Self-defense classes geared toward Muslim women concerned about their safety have sprung up in Toronto. The lessons come as Muslims there have been victims of harassment following the coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris this month.
"Instead of letting the actions of some hateful bigots or some people who want to take it out on a minority, instead of letting them dictate my life, I'm going to take the action into my own hands," Ola Mobarek, 17, told CBC News over the weekend.
Muslim community leaders have expressed concern over the possibility of an uptick in violence since the attacks in Paris, which left at least 130 people dead and injured hundreds of others. In the aftermath of major attacks carried out by Muslim extremists in the past, Western countries have seen spikes in anti-Muslim hate crimes.
Arij Elmi, one of the self-defense instructors, told CBC that she was targeted with harassment on public transit. Other passengers came to her defense.
"About a week ago, a woman on a streetcar called me a 'raghead' and said to everyone else on the streetcar, 'Don't you know what they did to us in Paris?'" Elmi said. "Two men on the streetcar got up and said, 'That's not OK."
Over the past few weeks in Toronto, several women reported that they were accosted on a train and verbally harassed, anti-Muslim graffiti was found on a train, and a Muslim mother was assaulted and robbed. While these attacks targeted women wearing head scarves, a male Muslim student at the University of Toronto said he was spit on and insulted. Outside of Toronto, a mosque in Petersborough, Ontario, was set ablaze two weeks ago in what many have speculated was a hate crime.
— CBC News (@CBCNews) November 30, 2015
The classes, offered by Wen-Do Women's Self Defense, are meant to help women identify a dangerous situation and teach them how to make themselves heard during an attack so others can take notice and step in.
The hashtag #StandWithMuslimsTO was trending two weeks ago as Canadians expressed their solidarity with the city’s Muslim community. Others tweeted with the hashtag #IllRideWithYou, offering to accompany Muslims concerned about their safety on public transit.