Friday vigil in Owen Sound to show solidarity with the Muslim community

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The evening after four members of a Canadian Muslim family were killed in a hate-motivated attack while walking in London, Ont., Waleed Aslam said he returned home to see his young family returning of a visit to Kelso Beach Park.

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Islam’s wife was pushing their daughter in a stroller and her son was pedaling a new bicycle he had received for Eid al-Fitr.

“As I pulled into my driveway I saw them coming up the hill and I thought, what if. What if someone knocks them over? What if something happens?” The 28-year-old said on Wednesday. ‘Owen Sound.

Later that night, as he was walking with his wife, he said similar thoughts ran through his head.

Aslam, who grew up in Pakistan and has family in the southern United States, said he knew what it was like to be afraid of a potential attack motivated by hate and Islamophobia. Many members of his Canadian Muslim community live with this fear on a daily basis, he said.

But the proximity and circumstances of the London attack this week made it even more striking, he said.

“I’ve been everywhere and the only thing that comforted me wasn’t here – it doesn’t happen to us. You know a lot of ugly things going on in these other areas, but we don’t. So that’s what happened to me on Monday night, ”he said.

“I grew up in Pakistan and these are fears we had there. We used to go to the mosque – back when things were really bad in Pakistan and we had a bunch of mosque explosions – and my mom would tell us, when you go to prayer make sure you are in both or three first rows and keep an eye on the back row. So these are fears that we carry over there. But why here? I just don’t understand. So it’s different this time around.

Aslam is one of the organizers of a vigil, scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday at Owen Sound Town Hall, which aims to give people a chance to come together in peaceful solidarity with and for the Muslim community at the aftermath of the London attack.

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The event will include speeches and people are invited to bring in non-perishable foods, which will be donated to a local food program.

People are encouraged to wear masks and practice social distancing during the vigil.

Aslam said he was hosting the event with other members of the community, including some from the Owen Sound Muslim Association.

London Police said a van pulled up a sidewalk on Sunday around 8:40 p.m. and struck five family members as they waited to cross at an intersection.

Yumna Salman, 15, her mother Madiha Salman, 44, her father Salman Afzaal, 46, and her 74-year-old grandmother were killed. Fayez, Yumna’s nine-year-old brother, was seriously injured and was orphaned.

Police say they believe the victims were targeted because of their Islamic faith and there is evidence that the hate-motivated attack was premeditated.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called this an “act of evil” and a terrorist attack.

A 20-year-old man has been charged with four counts of first degree murder and one count of attempted murder.

Aslam said he has experienced a roller coaster of emotions since the attack.

He is upset, disgusted and frustrated, but also angry, he said.

The attack highlighted the importance of no longer sweeping or ignoring cases of micro-aggression or “micro-racism” targeting minority communities, he said.

Hate must be immediately exposed for what it is, he said, and that includes comments or social media posts.

“From the vigil, I want – and we want – people to be more aware of what’s going on and crush the hate as they see it,” he said.

“It might even be a trivial conversation around the corner. A lot of people when they speak in a certain way, they don’t even realize where it’s coming from. But you won’t be a bad person if you correct it or if you step in and say, I don’t think we should be talking like that. And that’s what I want. I want this conversation to be widespread and to suppress hate speech as soon as it occurs.

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