The Aftermath of the London Attack, and Where Do We Go From Here
By Doly Begum.
I am incredibly grateful and privileged to be living in Canada, and would have it no other way. This gratitude often makes it difficult to share the reality my family has faced in this country, and makes it difficult to address the hate that lives and grows stronger every day here in Canada. So when I heard I was writing this piece for the Bluffs Monitor about the London attack I struggled to turn my thoughts into words. Shining a light on such hate can be challenging; after all, the key, as we are taught, is to keep our head down, work hard, and nobody will bother you.
This month, a Muslim family in London, Ontario, a husband and wife, a grandma, and two grandchildren were enjoying a nice day in their neighbourhood. That exact same day, a 19 year-old young man decided to leave his house with the intention of killing that Muslim family. He drove his vehicle into the family as they were walking – killing all but one person, a 9 year old who was seriously injured. It was a premeditated act of violence because of hate against Muslims.
This was not the first time Canada saw violent acts of Islamophobia and white supremacy.
In 2017, we mourned for the six innocent worshippers who were massacred in a Quebec mosque.
Last summer a mosque caretaker in Toronto was attacked and murdered.
As Canadians, we vowed to stand united against all forms of hate after each incident. Not only that, for some Canadians, particularly some politicians, it was the first time we heard them acknowledging Islamophobia. Yet, these events kept happening.
The brutal killing of an innocent family left the Muslim community here in Scarborough hurt beyond words.
The entire day I felt numb, unsure of how to put it in words.
How do you articulate something like this in a professional or political context, especially when you are also processing the trauma as a Muslim? I came across photos of the family that was killed, the mom, dad, and grandmother who look very much like my own – visibly Muslim. I found myself holding on to my parents, thinking of the painful reality that the way they look, their faith, and lifestyle could one day put them in danger in the country they chose to come to for a better life. I reached out to Muslim friends here in Scarborough who were left fearing for their safety after this incident. This felt personal.
I heard fear in their voices, fear for their loved ones going out for a walk in their neighbourhood. Often when we talk about racism and hate, we pin it on being a generational difference, that the older generations are still learning about people who are different from them. So how can someone so young have so much hate in them that they were willing to leave the house with the intention to kill people for their faith? Perhaps this hate has nothing to do with age or generations; perhaps there is a deeper root we need to uncover to truly work towards solutions.
It’s also easy to dismiss acts like these as isolated incidents, but this doesn’t happen overnight. The racism and Islamophobia stems from years of hate and fear of the “other”. The way we are taught about those who are different from us.
The days following this incident, I spoke at numerous vigils and even in the Legislature. Every time I got up to speak about this, I was taken back to the first time someone told me that I did not belong here in Canada, when someone told me to “go back home” for not looking like them. I was reminded of the many incidents of hate in our local mosques – broken windows, hateful words smeared on the walls, threats, etc.
Bigotry and hatred comes from ignorance. We need to commit to addressing these sentiments and issues at the root, within our education systems where minds are being moulded. When ignorance turns to criminality, we must remember that these are our friends and neighbours being killed for their faith – right here in Canada.
In response, we saw our Scarborough community come together to stand strong, show solidarity, and call for action. We need systemic change to unlearn the racism in our systems. We need policies to address microaggressions and we need to believe those who speak up about their experiences. We need to be proactive in addressing hate, it is the only way to stop it from growing. After a tragedy like the Quebec shooting, the anti-Muslim hate crimes in Toronto, and now the London attack, it’s critical that we move past condemnation and outrage. This requires a real commitment to material change in our own neighbourhoods, our province, and across the country. We need to establish an anti-racism directorate here in Ontario, focus on anti-hate training and education that addresses all forms of racism and discrimination including Islamophobia, take concrete action to tackle online hate, and a commitment to reporting hate crimes.
Keeping our head down and being quiet cannot protect us. We can no longer remain quiet about the hate that lives and grows here. Time after time, our silence has allowed for such deadly violence be it against people of a certain faith, race, or gender. It’s important for us to speak up. We must remember division and hate doesn’t stay with one group. Once it comes to a community, it finds its way weaving into others.
~ Doly Begum is the MPP For