Muslim woman attacked in London, Ont., grocery store, police say

Police in London, Ont., are looking for a woman after she allegedly attacked a Muslim woman shopping at a grocery store with her four-month-old son.

This is the fourth reported event against visible minorities in the city in the past eight months

Police in London, Ont., are looking for this woman after a woman, with her four-month-old son, was attacked in a grocery store. (Photo provided by London Police Service)

A Muslim woman shopping with her four-month-old son was attacked in a London, Ont., supermarket Monday, according to police.

The woman was at the Superking Supermarket at 785 Wonderland Rd. S. at approximately 5 p.m. when another woman approached her and began yelling at her for no apparent reason, police said.

The woman, unknown to the shopper, allegedly spat on the victim, punched her several times and then pulled at the victim's hijab and hair, police said.

The suspect then left the store. Store managers were unavailable for comment when contacted by CBC.

Police are looking for a woman standing five feet five inches and weighing 150 pounds. She is about 40 years old with a medium build, long black hair pulled back in a ponytail. She was wearing a red Canada T-shirt and black pants and was carrying a green purse.

Police say the suspect spoke with a "heavy accent," but they are unsure what language she was speaking. 

The victim sustained minor injuries.

Community outrage

Muslim groups are condemning the alleged attack. Saleha Khan of the National Council of Canadian Muslims says the string of racially-charged events over the last few months creates a lack of trust among Muslim residents.

As someone who regularly deals with issues of racism and prejudice, she says incidents like these are disappointing.

"I'm tired, I'm exhausted. I am hurt and I'm disappointed," Khan said. "Part of me doesn't want to give up hope, because if I give up hope, I'll probably curl up and never want to come out in public. You just sort of buckle down and say, OK, I've got more work to do now."

Police were tipped off about the grocery store assault by a flurry of tweets posted Monday by someone claiming to be related to the alleged victim, who eventually called police.

Most of the tweets, including two photographs of the suspect, were deleted at about 2:30 p.m. Tuesday.

When messaged, the Twitter user declined to comment to CBC.

London Police Service spokeswoman Sandasha Bough said the victim took the photos.

"We would like to find out ourselves what...the motive was. After that, then we will continue with the investigation," Bough said.

The police department's street gang unit will review the entire investigation once it's complete. It will determine if the assault has elements of hate or bias, which could be used during sentencing, if charges are laid and the matter ends up in court.

"It's definitely very concerning for anyone to be assaulted for no apparent reason. It's something we need to get to the bottom of," Bough said.

Anyone with information is asked to call the London Police Service.

This is the fourth publicly reported attack against visible minorities in London in the past eight months. Others have involved physical assaults and racial slurs, including vandals spray painting hateful comments on campaign signs during the federal election last year.