The attack that killed four members of an Ontario family has forced Muslims in Edmonton to once again sit the with the reality of hateful behaviour close to home.
On Sunday night, a pickup truck — which police said was driven by a 20-year-old London man — mounted a curb and struck a family of five as they were out for an evening walk in London, Ont., and then drove away.
A 46-year-old man, his 74-year-old mother, 44-year-old wife and 15-year-old daughter were killed. His nine-year-old son was seriously injured, but is expected to survive.
People gathered at Al Rashid Mosque in Edmonton Tuesday afternoon for prayer, many members still in shock about the incident that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned as a “terrorist attack.”
“It weighs very heavily,” said Noor Al-Henedy with Al Rashid Mosque.
“This is very devastating. Our community is grieving.”
Community members in Edmonton say they have talked to their kids about staying vigilant and alert when they take transit or are in a public space.
“‘Please be careful. Don’t put on your headphones. That is something we have had to do in the past few months specifically, because of the increase in hate crimes in Muslim women,” Al-Henedy said.
A series of racially motivated assaults against mostly Black, Muslim women in Calgary and Edmonton in the past six months or so has left many in the community feeling anxious and unsafe. It’s gotten so bad, the mosque has begun offering Muslim women self-defence lessons.
Haiqa Cheema said she will head to the second floor of any mosque she visits, in case she needs time to react to an attack on the place of worship.
“It’s very disheartening to sit in a place of worship and focus on your own safety… not why you’re actually there,” Cheema said.
She often thinks about what being a visible Muslim in Edmonton means for her safety.
“I make a note of my surroundings. I don’t go out late at night. I make sure I’m with a friend when I’m out. I always have my GPS location on no matter where I am.”
Cheema said when she saw a photo of the four victims in London, Ont. she saw her own family reflected in the image.
“We don’t know when we are going to be attacked. That’s something a lot of people don’t realize… and something we need to come to terms with,” she said.
“The grief [of these attacks] stays for a very long time.”
When asked if she felt safe in Edmonton as a Muslim woman, Cheema didn’t have a clear answer.
Edmonton’s numerous violent attacks on Muslim women in the past few months including an assault in a parking lot at the Southgate Centre shopping mall, one at the nearby Southgate LRT platform, at a University of Alberta transit centre and on near Whyte Avenue.
“It’s not just attacks in violent ways. It’s your every day life. “When I walk into an interview I think about ‘I hope they are not racist.’
“This is a lived reality for a lot of people,” Cheema said.
Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson said Tuesday he hears the “concern, sadness and fear” within many racialized communities who have been “rocked” by the Ontario killings.
Premier Jason Kenney said Tuesday that all too often, the community faces “casual prejudice.”
Al-Henedy said community members in Edmonton are on guard as they watch hate-motivated actions shift from verbal attacks to physical ones.
“It’s becoming assault. It’s becoming more vicious…more cold-blooded,” she explained.
“I have space in this province, in this country. I’m not going to let that go or become invisible,” Cheema said.
“If you see racism, call it out. Don’t just rely on politicians to give their thoughts and prayers. This is a collective effort that all of us need to buckle up and work on.”
Al Rashid Mosque will host a prayer service on Friday in memory of the family members killed in London, Ont. The mosque asks Albertans to join them in a moment of reflection at 2 p.m. Friday.