Thousands protest killing of Muslim family in Canada

By Steve Penner
June 28, 2021
“We stand with our Muslim neighbors,” Anne Beattie-Stokes said at June 11 London, Ontario, protest against the killing of Afzaal family members, originally from Pakistan. Killer wearing swastika drove into them June 6.
Reuters/Carlos Osorio“We stand with our Muslim neighbors,” Anne Beattie-Stokes said at June 11 London, Ontario, protest against the killing of Afzaal family members, originally from Pakistan. Killer wearing swastika drove into them June 6.

MONTREAL — Less than a week after the killing of four members of Salman and Madiha Afzaal’s family in London, Ontario, June 6, thousands of people in that city of some 400,000 joined actions to show their opposition to violent attacks against Muslims.

Five members of the family, originally from Pakistan, were out for a walk. As they waited to cross an intersection a man drove a pickup truck onto the curb and hit them, killing four — husband and wife Salman and Madiha; their 15-year-old daughter, Yumna Salman; and Mr. Afzaal’s mother, Talat Afzaal. Fayez, the couple’s 9-year-old son, survived his injuries and is being cared for by family members.

Nathaniel Veltman, 20, is charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one of attempted murder. Cops say Veltman’s attack was premeditated and targeted the Afzaal’s because they were Muslim. Minutes after hitting the family, Veltman stopped nearby and told a taxi driver to call the police because he had killed somebody. The driver did so and told other drivers that Veltman had a swastika on his chest and the back of his shirt, reported CTV News.

“London multifaith march to end racism and Islamophobia” read a banner at the June 11 march from the spot where the killings took place to the London Muslim Mosque.

“We stand with our Muslim neighbors,” Anne Beattie-Stokes, a member of White Oaks United Church, told the London Free Press  at the action. People attended the protest “from every single community in London,” Abdullah Al Jarad, a 19-year-old college student, told Yahoo News.

The following day thousands again turned out for the public part of the family’s funeral. Family and friends from abroad, including from Pakistan, were among the mourners.

Canada’s capitalist rulers, including Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Douglas Ford, called Veltman’s action a terrorist attack. On June 14 Veltman was charged with additional crimes under the Anti-Terrorist Act.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland applauded the new charges. “It is important for us to identify the terrible threat that white supremacism poses to Canada,” she said.

“Canada is class-divided between the ruling rich and the vast majority who are working people,” said Beverly Bernardo, Communist League candidate for mayor of Montreal, in a June 9 statement. The government “aims to mask this reality and tar working people as anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and racist who need to be brought to order by the capitalist state.”

Bosses seek to divide workers

Bernardo condemned the killings and pointed to the solidarity of those who had joined protests, as thousands also did in 2017 following a gunman’s killing of six people at a Quebec mosque.

“In their drive for profits, the rulers seek to deepen divisions among working people along religious, cultural, language or racial lines, to weaken our capacity to unite and fight back,” Bernardo said.

The CL candidate pointed out that Quebec’s discriminatory Law 21 targets “Muslim women, Jews and all other state employees wearing religious symbols.” Bernardo urged working people to fight for its repeal as well as the government’s anti-terrorism and anti-hate laws, which “will inevitably be used to close political space for working people, our unions, and political organizations.” Under the pretext of fighting terrorism, these laws make it easier for cops to spy on and frame up working people.

At a June 9 action in downtown Montreal, called to protest the killings of the Afzaal family, speakers also condemned recent attacks against Asians and Jews.

In the U.S., Germany and the U.K., Jew-hating attacks rose during the recent 4,000-rockets assault on citizens in Israel by Hamas, the reactionary ruling party in Gaza, and the military response by the Israeli government. Thugs waving Palestinian flags threw fireworks at bystanders in New York’s diamond district where some stores are Jewish-owned.