In My View
Hate crime wipes out a Canadian Muslim family
That is correct. As the headline of this article reads, it was a hundred percent hate crime that brutally eliminated three generations of a decent Muslim family in London, Ontario on Sunday evening in a matter of moments. Being Muslim was the only crime of this beautiful family that settled in Canada 14 years ago from Pakistan for a better life.
They were just having their evening stroll on the sidewalk of a peaceful neighbourhood of London, Ontario, home to 30,000 Muslims. Suddenly, a 20-year-old who was driving a truck ran over them with a premeditated plan to kill and he succeeded. The father, 46, mother, 44, daughter, 15 and her grandmother, 74 -- all died instantly and a nine-year-old boy was taken to a hospital with serious injuries.
London Police called it a hate crime and charged the perpetrator with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder. Police said that terrorism charges may also be brought against the alleged murderer. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has already described it as "a terrorist attack." Ontario Premier Doug Ford also said that the attack on the Muslim family in London was "an act of terrorism."
Racism and white supremacy exist not just in the United States; they have also made their way into America's northern neighbour, Canada. Two terrorist attacks -- first at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City in 2017 and then this attack which took place in a peaceful neighbourhood of London, Ontario last Sunday -- confirmed and then reconfirmed the existence anti-Muslim racism and hatred in Canada.
In the first attack, 27-year-old Alexandre Bissonnette entered the prayer hall of the mosque in the Sainte-Foy neighbourhood of Quebec City shortly before 8:00 pm and opened fire killing six worshippers and injuring five others seriously. And in the second attack in the area of Hyde Park and South Carriage roads last Sunday in London, Ontario, Nathaniel Veltman, 20, struck the Muslim family with his pickup truck. In the second attack, Veltman used his truck as a weapon.
Both attacks were premeditated. But last Sunday's attack was very tragic. The alleged murderer eliminated three generations of a family, excepting a nine-year-old boy who is currently recovering from his injuries at a hospital. Like the last one, this attack too evoked widespread condemnation not only from Canadian government, politicians and people of all faiths but also from the international community leaders including UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Both the UN secretary general and Pakistan prime minister condemned the attack on the Muslim family in Canada and called for taking a united stand against Islamophobia. "I am appalled by the targeted and heinous attack on a Muslim family in Ontario, Canada. My heart goes out to the victims, surviving family and loved ones -- and the community. We must stand united against Islamophobia and all forms of hatred, now more than ever," Antonio Guterres tweeted.
In a similar message on Twitter, Pakistan prime minister said: "Saddened to learn of the killing of a Muslim Pakistani-origin Canadian family in London, Ontario. This condemnable act of terrorism reveals the growing Islamophobia in Western countries. Islamophobia needs to be countered holistically by the international community." Imran Khan has been quite outspoken all through about racism against the Muslim community in the Western world.
Sunday's horrific attack on the Muslim family in London, Ontario brought Canadians together irrespective of their faith and identity to raise a united voice against white supremacy, racism and all forms hatred anywhere in Canada. The incident that suddenly put Canada on the spot also brought leaders of all Canadian political parties on the same platform to condemn the gruesome murder of the Muslim family in strong words and speak out unitedly against Islamophobia.
In memory of the slain family, Canadians held vigils coast-to-coast in all major cities across the country on Tuesday. The largest vigil lasting about three hours was held in front of the London Muslim Mosque. It was attended by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Leader of the Official Opposition Erin O'Toole, leaders of all other political parties of Canada and thousands of not only Muslims but people of virtually all religions, cultures and national origins.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau began his brief speech with a traditional Muslim greeting in Islamic way and never hesitated to call Sunday's brutal murder of four members of the Muslim family "a terrorist attack." "There are no words to ease the grief of three generations of a Canadian family. We Canadians have a pact to stand with each other but this pact has been broken to the Muslim community. Racism, Islamophobia is real even though there is no room for Islamophobia in Canada. Together we will take actions." Justin Trudeau told the gathering.
Leader of the Official Opposition in Canada, Erin O' Toole assured Canadian Muslims that the entire community and the country stand with them today. Highlighting the need for unity in Canada, he said: "We have to stand together and work across party lines. Rise of Islamophobia is a pandemic of darkness. Good and evil are never same. We will repel evil with goodness. Together, we will build a tolerant and inclusive Canada."
Ontario Premier Doug Ford said: "What happened here in London was a tragedy beyond words. Our heart breaks for the only surviving boy. It was an awful act of hatred motivated by racism. It was an act of terrorism targeted against the Muslims for their belief and religion. Those who caused the evil must be punished to the fullest extent of the law. We must come together in response. We stand with the Muslims. This brutal act of terrorism will never be forgotten."
New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh was also quite upfront on the London tragedy. "Today, we have come together against a heinous and horrible active terror which was committed to create fear in the hearts of the members of the Canadian Muslim community. We will not cower in the face of terror," Singh said issuing a warning against using Islamophobia for political gains. He also highlighted the need for tackling online hate and radicalization.
Ed Holder, mayor of London, Ontario who apparently looked quite shocked and distressed by Sunday's tragic incident in his city, was fairly blunt in his short speech: "I want to be clear here; this was a terrorist attack. It was an act of mass murder." In an effort to comfort the members of the Muslim community who attended the vigil at the London Muslim Mosque, Mayor Holder told them: "Look over your shoulder, you will see the love for you of your fellow Londoners."
All major television networks of Canada including the CBC and CTV cancelled their regular primetime news programs and instead broadcast live almost the three-hour vigil that was participated by Canadian prime minister and political leaders of all Canadian parties in London, Ontario on Tuesday evening. A common thought that swept through Canadians after Sunday's tragedy in London was this: "It could be my family; it could be anybody!"
The writer is a Toronto-based journalist who also writes for the Toronto Sun and Canada's Postmedia Network