Reflection on the London, Ontario Attack: Hate Needs to Stop

Op-ed

On June 6, 2021, a 20-year-old driver attacked a family. The victims — two parents, two children and a grandmother — were on an evening walk when the driver of the pickup truck struck them at an intersection in London, Ontario.

The Afzaals, the family carrying the burden of this tragedy, were all innocent and loving people.

The father was a physiotherapist and cricket enthusiast. The mother was working on a doctorate in civil engineering. Their daughter was finishing the ninth grade. The grandmother was coined as the “pillar” of the family.

The sole survivor was a 9-year-old boy, Fayez Afzaal, who was hospitalized.

As an American Muslim teen, I am saddened by this deadly hit and run in London that took the life of four family members who were targeted specifically because they were of Muslim faith. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their loved ones, and all those affected by this tragedy.

I watched on T.V., as Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudea, called the attack “a brutal, cowardly and brazen act of violence” in Parliament.

I couldn’t agree more.

“This killing was no accident,” he said. “This was a terrorist attack motivated by hatred in the heart of one of our communities. If anyone thinks racism and hatred don’t exist in this country, I want to say this: How do we explain such violence to a child in a hospital? How can we look families in the eye and say “Islamophobia isn’t real? There are no words that can undo the pain and yes the anger of this community. There are no words that can fix the future of that little boy who has had his future taken away.”

This was not an isolated event. Back in 2017, a shooting attack occurred on a mosque in Quebec City that killed six people and wounded eight.

Furthermore, according to Statistics Canada, there were 1,946 police-reported hate crimes in 2019, the most recent year for which data is available, up 7 percent from the previous year.

Authorities are still deciding how to characterize the attack in London, but there’s only one word that comes to my mind: hatred. It was hatred that fueled this attack on the Afzaal family.

Casual racism, jokes, insinuation, disinformation, and polarization are all tools to further amplify such hatred and Islamophobia. These forms of hatred are not only applicable in Canada, but everywhere around the world. We must be compassionate towards one another and build a more just, inclusive society. We need to confront hatred in any form head on. Things need to change. Another family can’t be lost.

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Maha Laiq
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Maha is a current high school junior from Virginia. When she's not writing, she enjoys reading, catching up on binge-worthy TV shows, and spending time with her friends and family.