An attack in southern Ontario that sent a Muslim man to hospital appears to have been motivated by hate, police said Wednesday, as his family tried to come to grips with the incident.
Peel regional police said they were called to investigate a fight in Mississauga, at about 9 p.m. on Sunday, and discovered the man being beaten by two people.
Ahmed Abu Marzouk said he got to the scene shortly after police arrived to find his brother Muhammed lying on the ground.
“His wife was holding him ... his face was all swollen,” Abu Marzouk said Wednesday.
He said she told him the attackers continued to assault his brother after knocking him to the ground.
“She said they wouldn’t stop kicking him while he was on the ground until the cop pulled the gun on them and told them to stop,” he said.
Two men, aged 27 and 19, have been charged with assault in the incident.
“The fight began as a result of a driving incident that occurred in the parking lot,” police said a statement.
“During the assault, racially based comments were uttered at the victim, indicating the assault may have been a hate-motivated incident.”
Sana Khwaja, who is helping organize a fundraising campaign for the man who was attacked, said he has undergone several surgeries since the incident.
Abu Marzouk had been at a picnic with his family – including his two daughters, aged six and four – when he was backing up his car and narrowly avoided hitting two men, Khwaja said.
When he got out of the car to see if everything was OK, Khwaja alleged the two men began to beat Abu Marzouk. She added that witnesses said the men allegedly shouted racist slurs at Abu Marzouk.
“They swore at him. They called him names about his ethnicity,” Khwaja said. “His wife came out, and his brother also came to try to stop them from hurting him further.”
Abu Marzouk has woken up and was able to speak to his parents, Khwaja said, noting that it could take several months for him to recover. She said his injuries include multiple fractures and a brain hemorrhage.
“He’s just a typical Canadian,” she said. “He’s just having fun with his family.... No one expects this to happen to them, and it’s tragic.”
Ahmed Abu Marzouk said his brother is breathing on his own but doctors found a clot on his brain during a scan on Wednesday.
“They want to give him a blood thinner, but they’re afraid because he’s still bleeding after the surgery,” he said.
He said his daughters and his brother’s daughters all witnessed the incident.
“I think they’re trying to block it,” he said. “They don’t want to talk about it – keep pretending it never happened.”
The Muslim and other communities in the Mississauga, Ont., area have been “helping us a lot morally,” he said.
The incident has drawn the attention of various Muslim groups, including the National Council of Canadian Muslims.
“We are extremely appalled by this horrific assault and our thoughts and prayers are with the victim, their family and the local Muslim community,” Ihsaan Gardee, executive director of the council, said in a statement.
“Such hateful and cowardly acts are abhorrent to all Canadians.”
Peel regional police Chief Jennifer Evans urged local residents on Wednesday to “stay vigilant” and report any hate-motivated crimes they see.
“The Region of Peel is one of the most diverse and inclusive communities in Canada, and hateful behaviour will not be tolerated,” Evans said in a written statement.
“I want to assure the public that all our officers are trained to recognize and investigate hate-motivated crime, and we take these incidents very seriously.”
With files from Peter Goffin and Peter Cameron