Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna Afzaal, and Salman’s mother Talat Afzaal were killed after the driver of a black van pulled up the sidewalk and pulled them over. struck while walking down a sidewalk in London, Ont., on June 6. Police said the driver, a 20-year-old man who was charged with murder, did not know the family but targeted them because of their faith.
“Last Sunday evening, four fountains of sweetness were washed away,” said an uncle of Madiha Salman, standing next to four coffins draped in Canadian flags outside the Islamic Center in southwestern Ontario. “Three generations taken too early. “
Salman Afzaal and Madiha Salman’s 9-year-old son was also injured in the attack but survived.
“It wasn’t an easy trip for them, but they did it,” Halema Khan told CBC.
They worked hard and quickly immersed themselves in the local Muslim community, as well as the wider Canadian community.
“Their family had the biggest hearts – whenever you needed to do something or the community called for them, and they will be available,” Omar Khamissa, spokesperson for the National Council of Canadian Muslims, told BuzzFeed News .
In 2009, Madiha Salman began her Masters in Engineering Science at Western University. Her program supervisor, Jason Gerhard, described her as “a bubbly, generous and loving person who cherished education, the advancement of women, equality and research,” in a statement.
The university said Salman was passionate about nature and focused on contributing to research “to reverse human impact on natural resources.” She was a teaching assistant for over six years and was preparing for her doctorate. in civil engineering.
Jeff Renaud, CEO of Ritz Lutheran Villa, one of the houses where Afzaal worked, told CBC “you could see he was kind and caring, loving and deeply, deeply committed” to the residents just by watching him with them. .
He loved cricket and was known to greet people with “his sweet and welcoming smile,” Sana Yasir, a neighbor of the family, wrote on a GoFundMe page.
Imtiaz Khan, who has known the family for over a decade, told a Global News Toronto reporter that Afzaal “would be the one to help so many people in the community.” grocery shopping for new immigrants and get them to the driving tests.
The couple’s daughter, Yumna, was in ninth grade at Oakridge High School. She previously attended London Islamic School, where she painted a space-themed mural on a wall in one of the buildings, principal Asad Choudhary told the BBC.
His grandmother Talat Afzaal has been described in GoFundMe as “a pillar” of the family who “cherished her daily walks”.
“They are a very genuine, very honest, very friendly, very social family,” Khan told Global News Toronto.
Their murders sparked outrage across Canada, and community and political leaders, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, called the attack terrorism. Police said the attack was planned, premeditated and motivated by hate, but no terrorism charges have yet been filed.
Thousands of people attended a family vigil in London on Tuesday to express solidarity with the Muslim community and speak out against hatred. Crowds also gathered at other vigils in cities across the country.
Addressing the hundreds of people who had gathered for the service, Madiha Salman’s uncle expressed his gratitude for the outpouring of support from Canadians and people around the world, saying that over the past week, he and other parents realized “that our extended family was much bigger than we could have imagined. “
The messages of comfort offered by so many “confirmed the potential for absolute innate goodness within humanity, regardless of color and creed,” he said.
He added that many have asked what they can do to help, which he called on people to “be examples of love and compassion”.
“I ask you to take the time to learn from someone who is not like you. I ask you to inspire others with your affection, ”he said. “Be humble, be real, be persistent, be creative. Be brave. “
BuzzFeed News reporter Clarissa Jan-Lim contributed to this report.