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Assault charge laid in alleged Islamophobic attack in south London Costco parking lot

The Costco store in south London, Ont. Google Maps

London police have laid a charge of assault against a 57-year-old man in connection with what a local family and witnesses say was an Islamophobic attack in the parking lot of a south end big box store over the weekend.

Word of the attack was made public on Twitter Sunday evening by Nawaz Tahir, a local lawyer, who said the victim was his 75-year-old father.

Tahir, a prominent member of the London Muslim community, told 980 CFPL on Monday that his father, sister and brother-in-law were in the parking lot of the south London Costco Sunday morning, waiting to pull into a parking spot.

As they were waiting, a man who had been blocked from pulling out exited his car and began to yell at the family, Tahir said. The man then allegedly attempted to pull the windshield wipers off the family’s vehicle, punched the window and opened the vehicle’s passenger door.

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Read more: London, Ont. lawyer says his father was assaulted in Islamophobic attack

Tahir’s father was sitting in the passenger seat of the vehicle, and was allegedly grabbed by the man who then tried to drag him out, prompting others in the parking lot who witnessed the scene to intervene, Tahir said.

“At least two witnesses heard the man yell at the three of them to go back to their country, and at least two of the witnesses, including one Costco employee, said they have every right to be here,” Tahir said.

Police were contacted, but by the time officers arrived the man had already left the scene. A witness to the incident managed to photograph the man’s car and licence plate, he said.

In his widely-circulated tweet thread, Tahir said police weren’t initially leaning toward assault charges, “because when my brother in law finally parked the car, my father got out of the car… and responded to the ongoing verbal tirade by putting up his fists.”

In a subsequent tweet, Tahir said he later spoke with police who told him they intended to speak with witnesses, and that an assault charge was not off the table.

The accused, a 57-year-old London man, is scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 16, 2022, police said.

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Asked whether the incident was being investigated as hate-motivated, a London police spokesperson declined to comment stating that the matter was now before the courts.

Several local politicians, among them MPP Peggy Sattler and MPs Arielle Kayabaga, Peter Fragiskatos and Karen Vecchio, condemned Sunday’s attack and expressed their support for the Tahir family.

“Such despicable acts of racism and xenophobia have no place in London, or in Canada regardless of how many times we need to keep repeating it! God speed to your father Nawaz,” tweeted Kayabaga.

“It underscores the urgency of #OurLondonFamily Act. We need greater accountability for hate crimes reporting & investigation,” tweeted Sattler.

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“A rise in Islamophobia is why we must pass the Our London Family Act, and continue to stand with the Muslim community against hate of all kinds,” tweeted Ontario Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca.

After learning of the charge, Tahir said in a tweet that he was “grateful to all of you for the support we have received and we now await the judicial process of holding this man accountable for his actions.”

980 CFPL has reached out to Tahir for comment.

In a tweet, the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) cited the incident as an example of the need to do more to combat Islamophobia and racism in the province, including the tabling and passage of the Our London Family Act in the Ontario legislature

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The Ontario NDP, who partnered with NCCM to create the bill, say the Our London Family Act is expected to be tabled early next year, and will include changes to the educational system so children can better understand Islamophobia, will take aim at white supremacist groups, and will see the creation of a provincial hate crimes accountability unit.

The New Democrats say the act will address recommendations made by NCCM following the National Summit on Islamophobia, held in the wake of the fatal attack on the Afzaal family in June.

Read more: EXCLUSIVE: London attack suspect was inspired by New Zealand mosque shooter, sources say

Salman Afzaal, 46, his 44-year-old wife Madiha Salman, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna and her 74-year-old grandmother, Talat Afzaal, were killed while out for an evening walk along Hyde Park Road in London’s west end.

The couple’s nine-year-old son, Fayez, survived but was seriously hurt.

A 20-year-old London man is accused of deliberately hitting the family with his truck. Nathaniel Veltman is charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder in what prosecutors say was an act of terrorism.

Police have alleged the incident was motivated by hate against the Islamic faith.

Earlier this month, Global News reported, citing multiple sources familiar with the investigation, that written materials allegedly found by police indicated the alleged attacker was influenced by Brenton Tarrant, the 2019 New Zealand mosque shooter.

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— with files from Sawyer Bogdan and The Canadian Press

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