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Community stands together following London murders

June 17, 2021   ·   0 Comments

It was with a “heavy heart” that Noor El-Dassouki approached the podium at the Newmarket Islamic Centre on Sunday evening.

It was not the first vigil the member of Aurora’s Anti-Black Racism and Anti-Racism Task Force had attended following violence stemming from Islamophobia, but this time it was a tragedy all too close to home.

Residents from Newmarket and Aurora, along with dignitaries, gathered at the place of worship for a vigil in memory of four members of the Salman family, and in solidarity with their surviving son, who were mowed down while out on a walk near their London, ON home – an act which has been described as “terrorism” by the Prime Minister and Premier.

Police say the family was targeted simply for their faith.

“We will not let the hate of a small few win because with the solidarity I see in front of me today, [it] gives me hope,” Ms. El-Dassouki said. “I urge you to turn your support and care into action: to make sure that the next time we gather is to celebrate and not to mourn. I urge you to all act to eliminate hated in its most overt forms, but more importantly in its more subtle forms. I ask you to speak up when those little hints of racism or xenophobia come up in dinner table conversations with friends, family and colleagues. I ask you to learn about and acknowledge the biases that you hold and work to undo them. I ask you to reach out to your MPs and your elected officials to demand that they take action to dismantle violence and systemic forms of Islamophobia because we need more than just words to make sure this never happens again.”

These words went directly to local leaders.

Also attending the vigil were Newmarket-Aurora MP Tony Van Bynen, Deputy Premier and Newmarket-Aurora MPP Christine Elliott, Newmarket Mayor John Taylor and Aurora Mayor Tom Mrakas.

In his remarks, Mr. Van Bynen said Canadians have been “holding each other in grief and mourning” since the attack, one which was “driven by hate, which has no place here in our communities.”

“We have all been horrified, alarmed and devastated by the senseless tragedy, an act of terrorism and Islamophobia that is heartbreaking, he said. “Muslim families across Canada and, yes, here in our community of Newmarket-Aurora, have for too long faced insults, threats and violence because of their faith and because of their religion. Islamophobia and the horrific violence it brings must end, whether though security infrastructure programs, cracking down on online extremism, or dismantling far right hate groups, our government will continue to do all we can to fight violence in any form. The consequences of doing any less are simply too great.”

The attack, which followed just days after the discovery of the unmarked graves of 215 Indigenous children at a former Kamloops residential school, have shown, he said, that Canada is “not the country we pretend to be,” but we can be the “country we aspire to be” if injustice and inequality is “called out.”

“I understand that recent events have left many of you feeling anxious and afraid,” added Ms. Elliott, talking directly to members of the Muslim community. “My heart breaks for you and the Muslim community during this horrible time. Everyone, everyone has the right to feel respected and safe. As your MPP, I stand with you. I am here to listen to your concerns and to work with you to ensure a diverse and inclusive community… We are stronger all of us together, no matter our race or religion. I stand with you in kindness, love and peace.”

Next to speak was Mayor Taylor, who spoke of the anger he felt – and feels – following the attack.

“I want you to know I am furious that any member of this community might walk down our sidewalks and fear for their lives or worry about their children’s safety,” he said. “The truth is this hate crime, this mass murder, is a reminder of what we know and what the Muslim community knows only too well: Islamophobia exists in our communities and in our country. Islamophobia exists in London, ON, and it exists in Newmarket, ON, and we cannot combat what we are not willing to name.”

By Brock Weir
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter



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