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Islamophobia: Who is next in line?

"Afzaal family was my family"


On a beautiful Sunday afternoon in London, Ontario- a grandmother, mother, father and their two kids decided to go for their daily stroll. That was until, a man decided to drive into them, and kill four while leaving behind a 9-year-old boy orphaned.


They were the Afzaal family.


They were my family.


How many similar stories have you heard of?


How many times does this have to happen?


How many innocent lives have to be taken before something changes?


Oftentimes, when something like this happens, politicians and public figures send their love and prayers to the family. Telling families that this does not represent the broader community, that this is something we’ll get through together. I never thought there’d come a time where my family would be the one on the receiving end of all of that. I never thought I’d see my family’s names and faces in countless news articles, talking about how they were victims of a hate crime.


The outpour of love and support has been incredibly heartwarming, it’s been amazing to see the whole world come together to honour my family.


But with all due respect, thoughts and prayers won’t bring them back.


It won’t bring my 9-year-old nephew’s parents back. It won’t make my hijabi sisters any less fearful of putting that scarf on their head. It won’t make my brothers with beards any less of a target in public. It won’t make the world a safer place for Muslims to live in.

 

Want to know what actually might make a difference?


Actions.


Taking action and standing up against Islamophobia could very well prevent another Muslim family from being next in line. Actions will tell us that we matter, that we’re worth fighting for, that we are all one.


The first step forward is accepting the narrative. Let’s throw phrases like “this is not Canada” or “this does not represent who we are” out the window. Denying that it isn’t prevalent, denying that this isn’t a problem is just a twisted way of not bothering to work on a solution. It is real, and it is everywhere, exhibit A: my beautiful family was taken away too soon.


Salman Azaal, my cousin who absolutely adored me. To be honest, I think I might’ve even been his favourite family member. Although, that could be up for debate since he always had a way of making everyone around him feel special. You didn’t need to be his favourite to feel loved. His soul was so genuine and bright that even the sun was envious of the warmth of his smile. Salmans mother, my dad’s sister, my phupo. Having done a Masters in Fine Arts, she was an incredible painter; she mainly painted mountains and beautiful landscapes but would occasionally paint cartoons because it brought a smile to her grandkids faces. Now, while my paintings do not compare to hers, that trait of mine is a piece of her that’ll live on forever. Madiha Salman, Salmans wife, whom I never had the pleasure of meeting. She was pursuing a PhD in geoenvironmental engineering while also being a free-lance writer. Madiha wanted to make a difference in the world through her writing, she aimed to be a positive representation of the Muslim community and wanted to inspire the Muslim youth to do the same.


Yumna Afzaal, Salman and Madiha’s daughter, whom I also never had the pleasure of meeting. She was an active member of her community and so very loved by her schoolmates. But most importantly, she was Fayez’ beautiful big sister.


Now, let’s talk about other families. Families that are just. like. Mine.


They’re thinking twice about taking a walk around the neighbourhood; reassessing the route they take, wondering if they ‘look too Muslim’, if that shalwar kameez will attract attention or disgusted looks - more than the usual. Sisters wearing hijabs will feel hyper-visible, more than the usual.


But you know what? These sisters will keep their hijab on. Those brothers will keep their beard. We will wear our shalwar kameez.


Yes, we’ve had injustice done to us. This was a mass-murder, it was a hate-crime, it was terrorism.


The fact that will never change is: we’re Muslim and we’re proud.


We may fall individually, but we will always stand back up in unity.


This was originally published by Fatima via Medium.



About the author

Fatima is a an artist, social advocate and storyteller. Her work aims to inspire today's youth to use their voices to make a positive difference in the world. Through her art and activism, Fatima wants to be the kind of representative and role-model she wishes she had growing up. Instagram: @f.ama

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