Calgary Muslim community calls for action against Islamophobia: ‘This could have been any one of us’

Members of Muslim and Pakistani communities in Calgary are again mourning innocent lives lost.

A family of four was killed Sunday while out for a walk in London, Ont., when they were struck and killed by a vehicle in what police said was a solo act motivated by hate.

Read more: ‘A racist city that pretends it isn’t’: London, Ont. attack didn’t happen in vacuum, residents say

For Calgarian Saima Jamal, this has become all too familiar.

She’s organizing a vigil, planned for Tuesday night, to speak out against what she calls another horrific example of hatred against the Muslim community and their Islamic faith.

“I go for an evening walk, my mother goes for an evening walk. This could have been any one of us. We’re suffering from this horrifying collective trauma that another person, another one of us, is dead,” an emotional Jamal said.

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“What happened in London just shattered us, that devastated us. We’re in disbelief. Who can believe this horrifying murder of innocent, innocent people just going for an evening walk can happen?”

The fear of more attacks is palpable, with safety a real concern for members of the Pakistani community, according to Ahmer Mamon, president of the Pakistan Canada Association Calgary.

“Now they are scared. Our kids are asking us, ‘Dad and mom, can we go out?’… They know they’re Pakistani. They don’t want to go out,” Mamon said.

Read more: ‘This is a terrorist attack’: Trudeau condemns tragedy in London, Ont. that left 4 dead

Mamon believes there’s been a slow rise in Islamophobia over the years, and while vigils and prayers are welcomed, real action is needed, he said.

“Unfortunately, we have become a symbolic nation. Things come, and we just symbolize it (with) vigils, candlelights (but) this is not the solution,” he said.

“Temporarily, it gives you a relief or a platform to get your anger out (and) heal the sorrows by meeting together… There should be some remedy coming from the government, not the lip service and the condolences messages. Now it’s time to do something practical.”

Read more: London attack was latest of Canada’s ‘most deadly’ form of extremism, national security adviser says

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The call for more action against Islamophobia is also one Mayor Naheed Nenshi is pushing for. In an impassioned plea in council chambers on Tuesday, he called for a moment of silence to remember the family.

“We mourn that beautiful family. When a Muslim hears of a death, we say… from God we come, into God we return,” Nenshi said.

“Let’s not pretend we’re shocked by this. Let’s not think that this is unthinkable… This is the result of acts that we take and importantly, acts that we do not take in fighting racism. Do I sound raw? I’m a bit raw,” Nenshi said, visibly emotional.

Read more: ‘Hate is still present’: Quebec City mosque co-founder reacts to London attack

He said while checking in with the Muslim community is a kind thing to do, everyone has an active role to play in stopping hate.

“It’s not just a Muslim tragedy. It’s not just a family tragedy or one that hits all of us who have grandparents and kids. It’s not just a London, Ontario, tragedy. It is a Canadian tragedy, so, it’s totally OK to reach out to your Muslim friends and neighbours… but it has to be so much further,” Nenshi said.

“Don’t tell me your thoughts are with the Muslim community. 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. I need to remind you that it was in 2017 when a gunman opened fire at a Quebec mosque. What have we changed since then? Islamophobia has gotten worse.”

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