Calgary vigil honours Muslim family killed in London, Ont., truck attack

Hundreds of Calgarians gathered outside city hall on Tuesday evening to mourn a Muslim family killed in London, Ont., and to stand in solidarity against hate-motivated violence.

Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, Salman’s mother Talat Afzaal, 74, and the couple’s daughter Yumna Afzaal, 15, were killed after a black truck slammed into them as they were on an evening walk. Nine-year-old Fayez survived but remains hospitalized in serious condition.

Police say there is evidence that the attack was premeditated and that the family was targeted because of their faith. 

A 20-year-old man has been charged with four counts of murder and one count of attempted murder, and police say terrorism charges are also being explored. 

Imam Fayaz Tilley, who attended Tuesday’s multi-faith vigil, said this attack is further evidence that hate, Islamophobia and xenophobia are not only destructive to community peace and wellbeing — but those ideologies kill. 

“When incidents like these things happen, you know, we do have, you know … a sense of a lack of safety and security,” said Imam Fayaz Tilley, who attended Tuesday’s vigil. 

“That’s why as a religious leader and as a community leader, we call upon every citizen, every human being, every level of government, municipal, provincial and national, to curb, curtail and ultimately mitigate, eradicate all forms of xenophobia, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, xenophobia and racism because they all stem from the same tree of hate.”

Calgary’s vigil featured speakers from multiple faiths, who spoke out against Islamophobia and hatred. (Andrew Brown/CBC)

Tilley said hate crimes against Muslims have been on the rise, as have the prevalence of white supremacist groups in Alberta.

He said while Ontario’s attack was shocking, it was not unexpected. 

“It will forever be a Canadian tragedy, and even further, it’s a human tragedy,” he said.

“[Three generations] passed away simply because …of their faith, that they were intentionally targeted. It’s mass murder, which was heinous, nonsensical and hate-motivated.”

WATCH | Canada faces another reckoning with anti-Muslim hate:

It’s not the first time Canada has reckoned with anti-Muslim hate in recent years, but after an attack in London, Ont., advocates and Islamic leaders are calling for more action by the governments to denounce Islamophobia. 2:03

Riyaz Khawaja, spokesperson for the Hussaini Association of Calgary, said it’s especially important to let nine-year-old Fayez know he’s not alone. 

“We want to tell him we are with you, you are in our hearts … we want to stand against the hate, stand against the Islamophobia, stand against the terrorism,” he said.

Earlier Tuesday, Calgary Mayor Naheed said it’s important for Canadians to commit to actions to combat anti-Muslim hate — not just express their condolences. 

“Don’t tell me your thoughts are with the Muslim community,” said Nenshi, who in 2010 became the first Muslim mayor of a large North American city.

“Tell me what you’re going to do about racism in this country — particularly those of us who are lucky enough to have a microphone.”

Premier Jason Kenney pledged Tuesday that his government will soon announce additional measures to prosecute hate crimes in the province. 

Sayed Shujah, president of the Hussaini Association, asked Calgarians, no matter their faith, to commit to unity. 

“We have to stay united in this tough time. We should watch each other’s back right now … we have to support each other,” he said. “How we can defeat that terrorism, that’s the only weapon we can use — that we have to stay united.” 

The vigil was organized by the Hussaini Association of Calgary and the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada.

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