By Barry Ellsworth
TRENTON, Canada (AA) - Toronto police are hunting for a suspect after an 11-year-old Muslim girl was attacked Friday on her way to school by a male who tried twice to cut off her hijab with scissors.
The incident occurred at about 9 a.m. near Pauline Johnson Public School in Toronto’s east end.
Khawlah Noman is a sixth grade student at the school.
She described the attack at a news conference.
“I felt really scared and confused,” Khawlah said, although she was not hurt in the incident. She said she was on the sidewalk when she sensed a man behind her and turned to find him holding scissors. She screamed and the man ran off, but returned a few minutes later.
“He continued cutting at my hijab again,” Khawlah said.
Police were called shortly afterward.
“We don’t know what motivated the attack," Toronto police Constable David Hopkinson said initially but authorities later said the incident is being investigated as a hate crime.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau weighed in from London, Ontario, where he was meeting with his Cabinet. "My heart goes out to the young girl who was attacked, seemingly for her religion. I can't imagine how afraid she must have been," he said. "I want her and her family and her friends and community to know that that is not what Canada is."
Khawlah’s mother, who was at her daughter’s side while she spoke, demanded the attack be labeled a hate crime.
“I don’t know why he did that, it’s just not Canada,” Samad said. “I am so proud to be a Canadian, and I feel so safe in this community.”
She added that she has been in Canada for 25 years and this is the first incident of its kind that she can remember.
“I’m frustrated and I’m angry but I do believe in peace in Canada,” Samad said.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne called the attack a “cowardly act of hatred” in a tweet posted Friday.
The male suspect is described as Asian and in his 20s.