Credits: DAVE JOHNSON/Welland Tribune/QMI Agency
ST. CATHARINES, Ont. -- A teenage girl roughed up by a trio of girls while walking from the mosque said she always felt safe in the community until now.
The 17-year-old received a bump on her head, scrapes and minor injuries to her hands and nose during the confrontation.
"I've never seen them in my life," she said. "I felt safe walking by myself."
Niagara Regional Police said the teen was walking on the sidewalk at Geneva Square parking lot just before 6 p.m. Sept. 17 when three girls walking behind tried to pass, made a comment, got into an argument and pushed and hit her. They then ran away.
Two 16-year-old girls have since been charged with assault and a third female youth was not charged. Their identifies are protected by the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
The 17-year-old girl, who was wearing a head scarf, said she was walking from the Al-Noor Mosque, where her siblings were taking classes, to go to the Tim Hortons on Welland Ave. when she heard three girls laughing and yelling behind her.
She said one girl yelled, "Isn't it against your religion to be out here?"
"I tried to walk away, but they cornered me at a brick wall," she said. "The one in front of me physically attacked me."
She said a woman walking a dog intervened and witnesses in an optometrist's office called 911.
Paramedics checked her out at the scene and she went to hospital to have X-rays as a precaution.
Islamic Society of St. Catharines spokesman Sallah Hamdani said the level of hate crime has been on the rise not only in Niagara but throughout Canada.
"Age is no factor when it comes to ignorance," he said.
Hamdani said the Muslim community, unfortunately, has to use incidents such as this one as teaching tools.
"We just bring this to reality and we let our youth know who we are and what we stand for," he said.
"And to be aware there are some people that are filled with hate and may not accept you for who you are but by how you look, and make judgment."