Canada: Man charged with assault after car is driven at mosque worshippers

Sharan Karunakaran

A 28 year old man, Sharan Karunakaran, has been charged with uttering threats, assault with a weapon and dangerous driving after a suspected hate-motivated incident at a mosque in the City of Markham, Canada.

On April 6 at 6.55 a.m., Karunakaran, from Toronto, is alleged to have driven directly at a worshipper and yelled threats and religious slurs before leaving the Markham Masjid parking lot.

Shortly after midnight, on April 7, members of York Regional Police arrested the suspect in Toronto.

Police have not released a motive for the attack.

But Qasir Nasir Khan, president of the Islamic Society of Markham, told reporters that a man committed “a number of Islamophobic acts” outside the mosque.

“He threatened to burn down our mosque. He uttered slurs about the Prophet [Muhammad],” Khan said during a news conference. “Most concerningly, he tried to ram our congregants with his vehicle.”

Khan added that in light of this and other recent Islamophobic incidents in Canada, “our congregation and Muslims across the country have a reason to be concerned.”

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“Whether looking at the Quebec City mosque massacre, or the London attack where an individual ran down an entire family with his truck, our communities have reasons to feel afraid,” Khan said. “Make no mistake, we could have been at a funeral today.”

Islamophobic attacks in Canada have been a growing concern in recent years. According to a 2019 report by the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), there has been a 151% increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes in Canada since 2015.

Some notable incidents of Islamophobic attacks in Canada include:

  • The Quebec City mosque shooting in January 2017, where six Muslim men were killed and 19 others were injured by a gunman.
  • The 2017 incident where a Muslim woman was physically assaulted and had her hijab pulled off by two men in Toronto.
  • The 2019 attack on a Muslim family in London, Ontario, where a man intentionally drove his truck into them, killing four members and leaving a nine-year-old boy as the sole survivor.
  • The 2021 incident where a man was arrested for threatening to kill Muslim women and children outside a mosque in Edmonton.

These incidents, among many others, have sparked outrage and calls for action to address Islamophobia in Canada.

In response, the Canadian government has taken steps such as introducing an anti-racism strategy and allocating funds to combat hate crimes.

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