LONDON, Ont –
Holding flowers and reciting verses of the Qur’an, members of the Muslim community in London, Ont., gathered for a prayer service Monday to remember four members of a family killed in what prosecutors have called a hate-motivated attack.
The service at the city’s Islamic cemetery was among several events organized to honour the Afzaal family after the June 6, 2021 truck attack.
“The impact was very strong on the community,” Munir El-Kassem, imam of the Islamic Centre of Southwest Ontario, said of last year’s tragedy.
“Yet we did stand on our feet again and we are using this experience to basically send messages to the world that Islamophobia … is something we should eliminate once and for all. Because how many times are we going to bid farewell people to the other side of life before we wake up and say enough is enough.”
Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, their 15-year-old daughter Yumnah and her 74-year-old grandmother, Talat Afzaal, died after police say they were deliberately hit by a truck while out for an evening walk. The family’s nine-year-old son was hurt, but survived.
Relatives of the Afzaal family placed flowers Monday on the graves of their loved ones, which were marked with small Canadian flags.
Shams Syed, who had been close with Salman Afzaal, said the prayer service was a way for the community to pay its respects to those who had died while also taking a stand against Islamophobia.
He remembered Afzaal as a “great guy” who would refrain from getting into arguments, choosing instead to “keep smiling and listening.”
“It’s a straight knife into your heart,” he said while recalling the deaths of the Afzaal family.
Last year’s tragedy has taken a toll, said Syed, who is also a trustee with the Pakistani Canadian Association.
“Mainly the youth got affected very badly because they didn’t feel safe,” he said. “My daughter wears hijab, we were always concerned when she goes out … Anything can happen.”
A vigil for the family has been planned for 6:30 p.m. in London today and will be led Yumnah’s friends.
Leaders from the Muslim community and friends of the victims called for an end to racism and Islamophobia on Sunday during an emotional tribute at Yumnah’s school that was organized by her friends.
A 21-year-old man faces four counts of first-degree murder in the attack. The case has not yet gone to trial.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June6, 2022.
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