‘This is Canada and I can wear whatever the hell I want:’ Victoria woman pushes back at anti-Islamic slurs thrown on BC Transit bus

Watch A young Victoria woman says she was verbally harassed on a BC Transit bus by a man who claimed to be carrying knives, all because of how she was dressed. But as Kori Sidaway tells us, she's not letting hate get in her way.

Catching the bus is part of Zainab Kathrada’s daily routine. But she never feels fully safe.

“If I have my kid with me I have to sit in a place where I’m like, are we close to the exits?” said Zainab.

Wearing a full niqab, Zainab says she faces harassment daily.

But Wednesday afternoon, while taking the number 50 bus from Uptown to Bay Street, she said what she experienced was much, much worse. She said a man threatened her by saying he had knives on him, then verbally harassed her.

“He said something along the lines of ‘this is not the Middle East, this is Canada. It’s not right to wear that here,'” said Zainab.

“So I turned around again and I immediately addressed him and said ‘this is Canada and I can wear whatever the hell I want.”

Others on board over heard the exchange and asked the bus driver to remove the male passenger.

“At the next stop, the bus driver stopped. He got down, he walked over, and kind of just checked out the harasser but didn’t say or do anything. And he asked me if I was ok,” said Zainab.

Zainab got off at the next stop but says the BC Transit driver, should have done more.

“As soon as someone is threatening somebody else, as soon as someone has mentioned they have weapons, that should be zero tolerance and they should get off,” said Zainab.

But in a statement, BC Transit said safety is their top priority.

“We will be undertaking a review of this incident…We work hard to provide a welcoming environment for all customers. If there is an incident on a bus that the driver feels support is required, our transit supervisors and local police will attend,” said BC Transit.

And the confrontation has the local Muslim community inviting everyone to join them in conversation.

“If you have a problem, let’s talk about it. Why are you scared?” said Imam Youus Kathrada of the Muslim Youth of Victoria.

“Start having real dialogue with everyday Muslims. We’re not people to be afraid of.”

And Zainab hopes others won’t be so intimated of her niqab.

“It’s a piece of cloth, it’s not superpowered. I wish it was, but it’s not! It’s not armour, it’s not a weapon, it’s none of those things,” Zainab said.

And regardless of any ignorance or hatred, she plans to keep riding the bus.

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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