Some shared loving memories of the family murdered in the Islamophobic attack, some brought up Pakistan’s own record of hate crimes By Pallavi Pundir DELHI, INJune 9, 2021
THOUSANDS GATHERED TO PRAY FOR THE PAKISTANI-CANADIAN FAMILY WHO WERE KILLED IN A HATE CRIME IN LONDON, CANADA, ON JUNE 8. PHOTO: IAN WILLMS/GETTY IMAGES
A deadly hate crime on a Pakistani-Canadian family in Ontario has reopened the conversation on Islamophobia across the world – including in Pakistan.
On Sunday, 20-year-old Nathaniel Veltman brutally drove into the family with a pickup truck in London, Ontario, killing four people from three generations of the family in what Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called a “terrorist attack.”
The police said that the murder was motivated by Islamophobic hate, and charged Veltman with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder. World News
A family statement identified the victims as Salman Afzaal, 46, Madiha Afzaal, 44, and their 15-year-old daughter Yumna. The 74-year-old grandmother to Yumna, who was not named, was also killed. Fayez, 9, is recovering in hospital.
On Tuesday in London, thousands of people gathered to express their support for the family.
As world leaders, activists and religious minorities spoke up about intolerance towards minorities, Pakistanis remembered the victims on social media.
Madiha was “a brilliant engineer and was almost done with her PhD. They were an ideal family, she used to be her mother-in-law’s best friend. A great mother, a compassionate spouse, a loyal friend,” wrote one Dr Farya.
Another user, Naima from Karachi, tweeted that 9-year-old Fayez is her cousin. “Who will take care of him now?” someone asked. Naima replied, “Up until this morning, he wasn’t told about his family.”News
Almas, a Twitter user from Ontario, tweeted that she was the family’s neighbour. “Salman, the father, loved gardening. Yumna (15) was excited about high school,” she said. “The mom Madiha was finishing up her PhD. They went for family walks almost every evening before Maghrib. No one could have predicted that this would be their last.”
In the middle of shock and despair across the world, some Pakistanis also called out their government’s silence on the hate crimes committed against minorities in their own country. ADVERTISEMENT
The same day the family was attacked in Canada, the funeral procession of an Ahmadi family was attacked by a Sunni extremist mob in Pakistan. Ahmadis are a persecuted religious minority and are legally barred from calling themselves Muslims in Pakistan.
After the Pakistani human rights minister Shireen Mazari condemned the hate crime in Canada in a tweet, the Pakistani actor Osman Khalid Butt responded by asking her to do something about the hate crimes against the Ahmadi community in Pakistan.
And a popular Pakistani Instagrammer based in Australia urged Pakistanis to speak up for Ahmadis.
In recent years, Ahmadis, Christians and Shias in Pakistan have increasingly faced violence, according to a U.S. state department report.
A 2021 Human Rights Watch report said that the Pakistani government has done nothing to amend or repeal its draconian blasphemy laws, which are often misused to charge and jail religious minorities.World News
“Pakistan has every right to speak up on international human rights issues like those in Palestine and Kashmir or increasing intolerance of Muslims in western countries,” Usman Ahmad, an Ahmadi rights activist from Pakistan, told VICE World News. “Not only are these stances warranted and politically necessary, but they are also driven by moral obligation.”
“However, I strongly believe that this advocacy should also lead Pakistan to reassess and recalibrate its own treatment of its minorities back home,” he added. “And if this isn’t done, this stance rings somewhat hollow and weakens Pakistan’s moral authority to speak on these issues.”
Follow Pallavi Pundir on Twitter.