A Canadian court sentenced a woman to 100 hours of community service for ripping the face veil off a Muslim shopper.
Justice Ian Cowan gave Creswell, 66, a one-year suspended sentence. He also ruled she must serve 100 hours of community service, and suggested she educate herself about Muslims by attending a mosque.
Rosemarie Creswell pleaded guilty to assault after mall security footage showed her pulling off Inas Kadri's traditional face veil, known as a niqab, at Sheridan Centre in Mississauga in August 2010. Kadri was with her two small children when the attack occurred.
Kadri claims she was approached by two women, and one began berating her. "She was swearing at my religion, my face cover and by my presence here in Canada," Kadri said
"Any sort of assault based on the differences people have will not be tolerated," Justice Cowan remarked. "I think the Canadian public would be very alarmed at your behaviour."
The judge added that the presence of Kadri's children â a son, 3, and daughter, 2 â was an aggravating factor in the sentence. In her victim impact statement, Kadri said her son now has nightmares because of the incident.
The assault bears a striking similarity to a case that made international headlines last year, after a retired schoolteacher in France attacked a Muslim woman shopping with her two children and pulled off her full-face veil. The incident was dubbed "niqab rage" by the international press.
In court, a Crown attorney read Kadri's victim impact statement as Kadri dabbed at her eyes.
"The incident limited my courage to go to new places," Kadri wrote, adding she now prefers to stay within her community and even reconsidered plans to pursue a master's degree. "I don't feel secure any more in the absence of my husband."
Kadri is a schoolteacher with a computer engineering degree from University of Ottawa.
Creswell shook visibly during the proceedings. A letter of apology she wrote to Kadri was also entered as evidence.
"I am so very sorry for my disgraceful actions towards you â¦ " she writes. "Since that day, I have researched Muslim customs. I now have a much greater appreciation for what I did to you."
Her lawyer noted that Creswell lives alone in a basement apartment in Mississauga and earns very little working part-time at a grocery store. She has no prior history with police, and alcohol may have played a role in the attack.
In court Friday, Creswell's lawyer argued for a conditional discharge, meaning she would have no criminal record.
Judge Cowan disagreed, and issued her a suspended sentence plus one year of probation and community service. It means she will have criminal record but will not have to serve actual time in prison.
Outside the court, Kadri said the incident had not changed her perception of Canada â but it had changed her opinion of her role as a citizen.
"As a human, living with people in this society, I think I should work harder to educate people about my religion. It seems like they are not educated enough," she said. She also said her decision to wear the niqab never wavered.
"The crime â¦ didn't affect my faith. It built it to be stronger."
Dozens of women, some who knew Kadri and some who did not, wearing both the hijab and niqab, appeared in court to support her. "We want our kids to be brought up in an understanding community, so they will be good citizens," said Sana Mutawi, who also wears the niqab.
Kadri's husband also accompanied her to court but declined requests for comment, saying he preferred to let his wife speak for herself.
Kate Allen, "Attacker sentenced for pulling off woman's niqab" Toronto Star November 25, 2011
"Niqab assault case ends in suspended sentence" CBC News November 25, 2011
Reproduced with permission from Islam Today