Bus driver stopping hate crime marries the victim

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Bus driver stopping hate crime marries the victim

by Zaynab Omar
May 18, 2018

OTTAWA – In May 2016 Ottawa bus driver Alain Charette stopped his passenger Haley DeJong, a Muslim student wearing niqab, from being further harassed by another passenger by stopping the bus and shouting at the man and saying he had called the police. After harassing DeJong for a while, without other passengers able to stop him, this made the man leave the bus.

After the incident they met, and they kept meeting, more and more freqently. A year earlier Charette had lost his wife to cancer, but he didn’t meet DeJong to get a new relationship. Their meetings after long just turned into a relationship, and now Charette has converted to Islam and married DeJong.

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The newly wed couple

Recalling the incident two years ago DeJong said she heard a man on the bus talking about her to other passengers. “She could be a bank robber or something and we don’t even know!” she noted him saying.

Despite other passengers telling him to get off the bus, the man wouldn’t stop. He referred to DeJong as a “freak” and a “terrorist.”

“I was angry, but you can’t respond to hate with more hate, so I tried to keep it cool and just to explain to him,” she told. “That day I even had decided to wear pink. I said to myself, ‘Pink is a fun colour; nobody can hate pink.’

Then she heard a “booming voice” from the front of the bus.

“Hey! If you’ve got a problem with her, then you’ve got a problem with me!” the bus driver told the man.

The man then tried to remedy the situation, saying he loved Muslims, Christians and Jews. He left the bus after Charette told him he had called the cops.

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A selfie taken by DeJong right after the incident was over

In a post in the online newspaper Muslim Link the same day DeJong wrote “It’s very easy to be a bystander in situations like this, particularly as a bus driver, but the bus driver I want to thank responded quickly and professionally to the situation at hand. He deserves to be recognized for his courage.”

The post got viral and Charette wrote on Facebook that he was “overwhelmed” by the attention the story had brought him. His employer said that “kudos” were sent to his supervisor.

DeJong was made aware of Charette’s post on Facebook and they met in a coffee shop a few days later.

TOTV News now has met the newly wed couple in Charette’s apartment where they have decided to share their future. TOTV News were invited to their home because Mrs. DeJong wanted to make a public statement and because I was both a woman and a Muslim.

In their living room a surprise awaited. Mrs. DeJong was entirely dressed in black with a semi-transparent layer covering her eyes and wearing gloves for nothing of her to be seen.

From within the black it came in a slightly muffled voice “After I got more into the Quran and the Hadith when trying to explain the beauty of Islam to Alain it occurred to me that although I was already wearing the niqab in public the best would be to be totally covered in black only, and Alain agreed it was how he read the texts as well. But going out like this would be to add fuel to the fire for people like the man who haressed me in the bus. It is currently too much for many Westerners. So I show my eyes when going out, do not wear gloves and wear coloured clothing, but I no longer wear radiant colours like pink. When coming home though I change to appear like now, comparing this with the many people who shed a work uniform to change into what make them feel comfortable.”

“Us spending the weekdays apart when I am with Haley she is mostly showing like now. Right from the beginning this has made me feel more at peace with myself and appriciate Islam,” Mr. Charette said.

Then tea was served for Mrs. DeJong to flip back her niqab while having sandwiches, but her sitting next to Mr. Charette he didn’t really see her face.

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Mrs. DeJong in her home attire

Copyright 2018 TOTV News and 2016 Huffington Post Canada

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