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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)

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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Story Of Pakistani Immigrant Who Came To U.S. Helps Feed The Homeless

“I have a deep interest in social justice, Catholic social teaching … and so to be part of something bigger than myself, my son and I chose to come to lunch here today to support and be a small part of a great thing."

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Sakina Halal Grill serves a hot luncheon buffet to paying as well as non-paying guests. (J.Taboh) VOA

When Pakistani immigrant Kazi Mannan came to the U.S. in 1996 as an impoverished young adult, he could only dream about success. He worked long hours in a series of tough jobs, saved money and learned everything he could about working and living in America.

His hard work paid off. After more than 20 years, he’s now a successful entrepreneur and owner of a popular Pakistani-Indian restaurant just a few blocks from the White House.

But what’s most remarkable about his story is what he’s doing in his restaurant every day.

Kazi Mannan speaks with two of his regular homeless guests at his restaurant, which welcomes paying and non-paying customers. (J. Taboh/VOA)
Kazi Mannan speaks with two of his regular homeless guests at his restaurant, which welcomes paying and non-paying customers. (J. Taboh) . VOA

Mannan offers free meals to the homeless and anyone else in need.

Paying it forward

He says it’s his way of heeding the principles of his Muslim faith.

“I know God is happy with me, what I do, because I do it with my pure heart, with my pure intention, to uplift others without seeking any reward, any recognition,” he says. “I don’t need any awards, I don’t need any money. I just want to please Him.”

Mannan helps the needy he says, because growing up poor in Pakistan, he knows what it’s like to be hungry.

“I have nine siblings and [we didn’t have] much to eat … when you are poor and you [don’t] have things that other people have, when you get it, you want to appreciate, you want to share with others,” he said.

His desire to share deepened as he worked as a limousine driver in the nation’s capital. He saw homeless people on the street, day and night, in all kinds of weather — looking for food in trash cans.

The experience had an impact.

“I don’t want to see another human being going through the poverty that I went through. I don’t want to see another human being going through the hunger that I went through. I want them to have that feeling that they were being accepted, so they can come and sit here and eat with respect,” he says.

Just like family

His message is simple. Come to Sakina Halal Grill, which is named after his late mother, ask for food, use the restroom, and sit for as long as you want.

“We will love you and respect you the same way we respect a paying guest. We will treat you like family,” he said.

Members of the homeless community are welcome at Sakina Halal Grill restaurant anytime for a free meal. (J. Taboh/VOA)
Members of the homeless community are welcome at Sakina Halal Grill restaurant anytime for a free meal. (J. Taboh). VOA

Marchellor Lesueur, who is homeless, has been coming to the restaurant every day for the past eight months.

“I think that he’s a saint. He’s a beautiful man,” he says about Mannan. “My stomach was growling, I was looking for a blessing, then he popped up, gave me a card and invited me to a restaurant for lunch. And I was so overwhelmed and happy I couldn’t wait to get here, and ever since then I’ve been coming.”

Hegehiah Griakley is also a regular. He was finishing up a generous portion of rice and chicken, which he described as two meals in one.

“This is more than lunch,” he said. “They give you enough to feed you for the rest of the day I think. The food is great, the people are nice. I wouldn’t mind working here!”

Griakley says he once asked Mannan what he could give him in return for the free food. “Because most people expect you to give back.”

“But he said ‘no, no, no, no, no!’ He just wanted me to have a good meal,” he recalls. “I couldn’t believe that. It was so nice. I loved it.”

Compassionate immigrant

Mannan estimates that he’s provided more than 80,000 free meals since the restaurant opened in 2013.

And when he’s not feeding the needy in his restaurant, Mannan delivers meals to local shelters and churches, and organizes food and clothing drives at nearby parks.

Kazi Mannan distributes food to the needy at a local food and coat drive -- one of many he organizes every year. (K.Mannan)
Kazi Mannan distributes food to the needy at a local food and coat drive — one of many he organizes every year. (K.Mannan). VOA

“Some people tell me ‘homeless people are using drugs and you’re feeding them; that’s bad.’” To which he responds, “For you, it’s bad, for me, it’s joy. … I see a person who’s fallen to the ground. Whatever problem they went through to become homeless, it’s not my job to judge — my job is to give them respect and love.”

His paying customers are still his main business. Many of them contribute towards the free meals… and support his cause.

First time customer Geralyn Nathe-Evans was visiting from Minnesota when she read about Mannan’s mission in an article.

“I have a deep interest in social justice, Catholic social teaching … and so to be part of something bigger than myself, my son and I chose to come to lunch here today to support and be a small part of a great thing,” she said.

Mannan uses food as a way to help his fellow man, in practice of his faith. He urges others to do the same with their talents.

“If you’re a medical doctor, can you love him through your practice? If you are a lawyer, can you love him through your practice? Be kind and be compassionate to your client?” he asks.

In doing so, he believes “we will all prosper and flourish” as a society.

Also Read: Apple Watch Can Detect And Notify Users Irregular Heart Rhythms

Meantime, he says he will continue to nourish both body and soul of all who walk through the door of his restaurant.

“Just uplifting others is a joy for me. It doesn’t matter [what] color, religion you belong to. We are all human. I am focusing on humanity. I’m bringing humanity together and this is my mission.” (VOA)