‘We don’t want people to forget’: How communities remember Muslim family killed 1 year ago

Communities across Ontario will march and hold vigils to commemorate the life of a Muslim family killed in what police and prosecutors call a hate-motivated attack nearly a year ago in London, Ont. .

On June 6, 2021, Yumna Afzaal, 15, her mother and father, Madiha Salman, 44, and Salman Afzaal, 46, and her grandmother, Talat Afzaal, 74, were killed when a vehicle jumped a sidewalk when they were out on a Sunday. walking. Police believe the driver deliberately targeted the family because of their Muslim faith.

Their youngest son was injured, but survived. Family members have asked that the boy not be named so that he can have as normal a life as possible.

In a statement released on behalf of the family, Umar Afzaal, Salman’s brother, said they continue to struggle with what happened but are looking to the future with the help of the community.

“Losing three generations of our family was a disaster, but our community came together and gave us hope and strength. It is with this strength that we have been able to keep moving forward,” the statement read.

The accused in the attack faces murder and related terrorism charges. Twelve weeks have been set aside for his trial, which is due to begin in September 2023,

“This attack must be condemned”

Reyhana Patel, spokesperson for Islamic Relief Canada (IRC), said preparing for the anniversary was a major concern for many Muslim communities. She says the organization worked for weeks leading up to June 6 to organize 11 marches and vigils across the country and encourage people to plan their own events.

“We remember the Afzaal family but also, we want people to come out and show their support that Islamophobia is real and this attack should be condemned,” Patel said.

Patel says the organization still hears reports from Muslims who say they face Islamophobia, such as being verbally abused, having their hijab ripped off or being passed over for job promotions because of their faith.

Yumna Afzaal, 15, Madiha Salman, 44, Talat Afzaal, 74, and Salman Afzaal, 46, left to right, were out for an evening stroll on Sunday when they were hit by a truck in what police said that it was an attack motivated by anti – Muslim hatred. (Submitted by the Afzaal family)

“We need to work on this not just as a community, but also…we need proper government intervention as well.”

The group, along with the National Council of Canadian Muslims, will be on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on June 6 to demand further progress on the federal government’s national action plan to combat hate. Both groups also want more movement on the policy recommendations they issued in the wake of the London attack.

Provincially, Patel says they are waiting to see if Bill 86, Our London Family Act, introduced in response to the tragedy, passes.

A focus on protection

Last year, the Islamic Center of Toronto wrote and delivered cards to the Afzaal family, the London Muslim Mosque and the wider community as a show of solidarity, said the center’s director of operations and Imam Shaffni. Nalir.

“This year though, to be honest, in particular, maybe we’re trying to protect our own mosque a bit more, actually,” Nalir said.

He says he is concerned about possible attacks on the mosque or the community. He says that while Canada is generally a safe country and encourages community members to participate in upcoming vigils and marches, he advises them to keep an eye on their surroundings and when going out alone.

“It’s something people didn’t have to do before, but the world is different,” Nalir said.

“If it was the first incident, you could say it was an isolated incident, you know, but it’s not the first incident.”

Vigils, walks across Ontario

Ontario residents can participate in these walks on June 5 and 6:

Location: Thomson Memorial Park, 1005 Brimley Rd., Scarborough, ON.
Time and date: June 5 at 6:30 p.m.

Event: programme, speech, followed by a march to the London Muslim Mosque
Location: Oakridge Secondary School, 1040 Oxford St W.
Time and date: June 5 at 1 p.m.

Event: Vigil in honor of our London family
Location: Hyde Park Rd. & South Carriage Rd., London, Ont.
Time and date: June 6 at 6:30 p.m.

Event: Online Vigil for the Kingston Community
Location: On the Islamic Society of Kingston Facebook page
Time: June 6 at 7:30 p.m.

Event: March and national solidarity vigil across Canada
Location: Celebration Square, 300 City Center Dr., Mississauga, ON.
Time: June 6 between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.

Event: March of Silent Reflection
Location: Parliament Hill (Centennial Flame) to Major’s Hill Park, Ottawa, ON.
Time: June 6 between 7:15 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.

Event: Vigil Honoring Our London Family and Report on Hate at Waterloo Unveiling (Muslim Women’s Coalition)
Location: Family Centre, located at 65 Hanson Avenue, Kitchener, Ont.
Time: June 6. between 9:00 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.

Patel encourages people to donate, wear green and purple ribbons as an official symbol of Afzaal family remembrance, and talk to their families about the dangers of Islamophobia.

“We don’t want people to forget what happened.”

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