Muslim leaders call for Ontario to tackle Islamophobia

By Liam Casey

TORONTO – Muslim leaders are calling on Ontario to take action against Islamophobia.

Imam Aarij Anwer of the London Muslim Mosque said Monday that the province should tackle the issue now and not wait for the results of next year’s election.

A Muslim family from Anwer’s mosque was killed after they were hit by a truck in London, Ont., in June. Police allege the driver deliberately targeted the family in an act of hate against the Islamic faith.

“We don’t want to hold another vigil as a community,” Anwer said. “We don’t want to have another community funeral where we’re all grieving. We don’t want to lose any more lives to hate or Islamophobia.”

Anwer and the National Council of Canadian Muslims want to see several measures implemented by the province that they say will help curb acts of hatred against Muslims.

Those include changes to the educational system so children can better understand Islamophobia, said Nadia Hasan, the chief operating officer of the National Council of Canadian Muslims.

“We also need to see the dismantling of white supremacist groups in the province by preventing them from registering as societies,” Hasan said.

They would also like to see a provincial hate crimes accountability unit that investigates failures in combating hate incidents, and would like Ontario to hire more minorities in the public service.

The calls for action come five months after four members of a Muslim family were killed in London in what police allege was an act motivated by hate.

Salman Afzaal, 46, his 44-year-old wife Madiha Salman, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna and her 74-year-old grandmother, Talat Afzaal, were killed while out for an evening walk on June 6.

The couple’s nine-year-old son, Fayez, was seriously hurt.

Nathaniel Veltman, 20, is accused of deliberately hitting the family with his truck. He is charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder in what prosecutors say was an act of terrorism.

The calls also come more than a year after Mohamed-Aslim Zafis was stabbed to death as he volunteered outside the International Muslim Organization in Toronto in September 2020.

Police have said Zafis was attacked at random and they could not discount that it was motivated by hate.

A 34-year-old man faces one count of first-degree murder in Zafis’s death.

“Our call is simple: no more violence,” Hasan said. “Our communities cannot wait until after the election for change, we are calling on all of our leaders – let’s work together to make change.”

Shannon Whitteker, spokewoman for Minister of Citizenship and Multiculturalism Parm Gill, said real solutions to address racism are needed urgently.

“Last week, in the fall economic statement, our government committed to providing nearly $10 million to new and enhanced initiatives to help address systemic racism and hate, including doubling investments in the Anti-Racism Anti-Hate Grant Program,” Whitteker said.

“We look forward to reviewing the recommendations made today by the NCCM and the London Muslim Mosque, and remain committed to working with communities most impacted by racism and hate in our province.”