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A boy places an action for a nine-year-old injured in an anti-Muslim attack in Ontario

A young Londoner leaves a Hulk Action Figure for the nine year old boy who remains in hospital with serious injuries, at the scene where a man driving a pickup truck struck and killed four members of a Muslim family in London, Ontario, Canada on June 7, 2021. (Photo: Nicole Osborne/AFP via Getty Images)
 

'Who Can Fathom This Kind of Hate?': Grief and Calls for Action After Muslim Family Murdered in Ontario

"This loss of a family, the loss of a child in our community because of Islamophobia—this is a sorrow that will run deep for a long time," said the National Council of Canadian Muslims.

Julia Conley

Matched with expressions of grief and anguish, progressives in both Canada and the U.S. are calling on the broader public to stand against Islamophobia after the murder of four members of a Muslim family in London, Ontario on Sunday.

In the worst attack on Canadian Muslims since a 2017 shooting at a mosque in Quebec City, police say evidence shows a driver intentionally ran into Salman and Madiha Afzal, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna and nine-year-old son Fayez, and a 74-year-old grandmother whose name was not made public. Fayez was the only survivor of the attack and was recovering from his injuries in a hospital Tuesday morning.
 
London police said the attack on the family as they were waiting to cross a street was "a planned, premeditated act, motivated by hate."
 
“We believe the victims were targeted because of their Islamic faith," detective superintendent Paul Waught told reporters. 
 
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday he planned to travel to London Tuesday to attend an evening vigil.
 
“To the Muslim community in London and to Muslims across the country, know that we stand with you. Islamophobia has no place in any of our communities. This hate is insidious and despicable—and it must stop," said Trudeau.
 
Jagmeet Singh, leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP), called on Canadians to "stand with our Muslim family, friends, and neighbors against such vile hate.”
 
The murder of the Afzal family comes amid reports that hate crimes against Muslims are on the rise in Canada. In 2019, 181 crimes motivated by anti-Muslim hate were reported to Canadian police, according to Statistics Canada—up from 166 the previous year.
 
The National Council of Canadian Muslims said the murders should be treated  as a "terrorist attack on Canadian soil." 
 
"We call on the government to prosecute the attacker to the fullest extent of the law, including considering terrorist charges,” CEO Mustafa Farooq, said Monday. "This loss of a family, the loss of a child in our community because of Islamophobia—this is a sorrow that will run deep for a long time. But let that sorrow be the ground where we stand for justice, and stand for change.
 
A 20-year-old suspect was arrested in a mall parking lot after the attack and was charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder. The suspect was wearing a body armor vest, according to Al Jazeera.
 
The attack drew international condemnation, including from U.S. lawmakers like Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.).
 

Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan, from which the Afzal family emigrated 14 years ago, also expressed grief and outrage.

"Saddened to learn of the killing of a Muslim Pakistani-origin Canadian family in London, Ontario," Khan said. "This condemnable act of terrorism reveals the growing Islamophobia in Western countries. Islamophobia needs to be countered holistically by the international community."

Others expressed similar sadness and horror.

"Why do people have to die for who they are?" asked Linda Sarsour, co-founder of the Women's March and the Muslim advocacy group M-Power Change. "Horrific. Sending prayers to our Ontario Muslim family. We stand with you."

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