Noah Rabbani was just trying to get home from a friend's house overnight Saturday in Hamilton β€” but he ended up in intensive care after a brutal beating from two men with a baseball bat. Now his family is left wondering if the attack was a hate crime.

The 15-year-old Saltfleet District High School student had to go through surgery to repair a crack in his skull and doesn't have full movement on his right side.

"It's just a total shock. He's such a good kid," said his aunt, Huma Aslam.

According to police, Rabbani was walking in the area of Rymal Road East and Fletcher Road just after midnight, where he was assaulted and robbed of his backpack.

'It just seems like all of a sudden after the election in the U.S. there have been more violent incidents in our country.' - Huma Aslam, victim's aunt

A police news release says two men got out of a car next to where he was walking, with one holding a baseball bat.

"The males approached the boy and struck him with the bat several times causing serious injuries," the news release reads. "The suspects ran back to the car and left in an unknown direction."

Aslam says her nephew didn't have anything of real value in the backpack to steal β€” just a water bottle and some books. The teen's family says he's a quiet, kind boy and an exceptional student who has won several academic awards.

But considering that Rabbani is of Pakistani and Muslim background, Aslam says, his family is worried that the incident was a hate crime, and he was targeted for the colour of his skin.

"It just seems like all of a sudden after the election in the U.S. there have been more violent incidents in our country," Aslam said. "It's the timing of it all.

Unable to speak much

"Here we are in Canada, the greatest country in the world. I'm just really in shock."

Hamilton police Const. Asuf Khokhar said the investigation is continuing, and detectives are "looking at all aspects."

It's difficult to say exactly what happened, because the teen still isn't able to speak much. He suffered injuries to his brain, jaw, limbs and spine, and currently isn't able to move the right side of his body.

The swelling was so bad that doctors had to wait days to operate, his aunt says. The family is pleading with anyone in the area who saw anything to contact police.

After his attack, Rabbani managed to get to his grandmother's house a few doors down, and provided a brief description of who attacked him β€” two white men, one around five feet six inches with a thin build, the other around five feet eight inches.

Racial tension

The family was hoping once he got out of surgery Wednesday that he would be able to provide more insight into what happened. It's tough to say what the full extent of the damage is just yet, his aunt says.

"They're waiting for the swelling to come down."

Aslam said that since president-elect Donald Trump's win this month, her whole family has felt more racial tension and even danger while out in public.

A Facebook post from a family member is asking for prayers for the teen, as well as making a plea for communities to start talking about racism and Islamophobia.

"We can't let these crimes go unnoticed," Aslam said. "It cannot become the new norm."

adam.carter@cbc.ca

Clarifications

  • Rabbani's family originally said he suffered a blood clot in his brain, but later clarified his head injury was a cracked skull.
    Dec 01, 2016 3:33 PM ET