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Anti-Muslim attack a concern

An Islamophobic attack on a young Muslim woman from Paarl has left a bitter taste in the mouths of the community.

Asheeqah Benjamin (28) is still traumatised after a man deliberately pulled off her niqab and hijab on 7 September in Northern Paarl. The niqab is a veil-like piece of clothing worn by some Muslim women to cover their faces, except for the eye area, while the hijab covers the head and chest.

According to Benjamin, the man physically and verbally attacked her. After grabbing her niqab and hijab the man allegedly said: “You Muslim rubbish, it is hot.”

While trying to defend herself in retaliation the man threw a water bottle at her. She also claims he threatened to stab her and threw a stone at her, but missed.

After the attack Benjamin rushed back home and, enlisting her father’s help, searched for the perpetrator, whom they eventually found.

She related what followed in a Facebook post: “He then attempted to throw a rock at my father and threatened us with a gun. He thereafter, as I left home, harassed my dad and mom with a physical gun, showing it in public, while there [were] witnesses.”

Benjamin says the man showed no remorse for his actions, saying he had connections in the local neighbourhood watch who would make the “entire situation disappear”.

In a statement, the executive committee of the Paarl Muslim Jamaa condemned the assault on Benjamin, and called on the community to unite against Islamophobia.

Its chairman Waghied Hendricks says there are approximately 1 500 Muslim families living in Paarl.

“The Paarl Muslim Jamaa would like to acknowledge the decades of peace and harmony among people of all faiths in Paarl, and call on all peace loving members of the community to unite and ensure that the lives and freedoms of fellow citizens are respected.”

Meanwhile, the incident was reported to the Paarl police.

In a follow-up statement on Tuesday (15 September) Hendricks said: “Even though talks took place with the police on 11 September, “it is very disappointing to confirm that to date no arrest has been made.”

Captain Louise du Plessis, spokesperson for the Paarl Police, confirmed police are investigating the “alleged assault that occurred in Northern Paarl earlier in September.”

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