VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — A creator of the Islamophobia legal hotline says Sunday’s attack that killed four members of a family in London, Ont. shows Canadians need to go beyond the idea of simply being allies when it comes to combatting hate.
Vancouver lawyer, Hasan Alam, is one of the co-creators of the Islamophobia Legal Assistance hotline. He says it’s time we be proactive and stop waiting around for incidents like the London attack to happen before we speak about racism in our own homes and communities.
“We need to now move past this term of ‘ally,’ and we need people who are willing to be with us in this struggle. “When I think of ‘ally’ … [it’s] someone, who from afar, pats us on our back and says, ‘We stand with you.’ But we need people who are willing to put their skin in the game and say, ‘No, this isn’t just an issue of outrage for the Muslim community. It’s an outrage for everyone here in Canada.’ And so we need people to call on their elected officials to take concrete action to battle Islamophobia, but also white supremacy,” he tells NEWS 1130.
Sunday evening, a 74-year-old woman, 44-year-old woman, 46-year-old man, and a 15-year-old girl were killed at a red light when a large, black pick-up truck came up behind the family and struck them at a high speed.
A 9-year-old, the sole survivor and fifth family member, remains in hospital with serious injuries.
Pictured above are the victims: Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna Afzaal and Salman Afzaal's 74-year-old mother. The youngest family member, a nine-year-old boy, who survived the incident, remains in the hospital.
— Sonia Aslam (@SoniaSAslam) June 8, 2021
Investigators believe the hit-and-run was a targeted attack fueled by hate against Islam.
Alam says when he heard the news he was, “horrified. I was shocked. I was overcome with grief.”
However, he was not surprised.
“I’m hearing this word, ‘surprise’ being used a lot in the media, and by people in general. And we need to move past this sentiment of ‘surprise’ and start acknowledging that hate crimes, such as this, are possible in Canada and have taken place,” he says.
“White supremacy is something that’s real, and an issue we need to deal with.”
He adds that addressing racism and white supremacy is important not just to prevent attacks against the Muslim community, but to stop those targeted at other groups including Indigenous, Black and East Asian communities.
“We’re making space right now just to mourn the loss of … people from our community. And mourn the fact that there’s going to be a 9-year old child, that’s not going to have a family anymore … It’s just heavy because we’re on the heels of a pandemic, we just learned about the 215 bodies of Indigenous children that were uncovered. We were mourning that.
“We’ve been in a year of talking about systemic racism in Canada, and globally. So it’s a very heavy time for all of us.”
As many BIPOC communities and religious minorities continue to face hate-fueled attacks, Alam says it’s why the hotline recognizes “there needs to be a greater solution with respect to dismantling the systemic nature of this issue.”
“The hotline continues to be called by people who have experienced Islamophobia, whether it’s in the workplace, on the street, in their schools, but the Islamophobia hotline — although it’s a needed service, it’s still very much just a band-aid. It’s helping people who are experiencing Islamophobia. But what we need to do is really start getting at the root of Islamophobia and start to dismantle that.”
While Alam is encouraging elected officials to talk about the issue of white supremacy in Canada, he is also calling on governments to invest in educational programming “aimed at deradicalizing young white men.”
“The acts of terror that actually killed people in this country are carried out by white men, such as the individual carried out the attacks in London Ontario, and also the individual carried out the Quebec mass shooting … both young radicalized white men. So what are you doing? And this is a question of the government,” he says. “What are you doing to deradicalize these individuals, and to also prevent other individuals from becoming radicalized in the same way?”
Related Article: ‘Screaming, crying, grieving’: London anti-Muslim attack reminds community of Quebec City mosque shooting
Because he says racism can be learned, Alam adds it’s important for people to keep faith that it can be unlearned.
“We as a society can ensure that the generations to come know about the history of white supremacy in Canada know also about the dangers associated with it. I’m also hopeful that it can unlearn the mistakes of our past.”