For many in Regina’s Muslim community, the hate-fuelled killing of members of a family in London hit close to home.Author of the article: Heather Polischuk Publishing date:Jun 08, 2021
In geographic terms, Regina is a long way from London, Ontario, but for members of this city’s Muslim community, the killing of a Muslim family might as well have happened next door.
“A person who is living in Southeast Asia or the U.S., they’re all considered like brothers …,” said Haseeb Qureshi, secretary of the Regina chapter of the Islamic Association of Saskatchewan (IAOS). “So from that perspective, the Muslim community is like one body and in any part of the body, when it’s hurt, the whole body feels it.
“Everybody is hurting,” said Dr. Habib Rehman, president of the Regina chapter of Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat. “They feel the pain of the family. They feel the pain of the loved ones who are left behind.”
Khurrum Awan, who serves on the communications committee for IAOS Regina, said the city’s Muslim community has been impacted both in terms of grief for a family who could be their own and through worry they too could be targeted.
“It strikes home because you have a family that obviously seems to have been targeted simply because they are visibly identifiable as Muslim …,” he said. “It does cause people to think about their personal safety and to think about whether we are safe just doing the everyday activities that people will do, such as going out for a walk.”
A 20-year-old man is charged with four counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Syed Afzaal, his wife Madiha Salman, their daughter Yumna and Syed’s mother after allegedly running them down in a vehicle because of their faith. The couple’s nine-year-old son was also hit and is recovering in hospital.
Mohamed Masloh, Imam of IAOS Regina and RCMP chaplain, said he, like others in the community, has wept for the family but also worries for his loved ones.
“I don’t know how someone could do that to the whole family,” he said. “What amount of hate did he have in his heart?”
Qureshi said while he’s dealt with smaller acts of racist behaviour, he hasn’t experienced more overt acts some have. He added his non-Muslim friends and co-workers have been very supportive since news broke, instilling in him hope and creating a conversation with two sides.
“One is that there’s fear, and then there’s hope based on messages of support,” he said. “The messages of sharing our grief are pouring in. So the neighbours, the co-workers, the local councillor, the different people, the RCMP — all these people have been sending us those messages.”
Rehman said while many people are concerned at the moment about taking precautions, they won’t bow to fear indefinitely.
“If we become afraid, that means he has achieved his purpose,” he said.
Rehman said those in his community “condemn these attacks strongly” — as they would were it any other group attacked.
“There’s no place for hatred in any religion or in any society …,” he said. “In my view, these acts are due to the ignorance of the people who do not know the teachings of Islam, because Islam is a peaceful religion and preaches peace.”
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Awan noted this isn’t the first time Muslims have been violently targeted in Canada in recent years. He said dealing with the problem through government action and education is crucial in stopping such acts before they occur.
“We hope that this type of incident can spur some action here,” he said. “That’s ultimately, I think, what the hope of the community would be at this time.”
A candlelight vigil has been organized for Wednesday evening at 7 p.m. in front of the Legislative Building. Those in attendance are asked to wear a mask, maintain social distancing and follow public health guidelines. People are asked to bring their own candles and can wear green and purple ribbons.