London assault: Prayer service, vigil to honour Muslim household

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Some got here bearing flowers, others softly recited verses of the Qur’an and lots of quietly reminisced concerning the lives of the family members they’d misplaced.

At a number of occasions in London, Ont., on Monday, native residents and members of the Muslim group gathered to recollect a household killed in what prosecutors have known as a hate-motivated assault.

The deaths of the Afzaal household, who had been pushed down whereas out for a night stroll on June 6, 2021, despatched shock waves throughout the nation and have since prompted repeated calls to combat Islamophobia.

For Tariq Bhatti, life as a Muslim in London has modified for the reason that assault.

“Whenever you stroll on the road now, I imply, it is not the identical,” he mentioned on Monday following an occasion to mark the tragedy. “I simply heard a transport truck and I simply felt one thing in my backbone.”

Salman Afzaal, 46; his spouse, Madiha Salman, 44; their 15-year-old daughter, Yumnah; and her 74-year-old grandmother, Talat Afzaal, died after police say they had been intentionally hit by a truck. The household’s nine-year-old son was harm however survived.

Bhatti, who was amongst those that attended a prayer service Monday morning for the Afzaal household, mentioned he used to play cricket with Salman Afzaal.

“He was a gentleman. He was an amazing Pakistani. He was an amazing Muslim, and a person of ideas. Very, very pleasant,” he mentioned.

Kinfolk of the Afzaal household positioned flowers Monday morning on the graves of their family members, which had been marked with small Canadian flags.

Munir El-Kassem, imam of the Islamic Centre of Southwest Ontario, who led a prayer throughout the morning service, mentioned final summer season’s assault hit the group exhausting.

“But we did stand on our toes once more and we’re utilizing this expertise to mainly ship messages to the world that Islamophobia … is one thing we should always get rid of as soon as and for all. As a result of what number of occasions are we going to bid farewell individuals to the opposite aspect of life earlier than we get up and say sufficient is sufficient?”

Shams Syed, who remembered Salman Afzaal as a “nice man” who selected to “hold smiling and listening” as a substitute of entering into arguments, mentioned the prayer service was a solution to pay respect to those that had died whereas additionally taking a stand in opposition to Islamophobia.

“Primarily the youth received affected very badly as a result of they did not really feel secure,” mentioned Syed, who can also be a trustee with the Pakistani Canadian Affiliation.

“My daughter wears hijab, we had been all the time involved when she goes out … Something can occur.”

On Monday night time, a crowd gathered for a vigil led by Yumnah’s buddies, however organizers needed to finish it after solely quarter-hour because of heavy rain and an approaching thunderstorm.

Yumnah’s buddies unveiled a brand new mural impressed by her earlier artworks on the intersection of Hyde Park Street and South Carriage Street the place the assault that killed the household came about final 12 months.

Zaina Belal, 16, who volunteered on the vigil, mentioned she took a category with Yumnah final 12 months.

She mentioned she left Syria about 10 years in the past, and she or he arrived in Canada greater than three 12 months in the past from Jordan.

“I stored touring, searching for peace and searching for a rustic that respects my human rights and respects me as a human, respects my faith,” she mentioned.

“After this assault, I do not know what I really feel anymore. I simply really feel so offended … Having my (mom) frightened to let me exit with my buddies and stroll alone on my own, it is alone an enormous factor for me.”

The Metropolis of London devoted a backyard to the Afzaal household on Monday.

The federal authorities introduced Monday it’s accepting purposes for the job of particular consultant on combating Islamophobia.

5 months in the past, Range and Inclusion Minister Ahmed Hussen signalled the federal government’s intention to nominate the particular envoy. At a information convention in Ottawa Monday with members of the Muslim group, Hussen mentioned the consultant will probably be a champion, professional, advocate and adviser to the federal government on Islamophobia.

Requested why the consultant has but to be chosen, Hussen mentioned the federal government wished to get it proper, which meant consultations with the group.

“It’s important to create a place that can get the boldness of the group. And in order that takes time,” Hussen mentioned. “And now with this name for purposes, we’re spreading it throughout the nation, we would like individuals to use to fulfil this position and we hope to maneuver as expeditiously as attainable.”

The particular consultant, a component of the Liberal authorities’s general anti-racism technique, will work with a workforce supported by cash earmarked within the newest federal funds.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford mentioned in a press release his authorities will stand with the Muslim group and can combat Islamophobia.

However Esa Islam, a cousin of the Afzaal household, singled out Ford’s lately re-elected Progressive Conservative authorities throughout a march in London on Sunday for not committing to cross a regulation to combat Islamophobia and different types of hate.

“Regardless of the entire guarantees we heard final 12 months, one 12 months later, it feels there’s nonetheless an unwillingness by our elected leaders to take concrete motion in opposition to … Islamophobia,” Islam mentioned.

A invoice tabled by Ontario’s Opposition NDP earlier this 12 months — known as the Our London Household Act — would have established a provincial evaluation of hate crimes and hate-motivated incidents in Ontario.

The invoice would even have designated secure zones round homes of worship, prevented white supremacist teams from registering as societies and established an anti-racism council that would offer enter on authorities insurance policies. Nonetheless, the invoice was not handed earlier than the election marketing campaign started final month.

A 21-year-old man faces 4 counts of first-degree homicide within the London assault. The case has not but gone to trial.

With recordsdata from Jim Bronskill.

This report by The Canadian Press was first printed June 6, 2022.

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