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Community Mourns Four Muslim Family Members Killed in Attack

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The Canadian community is mourning the loss of four members of the Afzaal-Salman family killed in what authorities believe was an anti-Muslim attack, The New York Times reports.

On Sunday night, 20-year-old Nathaniel Veltman mounted a curb with his pickup truck in London, Ontario, running over the Afzaal-Salman family as they were waiting to cross the intersection.

The family’s 74-year-old grandmother, whose name has been withheld, was pronounced dead at the scene. Salman Afzaal, 46; his wife Madiha Salman, 44 and their 15-year-old daughter Yumna Salman succumbed to their injuries at the hospital. Nine-year-old Fayez Salman survived but is now an orphan.

Salman and Madiha came to Canada in 2007 when Yumna was a baby, CBC reports. They worked hard to build a good life for their family.

Salman was a physiotherapist and worked at several nursing homes, according to the London Free Press. His colleagues say he was dedicated to his elderly patients.

“We’re completely devastated. Salman worked in our organization for seven years,” Jeff Renaud, an administrator at Ritz Lutheran Villa told the London Free Press. “He was an integral part of our team. He was kind and caring. . . . He was well-respected and always had a smile and positive outlook.”

Madiha working towards finishing her PhD at Western University in civil engineering. She also served as a instructor while working on her PhD.

“I always remember she was super helpful. As a student I always asked a lot of questions,” Moawaz Sheikh, one of Madiha’s students, told CBC. “She was always able to stay after class, more than other teaching assistants. She was very helpful.” 

Yumna was in Grade 9 at Oakridge Secondary School. Before attending Oakridge, she graduated from the London Islamic school, where she and her mother painted a beautiful mural.

Asad Choudhary, principal of the London Islamic school, told CBC Yumna was a great student, as is her brother Fayez.

“Great kids, role-model students,” Choudhary said. “Definitely gems of our school community. Both of them are good friends, of not just their classmates, but the school community at large. Very talented in their academics.”

The family’s grandmother has been described as “a pillar of their family that cherished their daily walks,” according to Yahoo News.

Ontario temporarily lifted pandemic rules prohibiting large gatherings Tuesday night. Thousands of people, most wearing masks, gathered outside the London Muslim Mosque for a memorial honoring the Afzaal-Salman, The New York Times reports.

As the community mourns the loss of a family, Canadians are also grappling with the anti-Muslim bias that exists throughout the country.

“Even after this, there are still people saying that Islamophobia doesn’t exist,” Mohamed Salih, a member of London’s City Council, told The New York Times. “The challenge and a reality we must face is that far too often in our city, there is Islamophobia. It’s something we’ve known for far too long.”

Sana Yasir, a friend of the family, has organized a GoFundMe page in honor of the victims. The family does not need financial assistance, so the funds will be used for sadaqa jariya.

“Sadaqa jariya is an important concept within Islam – it is a gift that not only benefits others in this life but also benefits us and our loved ones in the next,” the GoFundMe page states.

The page has raised over $630,000 so far.

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