canadians have condemned the “horrific assault” of a Muslim man near Toronto over the weekend, raising renewed concerns of an uptick in Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hate crimes.
Muhammed Abu Marzouk was beaten by two men in Mississauga, a city just west of Toronto, after they reportedly shouted anti-Arab slurs at him and his family.
The attack, which took place in the evening on 15 July, is being investigated as a hate crime, local police said.
Muslim advocacy groups in Canada have expressed shock and anger at the incident and are calling for robust action to stem a rising tide of hate crime in the area.
“We are extremely appalled by this horrific assault and our thoughts and prayers are with the victim, [his] family and the local Muslim community who are understandably very shaken by this heinous crime,” Ihsaan Gardee, head of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, said in a statement.
“Such hateful and cowardly acts are abhorrent to all Canadians who stand united in condemning all crimes motivated by xenophobia and hatred.”
Muslims in Canada have been suffering from an increase in hate crimes in recent years. Early in 2017, a gunman fatally shot six worshippers inside a Quebec City mosque in a crime condemned as a “terrorist attack” by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
‘Islamophobia? It does exist’
According to local media reports, Abu Marzouk was returning home from a picnic with his wife and two young daughters when two men began shouting at him in the parking lot of a local community centre.
When Abu Marzouk exited the car to speak to the men, they assaulted him.
Abu Marzouk’s wife, Diana Attar, told CBC News the men shouted, “F–king Arab people! Terrorists.”
Abu Marzouk was taken to a local hospital, where he underwent surgery for damage sustained to his brain.
He remains in “serious but stable condition,” the Peel Regional Police said on Wednesday.
His wife and a family friend, Fuat Yucel, who tried to stop the attack, were also assaulted and suffered minor injuries, police said.
“I’ve lived in this country for 39 years, I’ve never faced this … There’s absolutely no doubt. This is a hate crime,” Yucel told CBC. “Islamophobia? It does exist.”
Increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes
Two brothers – Adem Corhamzic, 27, and Janis Corhamzic, 19 – were arrested and charged with assault in relation to the incident, which police are investigating as a hate-motivated crime.
“The Region of Peel is one of the most diverse and inclusive communities in Canada, and hateful behaviour will not be tolerated,” said Jennifer Evans, chief of the Peel Regional Police service.
However, the incident comes amid an upsurge in anti-Muslim hate crimes that have been reported to local authorities in the Peel region over the past year.
The region, which encompasses the cities of Mississauga and Brampton, as well as the town of Caledon, is home to nearly 1.4 million people. Located north and west of Toronto, it is one of the most ethnically diverse places in Canada.
Muslims were the religious group most often targeted by hate crimes in the Peel region in 2017, according to the police force’s most recent annual report, released in April.
In 2017, Peel police received 57 reports of hate crimes targeting Muslims, compared with five reports the year before.
In March, police said they were investigating hate crimes at three mosques in Mississauga, after a woman ripped up pages of a Quran and put them on the windshields of parked cars, the Toronto Star reported.
Hate crime reports were up overall across the Peel region last year, at 158 incidents compared with 59 in 2016.
That increase may be attributed to two factors, the police report found: the community is more aware of how important it is to report hate crimes, and a “recent increase in groups espousing ‘far-right’ ideologies may be triggering more overt crimes of hate”.
Group raises over $83,000
Ibrahim Hindy, a local imam and board member of the Muslim Council of Peel, commended local police for “recognising the hateful nature” of the assault on Abu Marzouk – and for “investigating it as such”.
“We expect the charges will result in the justice that the victims deserve,” Hindy said in a statement.
Still, in a note on Facebook, Hindy said more needs to be done, and he said the uptick in hate crimes targeting Muslims “was just the tip of the iceberg, considering everything that goes unreported”.
“We need to expect better from our community, representatives and institutions,” he wrote.
In the meantime, a local mosque, Dar al-Tawheed, and the Muslim advocacy group DawaNet have organised an online fundraiser to support the Abu Marzouk family.
“[Abu Marzouk] was the sole breadwinner for the family, and his recovery may take several months. Funds raised from this campaign will be utilised by the family to pay for day-to-day living expenses,” the campaign page states.
By mid-afternoon on Thursday, the campaign had raised over $110,000 Canadian ($83,000).[source: Middle East Eye]