In the wake of a terrorist attack against a Muslim family in London, Ont., White Rock Muslim Association past-president Asad Syed says the organization is putting a focus on educating the public about the religion.
However, Syed said, that effort is exhausting and a continuous struggle.
Salman Afzaal, 46, his 44-year-old wife Madiha Salman, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna Salman and Afzaal’s 74-year-old mother were killed after they were struck by a truck while waiting to cross the road in London on June 6.
The couple’s nine-year-old son Fayez was seriously injured but is expected to survive.
Police identified the accused as Nathaniel Veltman. While police did not explain the circumstances of Veltman’s arrest, they said the man targeted the family because they were Muslim.
A number of candlelight vigils have been organized throughout the Lower Mainland since the attack, including one held Friday at Surrey’s Holland Park.
Shortly after the attack, Syed said members of the local Muslim community met on Zoom to discuss how they should respond to the incident.
“One of the people said that ‘my son wanted to go out and play and I did not allow him to go because (we’re) scared,” Syed said of the Zoom conversation. “Because the condemnation, we talked about it and how we have to react to the situation. This is carrying on, every four months, five months, something happens.”
Syed said they discussed Islamophobia and how the government can play the role, how society can play a role, and how the Muslim community can play a role.
“Besides government action, as a community, we have to reach out to our neighbour, other faith groups. I’m talking to them, build(ing) more relationships and letting them know that Islamophobia is hurting us,” Syed said.
Asked what people can do to support the Muslim community after such an incident, Syed said people need to speak out.
“I think they have to condemn, really. They have to speak openly, be more vocal and let people know.”
Since the incident, Syed said the White Rock Muslim Association has been contacted by various faith groups in the South Surrey and White Rock area who have offered condolences and support.
Prior to COVID-19, the association held “Meet your Muslim Neighbour” events to educate the community about the religion and the vast contributions Muslim people have made to society. Those events are expected to return once COVID-19 restrictions lift.
“Muslims are part of the society and they’re no different than any other faith,” he said.