Quebec man seen on video spewing racist insults at Muslim woman working

"I really got harassed for no reason, just for a piece of cloth," says a young Muslim woman, seen on video being berated, while working at Montreal-area mall, by a man who said he didn't like that she wears a hijab. Alyssia Rubertucci reports.

By Alyssia Rubertucci

A video of a young Muslim woman working at a mall on Montreal’s south shore being berated by a customer has gone viral, after the man is heard spewing Islamophobic comments at her. 

“I really got harassed for no reason, just for a piece of cloth, the young woman said.

CityNews agreed to keep her identity confidential, as she fears repercussions.

“He said, ‘I’ll make you close your shop, your kiosk, and you’re going to have to leave,'” she recounted.

Because the young woman is wearing a hijab, the man in the video is seen approaching her, telling her about Marine Le Pen, a French politician opposed to wearing the veil in public spaces.

He’s then heard telling the woman he’s going to make her take off her hijab publicly while stating her name and date of birth.

“I was like, bye. And I waved at him. Then he said, ‘No, I will not wave back at you. I do not like women who wear the hijab. You are a submissive woman and I consider you sexual abusers.’ And I was shocked,” she said.

The incident at the Mail Champlain in Brossard happened on April 24, while the woman was on the job at a kiosk, La Forfaiterie. “I could see it in his face. he wasn’t very happy to see me,” the young woman said. “And that’s when I realized, I think I should start filming. I felt like something bad was going to happen, especially because of the way he was looking at me.”

“I lived in Brossard, so I was regularly at Mail Champlain. And so that definitely hits home to know a young woman had to experience that,” said spiritual life coach Razia Hamidi.

“Sadly, this incident is one of many that was filmed, while too many others are not and are swept under the rug,” said Lina El Bakir, Quebec advocacy officer at the National Council of Canadian Muslims. “Sad, angry, disheartened, but not surprised.”

For many Muslim women in Quebec, they say the experience is all too familiar.

“We’ve seen an intensification of violence in public spaces against Muslim women who are visibly Muslim, who wear the hijab. We’re talking about verbal and physical attacks,” said El Bakir. “For instance, recently we’ve seen a hijab-wearing mom who was walking, going on a walk with her son, and she was assaulted because of what she was wearing.”

“The rise of Islamophobia in Quebec, continuously having to watch over my shoulder or wondering, is that next person staring at me, going to approach me and say something? It just got to the point where I did not want to deal with that, and I don’t think anyone should have to,” said Hamidi.

This is why she and her husband decided to move back to Ontario.

“There’s lower cases of Islamophobia and that was just not something that I want to deal with anymore on a regular basis,” she said. “I felt like on a daily basis in Montreal or in Quebec, we were hearing of such cases or such videos would come forward. And so now, a year and a half later to see this, I felt this jolt like, ‘oh, god, this again.’” 

“I tell people I’m fine and stuff, but at the end of the day, when I come back home from school, it’s just a reflex to constantly look around and ask myself, okay, who’s the next person who’s going to comment about my hijab or like harassed me for it,” said the young worker at Champlain mall.

This kind of behaviour is something the young girl has faced before.

“It doesn’t change the fact that it’s still shocking,” she said. “You never see it coming and you really you only understand the feeling if you go through it. And I genuinely wish that no one ever goes through this.”

El Bakir says this is no way for Muslim women to live.

“They’re just existing, being part of a larger society. But you need to keep looking over your shoulder, having that pit in your stomach of being unsafe. It shouldn’t happen,” she said.

Credit: CityNews / Matt Tornabene

Mylène Sabourin, the director general of La Forfaiterie where the young girl works, declined for their employee to interview because she’s been shaken by the events.

She said in a statement to CityNews: “We believe it is relevant to address the situation that occurred at our Mail Champlain store last weekend where a man made serious comments that we condemn, that we consider aggressive and racist towards our employee.

“Our employees are the heart of our business. No one deserves to go through such a situation. Our employee is doing well, an action plan was put in place quickly after the event.

“We salute the composure of our employee and would like to thank the administration of the Mail Champlain who acted quickly and proactively, in collaboration with our team, in the face of this unacceptable situation.”

The owners of Mail Champlain, Cominar, tell CityNews in a statement: “As we do not tolerate this type of behavior in any of our properties, our security guards proceeded to evict this person immediately. Cominar embraces diversity and togetherness within communities and supports the actions taken by the management of the Mail Champlain.”

Advocates say this behavior reflects discriminatory policies and ideologies.

“This man is just representing what he hears on a larger scale from everyday politicians that are supposed to be protecting the human rights of every Canadian,” said Hamidi. 

“Islamophobic policies that are happening overseas have the ability to fuel hate right here in Quebec,” said El Bakir. “The government, the current government. refuses to acknowledge the existence of Islamophobia. And we absolutely need our leaders to take a clear stance against Islamophobia, condemning all forms of racism and discrimination.”  

After this latest incident, some say it points to the feeling of second-class citizenship.

“The Muslim community in Quebec is reminded over and over that they don’t have the same rights as everyone else,” El Bakir said.

For the young woman, it’s about raising awareness on the abuse hijab-wearing women face.

“We get harassed for literally no reason on a like a daily basis, it really needs to stop,” she said. “I don’t expect people to agree with me, I don’t expect people to praise my religion, the only thing I expect is respect.”

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