New Brunswick

Incidents of Islamophobia on the rise, says president of Moncton Muslim Association

Abdal Khan, the president of the Moncton Muslim Association, says incidents of Islamophobia have been on the rise in the region, based on stories he's heard from members. Khan made the comments in response to a road rage attack in Moncton on Sunday.

Road rage attack in Moncton deeply concerning, say Muslim leaders

Abdal Khan, president of the Moncton Muslim Association, said there's been an increase in reported incidents of Islamophobia among members in the region in the past five years. (Tori Weldon/CBC News)

Incidents of Islamophobia have been on the rise in Moncton over the past five years, says the president of an organization representing Muslims in the region. 

Abdal Khan of the Moncton Muslim Association made the comments in response to a road rage attack in Moncton on Sunday. 

He says he's heard more and more stories from members in recent years about being the subject of comments and criticism related to their belief in Islam.

He said the increase became particularly noticeable after Donald Trump was elected president of the United States.

"That really changed things. And now people are more... open in their extreme views than they were before," Khan said.

On Sunday, Mohammed Benyoussef of Irishtown, N.B. was physically attacked during a road rage incident while driving into Moncton.

The attacker was seen on video calling Benyoussef a slur before grabbing Benyoussef as he sat in the driver's seat of his minivan.

Benyoussef, who is Muslim, said he thinks the attack could have been driven by the fact that his daughter was sitting in the passenger seat wearing a hijab, noting the alleged attacker also told him to go back to his country.

RCMP say a man was arrested and later released on condition to appear in court at a later date. He's expected to face an assault charge in relation to the incident.

WATCH | Family films the confrontation (WARNING: offensive language):

Moncton road rage incident caught on camera

1 year ago
Duration 3:37
WARNING: Strong language. Mohammed Benyoussef says he was the target of road rage along Ammon Road in Moncton on Aug. 29.Benyoussef says the driver of a pickup truck forced him to come to an abrupt stop before getting out and attacking him as he sat in the driver's seat of his minivan with his family.

"It was very disturbing," said Khan, speaking about the video.

"And this is not something usually we expect in Moncton to happen. I've been living in Moncton for almost 20 years, and I haven't seen any incident like similar to like that, so very unfortunate and very disturbing."

But while the Muslim community still feels "comfortable" in Moncton, Khan said they're also "cautious" whenever they go out in public.

He says the more events like that happen, the more people feel they need to be cautious when they go outside. "So it definitely does have a big impact on the community, the Muslim community."

Violence and threats inspired by Islamophobic views have rocked communities across Canada in recent years.

On June 6, Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, their daughter Yumna Afzaal, 15, and Salman's mother, Talat Afzaal, 74, were walking in their London, Ont. neighbourhood when Nathaniel Veltman allegedly struck and killed them with his truck because of their faith.

On Jan. 29, 2017, Alexandre Bissonnette opened fire on worshippers at a Quebec City mosque, killing six men and seriously wounding dozens others.

Government action needed, says council

Fatema Abdalla, spokesperson for the National Council of Canadian Muslims, said the attack on Benyoussef is deeply concerning and highlights the need for something to be done to address Islamophobia in Canada.

"It's a national issue and requires a national effort," Abdalla said.

"And that is why we're calling for a national action plan against this Islamophobia and we're hoping that the continuation of these attack showcases this urgency and puts it on the forefront of, of every politician's priority list this election."

Earlier this year, the council released a document containing policy recommendations for federal, provincial and municipal governments to adopt to combat Islamophobia.

The recommendations include funding for a National Support Fund for Survivors of Hate-Motivated Crimes, and new provisions in the Criminal Code around hate-motivated assault, murder, threats, and mischief that include specific penalties corresponding to each infraction.