Many in the Muslim community mourned the deadly attack in London, and anti-Muslim hatred was “normalized” for too long
When an exhausted Muslim community mourned the tragic loss of a family as a result of what the police described as an act of hate, it called for more concrete action to combat Islamophobia.
On Sunday, June 6, the Afzaal family went for an evening walk in their neighborhood in London, Ontario. While they were waiting to cross the road, the driver of a black truck ran into them, killing 46-year-old Salman Afzaal, his 44-year-old wife Madiha Salman, 15-year-old daughter Yumna Afzaal and Salman’s 74-year-old mother. Salman and Madiha’s son, Fayez, 9, is the only survivor and is still receiving treatment in the hospital.
Muslims in Ontario and other regions are saddened by anti-Muslim attacks, but in their sadness, they feel exhausted, fearful and uncertain about what members of the Muslim community say are the lack of Islamophobia and other hate-motivated groups targeting marginalized groups. The specific action of the crime is in Canada.
Firaaz Azeez, executive director of Humaniti, a charity based in Markham, said: “Now is the time for us to have a national dialogue on how to break down these barriers, not just Islamophobia, but also hatred, racism and anti-Semitism.”
The London Police Service has charged the suspect with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder. The police stated that this was a planned and premeditated act out of hatred, and the victims were targeted because of their Islamic beliefs.
Ena Chadha, chief commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, said: “Such incidents are a tragic reminder that Islamophobia and xenophobia are real, deadly and persistent in Ontario.”
Watch | As the Muslim community in Canada mourns the deadly attack, frustration is growing:
Islamophobia is “too familiar”
As the third deadly anti-Muslim attack in Canada in four years, this incident has rekindled fear, anger, despair and exhaustion among Canadian Muslims.
Mustafa Farooq, chief executive of the National Council of Muslims in Canada, said: “This is a terrorist attack on Canadian soil and deserves the same treatment.”
“Muslims in Canada are very familiar with Islamophobic violence. Muslim women in Alberta were attacked. [International Muslim Organization of Toronto] The mosque massacre, and the Quebec City mosque massacre. “
In January 2017, a man killed 6 believers and wounded 5 others at the Islamic Cultural Center in Quebec City. In September 2020, 58-year-old volunteer Mohamed-Aslim Zafis was stabbed to death in a mosque in Etobicoke. In March of this year, a woman wearing a headscarf was attacked in Calgary. There were several other attacks in Edmonton in December last year, and the police hate crime department investigated these attacks.
Usman Ali, a volunteer of the Toronto Muslim International Organization, is a friend of Zafis. He said that the London attack brought a lot of emotions, “but also frustrated and frustrated with what is happening in our community.”
Although Ali hopes that the suspect will be prosecuted “to the maximum,” he said more action is needed.
“Hope to develop policies and rules to support the community and combat this type of behavior,” he said. “It’s great when the community comes together and provides support, but we no longer need words, we need action.”
Azeezah Kanji, a legal scholar and journalist, said that people were increasingly frustrated after the London attack. She said it was “another incident in a series of incidents in which people clearly felt the courage and reason to kill Muslims.”
She said these attacks were “products of the broader context of structural Islamophobia.”
‘A huge wound that needs to be healed’
Kanji said it was an Islamophobia that led to “state-supported severe counter-terrorism measures,” and cited the surveillance of Muslims, the “zero tolerance for barbaric cultural practices” and Quebec’s hijab ban as examples.
“All of this creates an atmosphere in which people think that the demonization and devaluation of Muslim life is normal.”
Kanji said that she and various other organizations have been asking the government to solve these problems for years, but “in order to start a serious dialogue on Islamophobia in this country, it is necessary to publicly kill Muslims.”
Kanji also pointed out that it took four years for the federal government to make what she called a “symbolic statement” after the mosque shooting in Quebec City to commemorate the day and take action against Islamophobia.
“This is a band-aid for a wound that needs to heal.”
Trudeau condemns the attack
In a speech in the House of Commons, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned Sunday’s killing, calling it a terrorist attack.
“They are all targeted because of their Muslim faith,” he said. “This is happening here, in Canada, it must stop.”
Trudeau said the country must unite to combat the “ugly, universal trend” of anti-Muslim violence.
Azeez of Humaniti, a non-profit organization, said that people in the community feel “very frustrated” and this can happen to any of them. “How can we stop this? In addition to talking, condolences, and prayers, what can we do?”
Tariq Amin-Khan, an associate professor at Ryerson University, said the attacks reflect the inconsistency between Canada’s tolerant and diversity and what is happening in marginalized communities.
“Today is a Muslim, yesterday was an aboriginal, usually black. We have also attacked Jews and Sikhs.”
He pointed out that there are many white supremacist groups in the country and “not taking much action to curb their hateful activities.”
He suggested enacting laws to protect target communities.
“A gem of our community”
Saboor Khan is a close friend of the Afzaal family, not only through their involvement in the London community, but also through their roots in Pakistan.
“We can’t believe this happened in London and it happened to them,” he told CBC.
“They are treasures of our community,” Khan said, clearly painful. “It’s heartbreaking to see this…it’s still happening in Canada.”
Khan’s sister, wife and mother are wearing headscarves, so he said he is really worried about the safety of them and other Muslims after the attack.
“This is a very uncomfortable situation, it’s not the same anymore.”
He said he did not see any practical solutions for any level of government, and pointed out that although the Québec City mosque shooting is considered a terrorist attack, the perpetrators have not been charged with terrorism.
In addition, shortly after the shooting, Quebec introduced a bill banning religious symbols, especially headscarves, which he said did not help.
“When people in the leadership contact us in this way, they indirectly provide legitimacy to these hate groups.”