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London Muslim leader hopes Quebec City mosque attack anniversary furthers conversation on Islamophobia

Londoners came together in Victoria park in support of the Hijabs for Harmony event to combat Islamophobia Friday, June 18, 2021 . Sawyer Bogdan / Global News

The first day of remembrance for the Quebec City mosque attack is especially important with the murder of a London Muslim family this summer.

The National Day of Remembrance of the Quebec City Mosque Attack and Action Against Islamophobia is this Saturday, on the fifth anniversary of the attack in 2017. Six men were killed and five other people were injured.

To mark the day, people are encouraged to wear green squares, the same colour as the carpet in the mosque where the six men were killed.

Read more: National day of remembrance set for anniversary of Quebec City mosque shooting

“The Islamophobia that fuelled the shooting at the mosque is the same Islamophobia that fuelled the dropping off of a pig’s head at a Quebec City mosque. It’s the same Islamophobia that fuelled the attack on a volunteer at a mosque in Toronto, and it’s the same Islamophobia that fuelled the Hyde Park park tragedy in London. The problem persists,” said Aarij Anwer, director of religious affairs at the London Muslim Mosque.

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“If it’s out of sight, it is out of mind. That’s why it’s so critical to keep it in sight and keep it in conversation, so we don’t forget this problem still affects the Muslim community in Canada.”

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On the evening of June 6, 2021, five members of a local family were out for a walk in the city’s Hyde Park neighbourhood before they were run over by a pickup truck.

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 in the attack.

The couple’s nine-year-old son, Fayez, was left seriously injured.

A day after the attack, Chief Steve Williams said London police “believe the victims were targeted because of their Islamic faith.”

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Read more: Muslim leaders call for Ontario to tackle Islamophobia

Later this year the Ontario government is set to review the Our London Family Act, calling for changes to education and to address Islamophobia and hate crimes in the province.

Anwer said it’s good to see action, especially since when the attack five years ago first took place, even condemning Islamophobia was politicized.

“Sadly we are at a place where this needs to be passed, we are at a place where Islamophobia is on the rise in Ontario and is on the rise in Canada and we have a need for such a bill,” said Fatema Abdalla, communications co-ordinator with the National Council of Canadian Muslims.

“We are at a point where we need to see real action from the federal government, the provincial government and the municipal government.”

The London Muslim Mosque held a conference Saturday morning to call for the passage of the “Our London Family Act.”

“The (Act) will contribute to ending hateful and intimidation outside our places of worship, whether they be mosques or churches,” said Rizwan Mohammad with the National Council of Canadian Muslims. “(The Act) will promote increasing the recruitment of minorities into the provincial public service. (It) will promote hate crime accountability. Last but not least, (it) will give people who have suffered from hate crimes more time to file reports.”

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“These changes are clear, reasonable and long overdue.”

— with files from 980 CFPL’s Andrew Graham and Kelly Wang

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