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‘Taken too soon’: Funeral held for London, Ont., family killed in attack

Click to play video: 'Hundreds pay respects at funeral for Muslim family killed in London, Ontario attack' Hundreds pay respects at funeral for Muslim family killed in London, Ontario attack
WATCH: Hundreds pay respects at funeral for Muslim family killed in London, Ontario attack – Jun 12, 2021

A funeral was held Saturday for four members of a London, Ont., Muslim family killed in what police called a hate crime.

The public was invited to celebrate the lives of Talat Afzaal, 74, her son Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, and their 15-year-old daughter Yumna Salman.

All died last Sunday night while out for a walk after a man in a truck drove them down in what police have called a premeditated attack because they were Muslim.

Click to play video: 'Madiha Salman’s uncle says loss to family is ‘immense’ after London, Ont. attack' Madiha Salman’s uncle says loss to family is ‘immense’ after London, Ont. attack
Madiha Salman’s uncle says loss to family is ‘immense’ after London, Ont. attack – Jun 12, 2021

Read more: Multi-faith march draws thousands in honour of London, Ont. attack victims

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The couple’s nine-year-old son, Fayez, was seriously injured and remains in hospital. He was not able to attend the funeral as he continues to recover.

The family of the victims held a private ceremony before heading to the Islamic Centre of Southwest Ontario where the public was given an opportunity to pay their respects.

Four caskets were brought to the outdoor ceremony shortly after 2 p.m., all draped in Canadian flags. Numerous prayers were said for the victims at the ceremony and Madiha’s uncle delivered some remarks.

“Last Sunday evening, four fountains of sweetness were taken away,” Ali Islam said.

“Three generations taken too soon. The loss to our family immense. In schools, universities, nursing homes across southwestern Ontario, there are hundreds of lucky people who felt the gentle, unassuming characters of our loved ones.”

Caskets draped in Canadian flags are on display at a funeral for the four Muslim family members killed in a deadly vehicle attack. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette-Pool

Islam said their faith has helped guide the family through healing over the past several days.

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“The outpouring of support we have received from Canadians and from across the world has confirmed the potential of absolute innate goodness inside humankind, irrespective of colour and creed,” he added.

“The expressions of raw emotion, the prayers, the quiet tears, the messages of comfort from people we know and from people that are complete strangers — it has been the first step towards finding a way to heal.”

Islam took time to thank first responders, hospital staff, and the community.

“Many people have asked us what they can do to help. I ask you to be examples of love and compassion,” Islam said.

“I ask you to take the time to learn from someone who doesn’t look the same as you. I ask you to inspire others with your affection …

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“As long as we are alive, the memory of our family will be inside us. We trust that Allah will embrace our departed in His infinite love where they will know no sorrow or pain.”

Pakistan’s ambassador to Canada also spoke at the service, saying all of Pakistan stands “shoulder-to-shoulder” with those who lost their loved ones.

“Our hearts are bleeding because of the atrocity that has befallen this wonderful, marvellous family,” he said.

Click to play video: 'Pakistan ambassador to Canada says country stands with family of London, Ont. victims of vehicle attack' Pakistan ambassador to Canada says country stands with family of London, Ont. victims of vehicle attack
Pakistan ambassador to Canada says country stands with family of London, Ont. victims of vehicle attack – Jun 12, 2021

Nawaz Tahir, a spokesperson with the London Muslim Mosque, said the deaths of the four family members has been “devastating” for the community.

“Just the way it happened — a family going for a walk, the fact that it was a premeditated attack — it’s a deep scar,” Tahir said.

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“It’s a scar that’s going to take some time to heal unfortunately for our community and particularly given the family that was so loved, cherished, so very generous with their time at the mosque and in the community.”

Read more: Thousands attend vigil for Muslim family killed, injured in London, Ont. attack

Tahir called for more to be done to tackle Islamophobia in Canada. Since the attack on Sunday, many have been calling for a national anti-Islamophobia summit.

At a vigil on Tuesday, political leaders echoed calls for action to combat Islamophobia.

The victims were scheduled to be buried at the Islamic Cemetery of London in a private event after the public ceremony.

Nathaniel Veltman, 20, of London, has been arrested and charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder in the attack.

— With files from Sawyer Bogdan, Kamil Karamali, Jacquelyn LeBel and The Canadian Press

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