Montreal police investigate after woman wearing niqab attacked in public

Fatima Ahmad wears a niqab and says she is used to Islamophobic harassment, but what happened Monday outside Charlevoix Metro was on a whole new scale.

The incident is being investigated as a possible hate crime

Montrealer Fatima Ahmad said going outside can feel like 'an emotional rollercoaster' that leaves her always apprehensive of her safety in public. (CBC)

Fatima Ahmad wears a niqab and says she is used to Islamophobic harassment, but what happened on Monday outside Charlevoix Metro station was on a whole new scale.

She says a man approached her "and then he hit me with his hand on my chest and he pulled my niqab."

Ahmad was shocked, but the 22-year-old woman still chased after the man to confront him.

She said it looked like he didn't expect it because he became so frazzled he was almost hit by a car as he tried to get away from her.

Once she reached him, she took his photo and a short video.

"He was kind of like ... frozen," she said.

She filed a report with Montreal police and the incident is currently being investigated as a possible hate crime, police said.

Despite the dangers of pursuing the man who attacked her, Ahmad said she felt it was important so that he would think twice before doing it to someone else.

"I don't want this to happen again to any woman, and if I just let it go, he may gain more courage. To me, physical abuse and assault are unacceptable," she said.

Shaheen Ashraf, a board member with the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, said that since Bill 21 was tabled, incidents like the one Ahmad experienced have been on the rise.

"People are having open season on the Muslims, especially Muslim women who identify with what they wear. They're the targets," Ashraf said.

She added that the niqab is not well understood in Quebec and Bill 21 intensifies misconceptions.

"I guess that person acted on his ignorance," she said.

With files from Jay Turnbull and CBC Montreal's Homerun