Canadian Muslim women undertake self-defense classes following wave of racist attacks

© Rebecca Cook
A group of Muslim women from Toronto are taking matters into their own hands following a spate of attacks against members of their faith in Canada. They are organizing self-defense classes to help protect themselves from would-be attackers.

The fallout from the Paris terror attacks has inflamed what could be a daily problem for Muslims, who face bigotry and racism because of their religion. Muslim women, who wear headscarves have become an easy target, but rather than sit back and take the abuse, a group in Toronto have had enough.

“I felt that as a Muslim girl I shouldn't have to live in fear and we should at least be able to defend ourselves, protect ourselves generally,” said Sarah Sabb, the organizer of the self-defense lessons.

“If someone were to grab me or pull me I should be able to at least tell him like 'No, stop, you can't touch me,' you know. And especially for the reasons of me wearing my scarf, which should not be a reason for anyone to have to attack me,” she added, speaking to RT’s video agency Ruptly.

The self-defense seminars took place at the Al-Huda Islamic Center in Toronto, with local martial arts expert John Kolakovic carefully orchestrating proceedings. He explained in detail what to do if someone tries to launch an attack.

"We're being prepared for if someone were to come and try to rip off my scarf, pull it, say racial slurs about me, where I'm from, my religion, racial slurs, like insults, that kind of harassment that no-one should have to tolerate at all, at any circumstance,” Sabb added.

The Masjid Al-Salaam Mosque in Peterborough, Ontario was firebombed two weeks ago in a hate crime against Muslims. This has only served to increase tensions and fears amongst Muslims. However, the local community quickly rallied together and helped raise over $100,000 to repair the place of worship following the arson attack.

Sabb says she is not prepare to let those intent on racial bigotry prevail, saying that those who attack Muslims in the street are just as bad as those who carry out terrorist attacks around the globe.

"A terrorist is not only someone who bombs other countries; it's someone who invades another human's peace. So if I'm at peace and you are coming and attacking me, then you are a terrorist. You are just as equal to the people who are bombing people in Paris, Beirut, Iraq and everywhere else."