Shock waves from Sunday’s suspected hate-motivated fatal attack on a London, Ont. family could be felt in Edmonton Wednesday night as members of the Muslim community and supporters gathered to pray.
A special group prayer and funeral ritual prayer took place in the grassy area on the south side of the Alberta legislature grounds. Despite the rain, about 300 people gathered outside the bandshell around 8 p.m.
Nader Hallak said he wanted everyone to know what the Afzaal family was like. He knew them from his time as a student in London.
“This family was one of the kindest and simplistic families I have ever met in my life … they were always, always cheerful,” he said, speaking to the crowd before the prayer.
“Please, please, I urge you, to make prayers for them from the bottom of your hearts.”
Imam Sadique Pathan, before leading the prayers, condemned those claiming Islamophobia does not exist.
”It is an egregious crime, a heinous crime and unforgivable crime … We as a society have to ask ourselves what kind of Canada do we want to make?”
Four of five members of the Afzaal family died Sunday evening, killings condemned as a “terrorist attack” by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other politicians. London’s police chief alleged the driver intentionally ran down the family of five because of their Islamic faith. It’s the worst mass-killing in London’s history.
The victims are 46-year-old Salman Afzaal and his wife Madiha Salman, 44, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna, and her grandmother Talat Afzaal, 74. Nine-year-old Faez Afzaal survived but is in hospital with serious injuries.
Before the event, Muna Saleh said she felt gutted when she heard the news.
Especially as a woman who is visibly-identifiable for her faith, she said there is a connection between Muslim women in particular across the country.
“To be in community, together, is important, and to commemorate lives that have been taken unjustly,” she said.
“They were part of our family, basically. It hit so close to home.”
Marjorie Campbell said it was important for others to stand with the Muslim community by showing “solidarity, that (the) Muslim community is not alone, that we’re all people who live together.”
Hate-motivated attacks toward Muslims are not new in Canada.
The shocking killings come as Edmonton has seen its own string of apparently hate-motivated assaults since the end of last year. Three Black women wearing hijabs were attacked within a week in south Edmonton in December – two at Southgate Mall and the third outside a transit station. There have been other similar assaults this year.
The Alberta legislature passed a motion to denounce Islamophobia on Wednesday.
The National Council of Canadian Muslims tracked more than 300 hate-related incidents, including more than 30 acts of physical violence, between 2015 to 2019.
In Sunday’s killing, police said a black pickup truck went over the curb and struck the family waiting to cross at an intersection. The suspect was arrested wearing body armour, they said.
Nathaniel Veltman, 20, of London, is charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder in connection with the crash.
Police are considering laying terrorism-related charges.
– With files from the London Free Press