Funeral today for Muslim family in London, Ont., attack seen as a chance to start healing


Four members of the Muslim family killed nearly a week ago in a hit-and-run attack will be honoured at a public funeral today in London, Ont. A local imam who will lead the service for the Afzaal family believes the service is a crucial step in healing a grief-sticken community.

Yumna Afzaal, 15, left, Madiha Salman, 44, centre left, Talat Afzaal, 74, and Salman Afzaal, 46, were out for an evening walk June 6 when they were run over by a man who police say was motivated by anti-Muslim hate. They will be honoured at a funeral Saturday. (Submitted by Afzaal family)

Four members of a Muslim family killed nearly a week ago in a hit-and-run attack will be honoured at a public funeral today in London, Ont., that a local imam says will serve as a crucial step in healing a grief-sticken community.

"I think we're emotionally exhausted," said Imam Aarij Anwer. "We are grateful for everything that has happened since that horrific tragedy. We're looking forward to having some closure on Saturday."

Madiha Salman, 44, her husband Salman Afzaal, 46, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna Afzaal and Salman's 74-year-old mother Talat Afzaal died after they were run down by a pickup truck June 6 while on one of their regular evening walks. The lone survivor is nine-year old Fayez. His aunt and uncle are with him as he recovers in hospital, and other family members arrived in London from as far away as Pakistan and Australia to support him.

Police have said the attack was premeditated and believe the family was targeted because of their faith. A 20-year-old man faces four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder.

The funeral will include an outdoor memorial open to the public (see details below), followed by a private burial. Members of the public are asked to line the streets of the funeral procession to show support for the family.

Anwer will lead the funeral prayers and other imams will speak. It's also expected that a statement from the family will be read.

Imam tells community to rely on their faith

London's Muslim community, which numbers about 30,000, is mourning the loss of a family that came to Canada in 2007 when Yumna was a baby in search of a better life. Madiha became an accomplished academic working toward a PhD in environmental engineering, while Salman was a physiotherapist who provided care for seniors. Yumna was an honour-role Grade 9 student who painted a mural at her school that called on her classmates to "shoot for the moon."

The killings have raised concerns about Islamophobia in Canada and highlighted fears among Muslims that simply showing their faith in public could make them targets.

Imam Aarij Anwer says London's Muslim community is feeling 'emotionally exhausted' after a week of grief. 'We're looking forward to having some closure,' he said ahead of Saturday's funeral.(Meagan Fitzpatrick/CBC)

Anwer said he's telling congregants to rely on their faith to get them through the tragedy.

"We believe as Muslims in destiny, whether it's good or evil," he said. "We believe it is for God and it's part of his wisdom. If he puts us in a difficult situation, He will bring us through. Part of the process of healing is accepting our pain."

Anwer said that after the funeral, the focus will shift to supporting Fayez.

"The doctors expect him to make a recovery, and his long-term health will not be compromised by what he went through, so we're really happy about that."

Funeral details

The funeral for the Afzaal family will include:

  • A private visitation at the funeral home that is strictly limited to family.
  • A public outdoor funeral at the Islamic Centre of Southwest Ontario that will be open to the public. It's expected to start at about 1:30 p.m. ET.
  • A private burial, with attendance restricted to family members, at the Islamic Cemetery.

Just before 1 p.m., there will be a procession from the O'Neil funeral home on William Street to the Islamic Centre.

Members of the public are welcome to line the procession route, which will be as follows:

  • West on York Street.
  • South on Wellington Street to Southdale Road.
  • East on Southdale.
  • South on Pond Mills Road to the Islamic Centre at 951 Pond Mills Rd.

The public will also be able to take part in the outdoor ceremony, which organizers say will last about an hour. People are expected to maintain physical distance and wear masks.

The public funeral will be held at the Islamic Centre of southwest Ontario starting at 1:30 p.m. ET, but anyone wishing to attend is being asked to come early. (CBC)

People attending are also asked to wear purple and green ribbons in support of the family, and to bring water and an umbrella in the event of hot weather. Anyone who plans to join the prayer is asked to bring a prayer mat.

Visitors are also asked to come early and carpool if possible because parking will be limited.

After the public ceremony, the procession will head to the Islamic Cemetery on White Oak Road and Manning Drive.

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