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A Windsor Islamic Association leader said Tuesday that given the proximity to London and similarities of Muslim population base, members of their local community are reeling in “shock and sadness” regarding the deadly hate incident by a 20-year-old driver that destroyed a Pakistani-Muslim family in London.

“Usually people (who) young are knowledge-driven to learn the other side of the coin,” said Osama Warsi, media director for the Windsor Islamic Association. “He may have been involved with online rhetoric. We just don’t understand what was driving him to take the life of this family. That has surprised all of us.

“All of us are praying for the family. They are in our thoughts and have our condolences.”

Muslims in Windsor appreciate how local community leaders — whether politically or in other sectors — have done what they can to “make sure any kind of (hate) rhetoric” towards their faith or any other “isn’t carried forward and is not presented as the norm,” Warsi said.


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“(But) there is definitely people in Windsor who don’t see eye-to-eye” with Muslims, he said. “I don’t think there is a large scale of anti-Islamic people in Windsor, but there is misinformation out there that can lead people to become twisted and hate-filled.”

That is why for years, the Windsor Mosque has often held open house events to welcome the community to come inside and learn more about the faith — or more importantly to meet the people, Warsi said.

This is humanizing for anyone who has a family

“We encourage anyone that instead of listening to any misinformation to instead come learn about Islam,” Warsi said. “Learn about how Muslims spend their days and raise their families in this community.

“Most people (locally) understand we are always looking to help better the community. (But) we want to work together with those who don’t understand the religion, to learn the other side of the coin. To help them understand we are loving Canadians.”


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Jana Almajali and her friends were busy making ribbons to commemorate at the memorial service at the London Mosque in London, Ont.
Jana Almajali and her friends were busy making ribbons to commemorate at the memorial service at the London Mosque in London, Ont. Photo by Mike Hensen/The London Free Press /Windsor Star

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens described his emotions as “outraged and deeply saddened” by what occurred in London.

“You have a nine-year old fighting for his life who now is without parents,” he said. “This is humanizing for anyone who has a family. This was a family that just went out for a walk. No one expects someone to drive up and execute people that way.”

The mayor, who is also chairman of the police services board, says the city does what it can in terms of anti-racism measures, noting city council recently allocated $200,000 in its budget to help fund community groups or programs addressing the issue.

“At the end of the day, it’s about respect for diverse cultures,” Dilkens said. “We are one of the most diverse communities in Canada, but we need a better understanding of people of different religions or cultures and give respect for that.


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“We are working with others to try and help move the needle.”

He described the process as incremental change, especially focused on youth, “so as more folks grow up they become people who respect the differences.”

“As humans we have far more in common than our differences,” Dilkens said. “It’s about education and learning about different things you see in religions. Just because your neighbours might be Muslims or any culture, they are still great people trying to raise a great family who want their children to be successful.”

People attend a vigil organised after four members of a Muslim family were killed in what police describe as a hate-motivated attack at London Muslim Mosque in London, Ontario, Canada, June 8, 2021.
People attend a vigil organised after four members of a Muslim family were killed in what police describe as a hate-motivated attack at London Muslim Mosque in London, Ontario, Canada, June 8, 2021. Photo by CARLOS OSORIO /REUTERS

Windsor police would not participate in an interview Tuesday regarding the London incident or actions to monitor hate locally, but did release a statement indicating “an act of hate such as this and all acts of hate require condemnation. We need to work together to eliminate hate in our communities.”


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The local police services extended condolences to the family, friends and loved ones of the victims, plus sympathies to “all Muslim communities across the country who have also been affected by this hateful act.”

The department’s spokeswoman Const. Talya Natyshak further noted the “service is committed to continue working diligently with community members, organizations and partners to eliminate hate and build a unified community.”

Among actions she cited: Windsor police work with youth through its VIP program and community engagement programs to educate and prevent racism.

The police “also use a variety of investigative methods and work closely with our policing partners across Canada” to monitor hate whether online or elsewhere, she said.


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Local MP Brian Masse (NDP — Windsor-West), whose riding includes a large population of Muslim residents, said he was “horrified” upon learning of the incident in London.

“An accident is one thing, but this was a destructive act of terror on innocent people for being Muslim or racial,” he said. “It reminds us hate remains in our communities – not just for people in London, but across our country. It’s here.”

Masse, after representing the riding for nearly 20 years, believes everyone locally should recognize how the local Muslim community strives to be a positive force across Windsor and Essex County.

“This is a community that has worked hard to reach out and open their doors to welcome people in to their open houses at the mosque,” he said. “You appreciate more every single day their contribution to social and business sectors. How they are involved so often with fundraising or food banks to help people in Windsor-Essex with no conditions.”


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Masse believes actions are being taken to address hate locally and across the country, such as the federal government labelling groups such as the Proud Boys as terrorist organizations, but “there is much more we can do” that are “above more than symbolism.”

Addressing online hate, improving equity in society, providing greater opportunities for youth by opening doors and speaking out “with a strong voice” against any display by those “who make broad claims” against ethnic, faith or racial group are each ways more can be done, he said.

The tragic event in London has “heavily impacted” newcomers in Windsor, along with immigrants who have long been part of the community, said Hugo Vega, chairman of Windsor-Essex Local Immigration Partnership, a community planning body of 100 organizations that works toward a more welcoming environment for newcomers.


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“We are saddened and devastated for the family,” he said. “It’s tragic that this happened anywhere, but being in London and such close proximity to our community shows we are not by any means immune to this happening in Windsor.”

That’s why the group’s partnership works hard on many levels to promote a diverse community and “welcoming space” — in neighbourhoods, schools and the workplace, he said.

“We look for opportunities to create awareness and introductions between newcomers and Canadians,” Vega said. “What is needed are spaces to co-exist so people can better understand what newcomers bring with them into our communities.”

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