Three days after four members of a Muslim family were struck and killed by a vehicle in London, Ont., in what police believe was a hate-motivated crime, hundreds of Edmontonians gathered outside the Alberta legislature to pray for the dead and the boy who survived and to speak out against Islamophobia.
“My sisters and my mum wear a hijab and I’ve seen it firsthand when they’ve been targeted,” Muneeb Khan, one the vigil’s attendees, told Global News on Wednesday night.
“Everybody here has someone in their life who has been targeted, or they have been.”
Relatives of the victims have identified them as 46-year-old Salman Afzaal, his 44-year-old wife Madiha Salman, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna Afzaal and her 74-year-old grandmother, Talat Afzaal. The couple’s son, Fayez, was seriously injured but is expected to recover.
Watch below: Some Global News videos about the deaths of four pedestrians in London in June.
Rain added to a sombre mood at the legislature grounds in Alberta’s capital on Wednesday but some people who came welcomed the weather.
“In Islam, rain is a really good sign,” said Zahra Monib. “So it’s just really nice to have something like rain today. More prayers get accepted when it’s raining.
“We’re all here today to pray for this family, pray for the nine-year-old that’s still alive and that has to deal with this act of terrorism.”
One woman noted that with multiple attacks on women in Edmonton wearing hijabs in recent months, the vigil was a chance for the community to show its opposition to hatred and bigotry.
“It’s really important that Canadians are standing up for what’s right, especially with what happened just now and all the attacks that have happened in the last couple of months against Muslim women,” Fatima Abdullahi said.
“I think it’s just really important that everyone comes out and shows their support and says that this isn’t acceptable.”
Watch below: (from Feb. 28, 2021) A string of recent racist attacks against Muslim women in Edmonton has organizations and politicians speaking out.
Khan said Wednesday’s vigil presented an opportunity to educate people about the religion of Islam as well as “the essence of being a minority.”
“I think the attack in London was… an individual that was just ignorant to the religion, and that’s where Islamophobia is formed,” he said, “(being) embedded with hate.
“As a visible minority, a lot of times you hear comments and stuff like that … It’s tough to kind of put into words… I think the stigma around being Muslim is wrong.”
Since the attack unfolded, Islamophobia has been thrust into the national spotlight and people have gathered in cities across the country to condemn what happened. Tuesday saw a massive vigil take place outside the London Muslim Mosque in support of the victims.
“With all the atrocities that are happening around the world, it’s hard to find a space where you can find community, especially in times like these,” Monib said. “Being here feels like a step in the right direction, and we’re here because we feel like we lost a part of our family when that happened.
“In the end, people will rise against what’s wrong… I always say that for every bad person, there’s 10 good people. That’s what I truly believe.”
Abdullahi said she felt reassured by seeing the sizable turnout at the legislature.
“It feels nice to see that people, not just the Muslim community, but the overarching community, is there for us and cares,” she said. “A lot of times it feels like people don’t.”
Nikki Mendiola attended the vigil and said she hopes people will think about the attack and put it into a wider context.
“Everything that you read in response to tragedies like these, it’s like, ‘Oh, you know, this isn’t my Canada,'” she said. “But the reality is, it is… It’s here today.”
Twenty-year-old Nathaniel Veltman has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder in connection with the attack.
–With files from The Canadian Press’ Nicole Thompson
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