Children and young Muslim women are being told to walk in pairs by local community leaders in Flemingdon Park as Toronto police continue to investigate a brutal assault they believe was a hate crime.
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The director of the local mosque has encouraged children to use the buddy system after a woman was assaulted and called a terrorist when she went to pick up her two children from Grenoble Public School Monday.
"Young kids, they are afraid and they cannot understand," Aleemuddin Syed said in an interview Wednesday. "They feel like if they're going out alone, they're not safe."
The north Toronto community has not seen this type of racial violence before, Syed said. Elsewhere in Toronto and North America mosques and Muslims have been targeted by violence and Islamophobia in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris.
Everyone should be able to walk outside and feel safe in their schools or their homes, Grade 4 student Wazia Hasan said.
"If they gave me a second to talk I would tell them that it's not right to do that, how would you like it if someone else did that to you?" she told CBC News. "They're not putting their self into other people's shoes."
Some women told CBC News Tuesday and Wednesday that they are afraid to wear their hijabs, worried that would make them a target.
"But we are all Canadians and we are proud of that," Syed said. "We are trying to tell the kids that everyone loves you, no one hates you."
Mayor John Tory brought a similar message as he came to Grenoble Public School Wednesday afternoon. He met with students and parents there to tell that the city supports them and will keep them safe.
"I don't want anybody in the city, a child or an adult, to ever feel that they should be scared to walk in this community for any reason — but especially because of where they come from… or what faith they might have or the colour of their skin."
Others have shown their support in other ways, following retaliatory violence against Muslims in the Greater Toronto Area.
More than $100,000 poured in to help repair a mosque in Peterborough damaged by arson last Saturday — and similar crowdfunding campaigns have sprung up after that one's success.
'You can't intimidate us'
And the community of Flemingdon Park will show its unity on Friday morning during a march organized by the Thornecliffe Neighbourhood Office.
The children who attend the community centre are being told that this assault was an isolated incident and not representative of what Canada believes, the centre's executive director said.
Ahmed Hussein said that people should be careful, but not fearful.
"We're sad that this happened, but it's very, very rare," he said. "You can't intimidate us, you can't change our way of life and you can't divide the community into different groups — we are very united."