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Female students film assault, removing hijab of Muslim girl in New Zealand school

The attack on Muslim teenager Hoda al-Jamaa in a New Zealand school has garnered widespread attention online (Screen grab image by Twitter)

A 17-year-old female Muslim student has been assaulted and her hijab torn off by fellow students in a New Zealand high school with their teacher looking on amid persisting Islamophobia in the UK-affiliated Oceanic island nation.

The student, identified as Hoda al-Jamaa suffered a concussion on Wednesday when her hijab – an Islamic headdress of diverse sorts commonly worn by female Muslims worldwide -- was ripped off by three girls at the Otago Girls’ High School in the city of Duncedin after being punched in the face at the presence of a teacher, UK-based Middle East Eye reported Friday.

"Two of the girls held me and one hit me and after I fell on the ground, she ... was still hitting my face and my body. I was waiting for the teacher to help me," Jamaa said in an interview with the local, state-owned Radio New Zealand (RNZ).

The victim further added that the girls took off her hijab and filmed her, and that the video had now been shared with boys and other girls in the school. She also noted that the perpetrators attempted to do the same to two of her Muslim friends at the school. 

"My hijab... is my culture and my religion,” the young student then underlined. “My hijab is everything for me and I love my hijab and those other girls love their hijabs."

Jamaa also noted that the incident was not the first violent attack she had experienced and that she frequently had the fingers pulled at her and called a terrorist by fellow students.

According to the report, the school released a lengthy statement saying it had "no tolerance for unkind comments, racism, bullying or any other form of discrimination." It did not, however, explain how the teacher cited in Jamaa’s comments did not interfere to prevent the violent assault and filming of the incident, as well as sharing it with others.

Local police asserted that they had identified the female assailants involved in the brutal assault and had launched an “investigation” into the hate crime. There was no word, however, about detention of the perpetrators.

"This altercation has caused significant disquiet and distress for the girls, their families, and the wider Muslim community," police were further quoted as saying in local press reports.  

"Violence or threatening behavior including any involving hate, hostility, or prejudice regarding race, faith, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or age is not acceptable," police authorities also claimed as they commonly do following similar hate crimes.

The hate crime came nearly two years after the March 15, 2019 massacre of Muslim worshippers at two mosques in the city of Christchurch in New Zealand, when an Australian gunman opened fire on worshippers at Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Center while broadcasting live on Facebook.

The latest anti-Muslim incident in New Zealand – a British Commonwealth nation – has also sparked local and international media attention, with a petition calling for justice in case, which has so far received nearly 60,000 signatures in two days.

Several social media users shared the hashtag #JusticeforHoda to highlight the hate crime and censure persisting Islamophobia in the country. 

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