The city of London, Ontario, paid homage yesterday to a Muslim family deliberately mowed down by the driver of a pick-up truck, in an attack that has shocked Canadians and which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau denounced as “terrorist.”
Four members of the Afzaal family — a man and his wife, their teenage daughter and his mother — were out for a walk in their London neighbourhood last Sunday when a 20-year-old man in a black pickup truck drove into them on purpose, according to authorities.
A fifth family member, a nine-year-old boy, was seriously injured but is recovering.
Funeral services for Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha, 44, their daughter Yumna, 15 and Salman’s mother Talat, 74, were set for early yesterday afternoon in the London Islamic centre.
A ceremony open to the public was planned on a nearby football field.
The burial will be private, but people were being encouraged to line up along the route of the funeral cortege in solidarity with the victims of the attack, which has badly shaken the Muslim community and other Canadians as well.
Those taking part are urged to wear either green ribbons, to denounce Islamophobia, or mauve ones, the favorite colour of young Yumna.
Numerous vigils and solemn commemorations have taken place across Canada in recent days, and on Friday several thousand people joined in an ecumenical walk through the streets of London, which is home to some 30,000 Muslims.
Many bore posters reading “We are all human” or “Hate kills.”
People also paid homage Friday in Quebec City, where a January 2017 mosque shooting claimed six lives.
The latest attack has fuelled debate about the prevalence of Islamophobia in Canada and, within the Muslim community, has heightened fears that displaying outward signs of religious affiliation can make a person a target. The imam Aarji Anwer, from the Islamic centre, told the CBC public network that he hoped the ceremony would help people grieve and bring some closure.
In a separate CBC interview, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said the attack had shocked people across Pakistan.
He called on the international community to take action against “hate websites which create hatred amongst human beings.”
“The problem is, at the moment, there is not enough motivation and that some international leaders, or leaders in the Western countries, actually don’t understand this phenomenon,” he added. CBC is airing the interview today, but released excerpts early.
Twenty-year-old Nathaniel Veltman, who has no criminal record and no known link to any extremist group, has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one of attempted murder.
Police, who say the attack was planned and motivated by hatred, have not ruled out adding terrorism-related charges. Trudeau has promised to step up the fight against extremist groups.
Following the attack, Canadian deputies adopted a nonbinding resolution, introduced by the left-leaning New Democratic Party, calling for a national summit on Islamophobia this summer.
Flag-wrapped coffins outside the Islamic Centre of Southwest Ontario during a funeral of the Afzaal family that was killed in what police describe as a hate-motivated attack, in London, Ontario, yesterday.
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