Refusing To Label Attacks Against Muslims As Hate Crimes

After a long day of classes, I got on the bus to head back home. About halfway through my commute, I noticed some stares behind me, so I decided to take my earphones out and see for myself what everyone was looking at. It was a white male who was making a lot of noise, so I turned my head back and suddenly I heard him say “Allahu Akbar” in a mocking manner. I was appalled — I did not think he was talking to me, but I was the only visible Muslim on that bus.

After talking back to him, he continued to say things like “dirty Indian”, “you’re dirty”, and something along the lines of going back to my country and many more things about Islam. I told him mockingly “wow, what an original comment”, and I was in shock that the things I read and studied about were taking place in front of me. Not one person stood up for me, and he was clearly upset by the fact that I spoke back to him. He decided to follow me, even once I got off the bus, yelling at me along the way.

I frantically got into my car and broke down in tears, calling to tell my mom what had happened. After she consoled me, we decided it would be best to get in touch with Brampton Transit. I dialed the number and I was unable to speak. I had to pause multiple times to collect my words and calm myself down. After asking about what bus this was and what I had done, the woman on the phone apologized for what had happened but told me that since I did not call 911 or tell anyone at the moment that she could not do much. I was upset, but not shocked, and I was advised to contact the police, which I did.

In the meanwhile, I shared the story online, as I was still appalled that this happened and the response I was getting from Brampton Transit. The police showed up at my house the next day and asked for a description. By that time, I got another phone call from Brampton Transit that they had forwarded the footage of the incident to the police and apologized for what had happened and their lack of support. The police now have clear footage of the man, but the final answer I was given was that “he was probably some bum who does this often.” 

I was told that since I was a Muslim woman who wears a hijab that these things are inclined to happen. Next time, I should take a different route to school and sit near the driver.

What he did was not a hate crime in their eyes, so he could not be charged for anything. After they had left, I was still in shock as to what happened and the response I was getting from the authorities. Disgusting things were being said to me about my religion. I was told to go back to where I came from. I could not go to work or school for the next few days because of how much it affected my mental health. My main concern was that no active steps were being put in place to stop the harassment that happened on the bus from that man. The man is most likely to do this again if no one puts a stop to it. It is not until things get physical… then I would be taken seriously.

I’ve encountered bigots before, but the seriousness that comes with the aftermath of such an event had required me to go to therapy to talk about the fears that I had after this event.

After not attending therapy for a while, I found myself back in the waiting room for my therapist. This incident made me take a huge step back in my progress. This was not a simple interaction that I would be able to forget in the span of a week; interactions like the one I experienced remind me that bigots are around us all the time. Even if this bus is packed to the rim, no one stood up for me that day, which was shameful. I stood up for myself and was verbally harassed as everyone sat and looked the other way. I convinced myself to let it go, but after much thought, I have decided to take action and have reported the incident to the national council of Canadian Muslims and will continue to speak about it until more action is taken.

 

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