For Muslims in Canada, June 6 revives painful memories of the brutal murder of four members of a Muslim family in London, Ontario, two years ago. Let us recall what happened on that fateful evening.
Five members of the Afzaal family were out for an evening walk. As they stood at an intersection waiting to cross the street, a fast-moving pick-up truck drove toward them and deliberately mowed them down. The driver, 20-year-old Nathaniel (Nate) Veltman, then reversed his truck to run them over again. He wanted to make sure they were dead.
This macabre ritual left four members of the family dead. Syed Salman Afzaal, 46, and his wife Madiha, 44, their 15-year-old daughter Yumnah, and Afzaal’s 74-year-old mother Talat. Only their 9-year-old son Faez survived with serious injuries. Whether his mental wounds would ever heal is difficult to assess despite other relatives stepping in to help Faez with the healing process.
The trial of Veltman, now 22, is set for September 2023 in Windsor, Ontario. He is charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder. Both the London police and a number of politicians called the gruesome murders a ‘hate crime’ and an ‘act of terror’.
London’s police chief, Steve Williams, was categorical in his statement following the June 6, 2021 murders. He said that investigators “believe this was an intentional act” and that “the victims of this horrific incident were targeted because of their Islamic faith.”
The deliberate targeting and killing of a Muslim family out for an evening walk brings to the fore the deadly consequences of Islamophobia. Political leaders have pledged to root out white supremacist groups and social media platforms that spread Islamophobia and to protect Canadian Muslims. Regrettably, little practical action has been taken.
Following the brutal murders, the Canadian government agreed to convene a conference on Islamophobia but leading Muslim experts, such as Professor Jasmin Zine, were denied the opportunity to speak. She has done detailed studies on the Islamophobia industry in Canada.
It is interesting to note that there was massive media coverage of vigils and funeral for the murdered family in London. Party leaders of all stripes attended vigils and pledged to root out Islamophobia. The common refrain heard at these vigils was, “hate has no place in Canada.”
But what practical steps have been taken to root out Islamophobia? When Muslims demanded that it be declared a hate crime, the Canadian government demurred, seeking refuge behind vague generalities. Attacks against Muslims have continued despite extensive media coverage and statements by politicians against such acts. A number of hate crimes occurred across Canada in the immediate aftermath of the horrendous murders in London, Ontario.
There is a culture of impunity whereby Islamophobia is now an acceptable form of racism. Verbal abuse often leads to physical assaults including the murder of Muslims. Since the January 29, 2017 attack on the Islamic Cultural Center in Quebec City when six Muslims were shot and killed in cold blood as they were praying, 11 Muslims have been killed in the last five years. Attacks on mosques have continued.
It would, however, be simplistic to assume that only white supremacist groups spew venom against Muslims. There is a nexus between white supremacists, many of them advocating neo-Nazi ideology, and the zionists. It is not just the Jewish Defence League (JDL), a violent extremist group that is banned in the United States. While the FBI has declared it a terrorist organization, it continues to operate in Canada and has been involved in numerous violent attacks on pro-Palestinian activists and Muslims.
Last month, JDL head, Meir Weinstein asked his followers to come armed with baseball bats and metal bars to confront people demonstrating against the ‘Walk for Israel’ rally (Weinstein’s video is available at Israelnow.ca). No Canadian politician condemned this call to violence nor withdrew from the march.
There are also prominent Jewish individuals and organizations involved in spreading Islamophobia. Irwin Colter, a former Justice Minister of Canada is one of them. Cotler heads the international coalition to fight anti-Semitism. Why would someone who claims to be a champion of human rights, promote hatred against Muslims? Did Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dismiss Cotler from the government-appointed post of ambassador against anti-Semitism? B’nai Brith, another self-proclaimed human rights organization, is also quick to brand anyone critical of Israel’s murderous policies, an ‘anti-Semite’.
Islamophobia is a global phenomenon. It is as prevalent in the US as it is in Europe. Canada presents itself as a multicultural society but violent attacks against Muslims are widespread.
While western societies have historically discriminated against people of colour—some more violently than others—Islamophobia has been promoted as official policy by most western regimes in the wake of the 911 attacks. Whoever was responsible—and it is still not clearly established, notwithstanding the US’ self-serving allegations—all 1.5 billion Muslims are presumed guilty by virtue of their faith.
In the immediate aftermath of 911, every Muslim in Canada, the US and elsewhere had to publicly condemn these attacks otherwise they were deemed complicit. Adherents of other faiths, especially Jews, have never been asked to condemn the crimes perpetrated by zionist Israel against hapless Palestinians.
As Muslims commemorate another grim anniversary of the horrific murder of an entire family, they must remain vigilant to protect their families and places of worship. Apart from soothing words, politicians will not take any practical steps to stamp out Islamophobia.
After all, this demonic ideology was needed to justify the west’s wars on Muslim countries. The collective west may have shifted its focus to Russia and China but Muslims cannot become complacent. Another attack is bound to occur, sooner rather than later.