A vigil was held at the Whitehorse Mosque on June 10 to honour the family that was recently killed in London, Ontario.
Salman Afzaal, 46, Madiha Salman, 44, their daughter Yumna Afzaal, 15, and Talat Afzaal, Salman’s mother were killed when they were struck by a truck.
The family’s son, Fayez, nine, survived the attack and remains in hospital.
Local police have alleged they were deliberately hit because they were Muslims.
Like many communities across the country, Whitehorse came together to stand with their London family on Thursday afternoon in the mosque parking lot.
“Salman Afzaal, when he came to this country in 2017, he would never have imagined that his dreams would be extinguished in the blink of an eye,” said Israr Ahmed to the gathered crowd. “That his dreams and hopes of a better life, a better future, a life with honour, a life of dignity would be taken from him, in the blink of an eye.
“Madiha never imagined that her life would meet such a brutal end. She would never have imagined that she’d fall prey to a demented and perverted ideology. Fayez never would have imagined he would wake up in a hospital bed, and never see his family again.
“All of these lives stolen and I ask for what?”
The hearts of those in London, in Whitehorse and elsewhere are broken, said Ahmed. The hate needs to stop.
“Hate has no place in humanity, it has no place in any society,” said Ahmed. “But we have a vicious cycle going on. We have this colonial hangover that we suffer from. That perpetuates this cycle of hate that claims victims every year.”
Ahmed told the crowd to call it what it is — a terrorist attack.
“It was aimed at attacking and putting fear in the hearts of Muslims,” he said. “It was aimed at making people feel unwelcome and looking over their shoulder every time they walked down the street.”
Before he left the stage, Ahmed urged the crowd to be “cognizant of any form of extremism in our societies.”
Kazim Qadir said he hopes this incident isn’t just the topic of the day, week or month.
“I hope us and our leaders do our part to fight the fight against Islamophobia,” said Qadir, who said this can be achieved through education.
“No religion or race deserves to be labeled as a terrorist. Unfortunately, Islam and Muslims have been equated with that more commonly, more freely since 9/11. That needs to change.”
Qadir said Islam is a religion of peace and it preaches “nothing but peace, like many other religions.”
The outpouring of support for the Muslim community has been incredible, he added.
“The support you are showing and the support Canada is showing is incredible and overwhelming,” said Qadir. “It goes to show the Muslim community is not alone in this tragedy. Most Canadians reject any violence of any shape.”
In grappling with the question of how someone could perform an act of “such hatred” Qadir said the perpetrator didn’t just take four lives.
“He killed three generations,” said Qadir.
Gurdeep Pandher said it’s been a heavy week with “profound grieving.” Ten days before the attack in London, 215 children were found buried at a Kamloops residential school.
“Now we are trying to understand what motivated this person to engage in such a horrific act that took away the lives of a whole family,” said Pandher.
Pandher said it isn’t just a loss for the Muslim community, but it’s shared loss and shared grieving.
“We are all humans,” said Pandher. “We came from the same source and we are going back to one source. We need to come together. When we realize that their smiles, their hopes, their tears are the same, we see they are like us and we become closer. Then we become one.”
Also speaking at the vigil was Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources John Streicker, Mayor Dan Curtis, and MP Larry Bagnell — who sent their sympathies to the people of London.
The three leaders echoed the same sentiments: that the Yukon condemns such hatred in the territory and that our diversity is to be a source of pride.
“I feel safe in this community and I want everyone to feel safe in this community,” said Curtis. “You aren’t just welcomed here, you’re loved here.”
Contact John Tonin at firstname.lastname@example.org