OTTAWA: Noah Rabbani, 15, was walking the five minutes from his friend’s home in Hamilton, Ontario, to his grandmother’s home just after midnight Sunday, as he has many times before. It’s a quiet residential neighborhood, filled with new homes and considered safe.
Then, suddenly, he later told his aunt Salima Hafeez, a car stopped. He thought it was dropping someone off, she told The Washington Post.
But “’I turn around and see this bat coming toward my head. It was too fast for me to react’” he told his aunt. “’One guy just kept hitting me with the bat.’”
The Muslim teenager, whose grandparents emigrated from Pakistan in the 1970s, was brutally beaten that night. The suspects, two of them, are both white. Hafeez said in a Facebook post that she believes the attack was “race related.”
Hamilton police, in a news release, described it as a robbery.
“It’s frustrating,” she said in a phone interview. “They didn’t take his wallet or his phone. They took his backpack, which had only some books and a water bottle.”
Noah’s aunt told The Post Thursday morning that he had five hours of surgery Wednesday, delayed because of swelling from the beating. She said that he has lost the use of the right side of his body, at least for the time being, has suffered short-term memory loss and had his two front teeth knocked out.
“They couldn’t do much surgery because there was still a lot of swelling,” she said, and he’s going to need more medical treatment in the future, a heavy expense for a family with eight children and a single income. “Funds are tight for his family.”
The men, police said, ran back to their car and fled. The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. quoted Hamilton Police Constable Asuf Khokar saying that the investigation was ongoing and that police were “looking at all aspects.”
Noah, Hafeez said, crawled the distance from the attack to his grandmother’s house, from where he called his brother to come get him.
After trying to minimize his injury — “he kept saying he fell because he didn’t want to alarm his parents” — his parents saw the blood and felt his head and knew something much worse had happened. Then he started to have seizures and to vomit and was hospitalized.
Hafeez complained that there was little media attention and no initial news release from police for an act that demanded public attention until she called a local newspaper and posted on Facebook.
“I know right now we’re just speculating but to me, regardless, it was an evil act on a child. He has a small build (about 5′ 2″) and you can tell he’s a child.”
Hafeez said in her Facebook post that she has little doubt that the attack was race-related.
“The number of race related attacks and vandalism in Canada seems to be increasing in the last month,” she wrote. “… What are we as a community going to do about it? What are our politicians going to do about it?”
“Our family is asking for your help. We want you to share this message so that the attackers can be caught as soon as possible. … We want you to share this message so that our communities start talking about racism and Islamophobia which appear to be on the rise. We want you to share this message so that our politicians can start to speak up about what they are going to do to protect our children and communities. Please keep Noah in your thoughts and prayers and speak up if you see any acts of violence.”
She described Noah as a “quiet, kind boy” and an “exceptional student” at Saltfleet High School, where he has won numerous academic awards.
In the U.S., hate crimes against Muslims are at their highest level in more than a decade, an increase attributed to anger over terrorist attacks and anti-Islam rhetoric on the campaign trail, as The Washington Post’s Matt Zapotosky recently reported. – Samaa