London’s Jewish leaders to attend vigil for Muslim family killed in car attack

Members of the Jewish community in London, Ont., are scheduled to attend tonight’s vigil in memory of the victims of a vehicle attack in which four members of a Muslim family were killed on the evening of June 6.

CTV News London reported that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be attending the vigil, which will be held at the London Muslim Mosque on Oxford Street West. The socially distanced event will take place in the parking lot at 7 p.m.

Stephen Taran, president of Jewish London Ontario, is slated to address the gathering on behalf of the Jewish community. The CJN was informed that Rabbi Catharine Clark of London’s Congregation Or Shalom will lead the moment of silence.

The family has been identified as Salman Afzaal, 46; his 44-year-old wife, Madiha; their 15-year-old daughter, Yumna; and the children’s 74-year-old grandmother. A nine-year-old boy, Fayez, survived the attack and remains in hospital recovering from serious injuries.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Trudeau called the incident a terrorist attack.

The victims’ lives “were taken in a brutal, cowardly and brazen act of violence,” he said. “This killing was no accident. This was a terrorist attack, motivated by hatred, in the heart of one of our communities.”

Nathaniel Veltman, 20, has been arrested and charged with murder in the attack. Police have said the family members were targeted because of their Muslim faith.

Jewish advocacy groups have condemned the attack and offered condolences.

While there was speculation on social media that the alleged assailant was Jewish, B’nai Brith Canada debunked that rumour. “Contrary to incendiary speculation and dangerous misinformation spreading online, the suspect in the attack is not Jewish. B’nai Brith Canada is concerned that disinformation of this type could fuel attacks against innocent Canadian Jews, and it must be called out, ” the organization said in a news release.

.B’nai Brith Canada tweeted it was “horrified” to hear of the car ramming. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the friends and family of the victims, and the entire Muslim community. We must all stand strong against hate.”

Said the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs: “Our hearts are broken by the horrific attack on a Muslim family in London, Ontario… Canada is not Canada without its vibrant Muslim community. We join Jewish Canadians across the country in solidarity with our Muslim neighbours to affirm: an attack on any of us is an attack on all of us. No Canadian should live in fear because of any aspect of their identity. There must be zero tolerance for Islamophobia, and we expect the perpetrator to face the full weight of the law. Our prayers remain with the victims, their families, and Muslim Canadians.”

Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center said it was “horrified” by news that the attack was targeted and the victims killed because of their Islamic faith.

“We stand with the Muslim community in mourning this tragic loss and calling for justice for this act of hate. Hate against one of us is hate against us all.”

Separately, FSWC president Michael Levitt said he stands with the Muslim community “against this hate, which has no place in our country. Hate against one of us is hate against us all. May the memory of the victims forever be a blessing.”

In a message posted to social media, JSpace Canada said “there are no words. Muslim communities in Canada are mourning yet another tragedy caused by Islamophobic violence. Our complete solidarity is with all impacted by this senseless attack.”

A statement of solidarity with the Muslim community was issued by five rabbis in Hamilton, Ont. It was also signed by Gustavo Rymberg, CEO of the Hamilton Jewish Federation.

At the same time, the Ontario region of the Rabbinical Assembly, the association for Conservative rabbis, condemned the “atrocious attack on our Muslim brothers and sisters,” and affirmed its commitment to work with leaders “of all faiths so that no Canadian will practice their religion in fear of intimidation or violence.”