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Muslim women attacked on Toronto Subway train, racist graffiti found

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Image modified to obscure profanity. (Courtesy: Metrolinx)
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Toronto: In the wake of terror attacks in Paris, anti-Muslim sentiment seems to be on the rise in Canada despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau assurances in this regard. Days after Japanese national shoved a Muslim woman into the side of an oncoming London Underground train, two Muslim were accosted and verbally assaulted on a Toronto subway train on Wednesday.

Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) said anti-Muslim graffiti was also found on a GO Transit train, CBC reported.

Condemning the incident, TTC spokesman Brad Ross said it took place around 6 pm Wednesday night at Sherbourne Station.

He said two men and a woman made racist comments about the two Muslim women, including an implication that that they could be terrorists. The ‘racist’ woman also pushed one of the Muslim women.

“When I hear about these incidents, it makes me worried. I think of my mother. She’s Muslim and wears a scarf, so I worry about her safety, especially when I imagine my mother in an everyday situation.”

After the incident was reported, the Toronto police officers and TTC special constables rushed to the scene. However, by that time the offenders had, however, fled.

Efforts are on to catch the culprits.

Meanwhile, anti-Muslim graffiti was found on one of the bathrooms on a GO Transit train operating on the busy Lakeshore corridor in Toronto.

Metrolinx, a crown agency that manages and integrates road transport and public transportation in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area in Ontario, released an image of the graffiti.

“We find it deeply offensive and it no way reflects our organization’s value,” Metrolinx spokeswoman Anne Marie Aikin said.

In another incident, Muslim mother was beaten up and robbed by two men after dropping her children off at a Flemingdon Park-area school on Monday. A mosque was set on fire in Peterborough, Ontorio last week.

‘Worried about mother’s safety’

With Canada witnessing a spike in hate crime numbers this year against Muslims, especially after the attacks in Paris, Mohamed El Rashidy, a lawyer with the Canadian Arab Federation, said, “People are calling me and they’re scared.”

Fatimah Yasin, a Canadian citizen with close ties to the Muslim community, told NewsGram that she was particularly worried about her mother, a Muslim, who wears a scarf.

“When I hear about these incidents, it makes me worried. I think of my mother. She’s Muslim and wears a scarf, so I worry about her safety, especially when I imagine my mother in an everyday situation, just as these women were, going to the grocery store or running an errand… A woman in Ontario was beaten up by two men as she was about to pick up her kids from school. It’s frightening. I think this type of hatred is synonymous with fear of the unknown, a fear that the past conservative government led by Stephen Harper has fueled and set ablaze.”

She, however, is optimistic about the future under Justin Trudeau’s regime.

“We’re still recovering from this, but I’m confident that with the help of our political leadership, we’ll be able to rebuild and return to a culture of kindness and peace. There have been racially motivated incidents, but with that there has also been an outpour of community and political support. People have come together to denounce Islamophobia and defend Muslims against acts like the one you read about,” she told NewsGram.

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Rohingya Muslims Remain Fearful Due To Forceful Repatriation

Another man who was informed he was on the list told VOA he witnessed troops killing people from his village

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Rohingya
Rohingya refugee women wait outside of a medical center at Jamtoli camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. VOA

Rohingya Muslims who fled a brutal military campaign in Myanmar last year are living in fear after being told they are on a list of over 2,200 people due to be forcibly returned to the country this month.

Some have said they are considering taking their own lives to avoid being sent back to Rakhine state, where Myanmar’s military is accused of waging a genocidal campaign of mass murder and rape.

“If we go back, they can kill us, they can torture us. We have already lost everything once,” said one man from the Jamtoli camp, speaking on the condition of anonymity, who was told by camp officials he is on the list along with his family.

Bangladesh and Myanmar last month struck a deal to begin returning Rohingya refugees by “mid-November”. The 2,200 names were picked from a list of 8,000 that Bangladesh gave to Myanmar in February.

Bangladesh’s refugee relief and rehabilitation commissioner, Abul Kalam, has told Human Rights Watch the Rohingya on the list “were not chosen because they particularly wanted to go back.”

More than 730,000 Rohingya have fled into Bangladesh since August last year from what UN investigators say is genocide. Myanmar has consistently denied the charge and says the campaign was a legitimate response to what it called terrorist attacks.

The UN’s Special Rapporteur on human rights for Myanmar, Yanghee Lee,has called on both countries to scrap the plan to return people this month, warning Rohingya face a “high risk of persecution” if returned.

Rohingya
Rohingya refugees walk under rain clouds on June 26, 2018, in Jamtoli refugee camp in Bangladesh. VOA

The plan may also “violate obligations under customary international law to uphold the principle of non-refoulement,” she added.

“Bangladesh should not be sending anyone at this time,” Nay San Lwin, a Rohingya activist, told VOA. “Forcing survivors and refugees back to the killing fields where genocide is still going on is complicity in genocide.”

A humanitarian who works closely with the Rohingya community in Bangladesh said that, although Rohingya at Jamtoli had been told they are on the list, names had not yet been officially confirmed. Until the UN’s refugee agency receives an official list from the Bangladeshi government, “we’re not entirely sure,” who is due to be returned, they said.

They added that they were aware of one man who had attempted suicide after hearing he was on the list: “The issue is that the lack of clarity and communication alone is already causing harm regardless of whether repatriation actually starts.”

Rohingya, India
Some Rohingya children and a woman at an unidentified refugee colony in West Bengal, eastern India. VOA

Rohingya who believe they are on the list told VOA that a block leader in their camp said they would be moved to another location inside Bangladesh on November 12 in preparation for their return.

Myanmar has this year built “reception centers” and “transit camps” to house and process the expected returnees.

The facilities are surrounded by barbed wire and security posts, and advocates fear the camps could become permanent homes for returning Rohingya. “They are like concentration camps,” said Nay San Lwin.

Myanmar government spokesperson Zaw Htay told VOA he could not comment for this story.

Rohingya, India
Some Rohingya women and children in an unidentified refugee colony in West Bengal, eastern India. VOA

The Rohingya man from the Jamtoli camp in Bangladesh, who was told his family was on the list last week, said his mother recently fainted from the stress.

As he was fleeing Rakhine state in September last year he saw his nephew and son-in-law shot dead, he said.

“Other families who are being sent back are crying loudly, all day and night,” he told VOA. “One family on the list have lost their parents. They’re crying, they have no one to look after them.”

One of the Rohingya Refugees settled in the hut with their fifth child
One of the Rohingya Refugees settled in the hut with their fifth child . BENAR.

Another man who was informed he was on the list told VOA he witnessed troops killing people from his village as he fled Rakhine state at the end of August last year. “They were killing everyone, small children, the elderly, everyone,” he said.

Also Read: Should Promote Human Rights More in Myanmar: Facebook

Earlier this week two block leaders – Rohingya volunteers who help refugees communicate with officials – approached him with a form and asked how many family members he has, and for a picture of the head of the family.

He refused, he said, and an argument ensued. “We will never agree to go,” he told them. “If they make us go we will take our own lives here, this is our final decision.” (VOA)