'I'm not sure how safe we really are': P.E.I. Muslims react to Ontario attack

·3 min read
People are seen at a makeshift memorial at the spot where the four family members were killed in what police say was a deliberately targeted anti-Islamic attack, in London, Ont.  (Carlos Osorio/Reuters - image credit)
People are seen at a makeshift memorial at the spot where the four family members were killed in what police say was a deliberately targeted anti-Islamic attack, in London, Ont. (Carlos Osorio/Reuters - image credit)

Muslims living on P.E.I say they are saddened and afraid after a Muslim family in London, Ont. was killed in what police are calling a hate-motivated crime Sunday.

Three adults and one teenager died after a truck ran them down as they took an evening walk.

Police say the driver of the truck, who was arrested about 10 minutes from the scene the same evening, planned the attack and targeted the family because of their Muslim faith.

The youngest member of the family, a nine-year-old boy, survived and remained in hospital Monday in serious condition.

"We are really very, very scared now because this should not be happening in Canada," said Najam Chishti, president of the Muslim Society of P.E.I.

"There are no words to describe. I mean, killing a family who was just going out for a walk and they are massacred."

Laura Meader/CBC
Laura Meader/CBC

"I am very concerned because I'm not sure how safe we really are," said Zain Esseghaier, a spokesperson for the Muslim Society.

"My wife wears the hijab. And now I've been thinking since the incident, if she were to go out and she walked across the street, would anything happen to her? So, yeah, there is that anxiety deep down," he said.

We think, 'OK, well, it couldn't happen here.' … But we all know at the back of our minds that it could. — Sobia Ali-Faisal, BIPOC USHR

For Sobia Ali-Faisal, the attack is devastating but not surprising.

"I have been following the … rise of anti-Muslim sentiment that's happened in Canada over the last 10, 15 years," said Ali-Faisal, a member of the Muslim community who is the president of BIPOC USHR, a support and advocacy group for BIPOC communities on P.E.I.

"A lot of times we think, 'OK, well, it couldn't happen here.' But again, people in London probably thought it wouldn't happen to them," she said.

Laura Meader/CBC
Laura Meader/CBC

Both Esseghaier and Ali-Faisal remembered past racist incidents against the Muslim community here on P.E.I., including a pig's head left on a stick on the construction site of the future P.E.I. mosque, and threats left with a can of gasoline outside the mosque after it was completed.

"I think people feel much safer here, but we have to be very aware of the fact that racism and hate exist even here in P.E.I.," said Esseghaier.

Chishti said many incidents of anti-Muslim sentiment are not reported.

"It happened in Fredericton, there was a girl who was wearing hijab and somebody snatched her hijab in the bus and said, 'Go home'," he said.

"Well, this is our home. We are born here. Many of us are born here. My children were born here. It's our country."

Vigil planned for Wednesday

All three spoke about the way forward after an attack such as this, and the importance of non-Muslims showing their support for the community.

The Muslim community is planning a vigil at Victoria Park in Charlottetown Wednesday at noon to honour the victims of the London attack.

For Ali-Faisal, the solution goes beyond that, to trying to comprehend the root of the issue.

"I think it's to really start understanding where Islamophobia comes from and why it's present in the first place, and how it's really related to anti-Indigeneity and anti-Blackness as well," she said.

"If we want to dismantle Islamophobia, we have to dismantle all other forms of racism."

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