'These acts are becoming much more common,' Simcoe County Muslim community mourns
ORO-MEDONTE, ONT. -- Five days after a Muslim family in London, Ont. was struck and killed by a pickup truck because of their faith, Muslims in Oro-Medonte came together to grieve and pray.
Under newly loosened COVID-19 restrictions, mosques in Barrie and Oro-Medonte were able to welcome people back inside for the first time in months.
After Friday's prayer, the Maryam Mosque in Oro-Medonte welcomed members of the OPP, local and federal politicians who wished to share condolences and offer support.
"Our hearts are heavy with sorrow and pain," Mosque President Waseem Choudhry told the group. "These acts are becoming much more common."
When Imam Sagher Mahmood Bajwa learned of Sunday's attack, his thoughts went to the survivor, nine-year-old Fayez Afzaal, and of his own loved ones.
"The thing that hurts me the most is I take that same walk every evening. With my mom, with my dad, with my niece."
As deep as this pain feels, it's familiar.
"These tragedies aren't new to us. Our Ahmadiyya Muslim community, we've been targets of hate crimes, even back in Pakistan in our own country," Bajwa says. "It's just reiterating our basic teachings. And that is to respond with patience, and respond with prayers."
The mosque's vice president says the outpouring of love from the broader community is helping them to heal.
But the condolences only go so far.
"These words are helpful, but we need action. We need to really get to the deep-rooted issues of what's causing this hatred," says Mahmood Sheikh.
With tears in his eyes, Doug Shipley, MP for Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte, committed to doing whatever he can to stop anti-Muslim hate.
"Talking is done. It's time for action. And we need to listen to what they're looking for, how we can support them and move forward," Shipley says.
Sheikh thinks politicians should be looking at putting resources toward education, identifying and eradicating sources of misinformation and hatred.
He and Bajwa both see personal education and learning about your neighbour as part of the solution.
"Reach out, get to learn a little bit more, and you'll come to learn that we're not very different from each other," Sheikh says.
Bajwa concedes some people won't be motivated to learn, to grow, to love. He says for those people, all he can do is pray.