Hundreds of people gather for Owen Sound vigil in support of the Muslim community

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Several hundred people gathered outside Owen Sound Town Hall on Friday night, where flags were flown at half mast, for a vigil in solidarity with the Muslim community and to condemn what police called a hate attack that killed four family members in London, Ont.

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Waleed Aslam, one of the organizers of the event, said he hopes the half-hour vigil will encourage people to stand up against Islamophobia and hatred.

“My goal is for each of us to wake up and stop the hate when we see it and as soon as we see it – whether it’s around the corner, whether it’s online, whether it’s in the workplace. , wherever it is. Wake up, stop the hate and destroy the hate, this is my hope, ”he said in an interview after the event.

People of all ages gathered on the steps of City Hall and the sidewalks of 2nd Avenue and East 8th Street for the vigil. Some held up signs with messages of support for the Muslim community.

The crowd participated in a minute’s silence for those killed in the London lorry attack.

Five people then spoke, including Aslam and Owen Sound Mayor Ian Boddy, who condemned the acts of hate and said it was imperative that the townspeople unite to fight prejudice and strive for peace, kindness and mutual respect.

But the highlight came when Suffia Mirza, a resident of Owen Sound, a Canadian Muslim mother of two, addressed the crowd.

“I would like you to witness the rage of a Muslim mother,” she said.

“I still have a hard time having a conversation with my four year old son about the graves of 215 Aboriginal children. And now this. My son wants to be the first person to physically land on Mars. What should I tell him? Son, you might be the first person to find a cure for cancer, but people will still hate you for the color of your skin and the god you pray to? For shame. I reject a world like this.

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She said that hate does not exist in a vacuum and that everyone is part of the problem. She encouraged everyone to look within themselves and to question and address their own biases.

The Friday vigil was held in response to the June 6 truck attack that killed 15-year-old Yumna Salman, her mother Madiha Salman, 44, father Salman Afzaal, 46, and grandmother Talat Afzaal. , 74 years old. Fayez, Yumna’s nine-year-old brother, was seriously injured.

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

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. The charges against him have not been tried in court.

Vigils and other events were held across Canada – from Whitehorse, Yukon, Halifax, Nova Scotia – to honor the family killed in the attack and to speak out against Islamophobia.

Hafeez Motorwala, the Imam of the Owen Sound Muslim Association, said everyone must stand in solidarity, united, to condemn acts of hatred.

“Even thoughts – how can a person even think of doing something like that? No words exist to express or describe what happened, ”he said.

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He said he sincerely appreciates the “love and unity” shown by the community of Owen Sound.

Aslam said he hoped Friday’s event would send a “very strong message” to the entire community that “Gray-Bruce, Owen Sound represents love, represents unconditional love, represents tolerance and represents diversity “.

On Thursday, Boddy released a statement in which he said he was “deeply saddened by this senseless anti-Muslim hate crime” and urged people to stand up against racism.

He said the flags at town hall would be half-masted on Friday.

“As Canadians, we often think of this kind of domestic terrorism as something that happens elsewhere. These murders are an attack on all of us and we must fight together against racism and hatred, ”the statement read.

Owen Sound resident Suffia Mirza speaks at the Friday vigil in Owen Sound as her four-year-old son Azeez Shaikh and two-year-old daughter Nyra stand nearby.  DENIS LANGLOIS
Owen Sound resident Suffia Mirza speaks at the Friday vigil in Owen Sound as her four-year-old son Azeez Shaikh and two-year-old daughter Nyra stand nearby. DENIS LANGLOIS

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