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4 In Muslim Family Killed After Targeted By Driver Motivated By Hate, Police Say

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is attending a vigil this evening in London, Ontario, for four members of a Muslim family killed over the weekend. Police have charged a 20-year-old man in what they say was a premeditated hit-and-run. In remarks to parliament today, Trudeau called it a brutal and cowardly act of violence.

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JUSTIN TRUDEAU: This was a terrorist attack motivated by hatred in the heart of one of our communities.

KELLY: Reporter Emma Jacobs says the attack has shaken Muslims in Canada.

EMMA JACOBS, BYLINE: The victims have been identified by their family as Madiha Salman, her husband Salman Afzaal, Afzaal's 74-year-old mother and the couple's 15-year-old daughter, Yumna.

AHMED HEGAZY: Salman's family was a beautiful family. They - oh, they were very kind.

JACOBS: Ahmed Hegazy says he was very shaken by the death of the friend and neighbor he met through their local mosque 14 years ago, around the time the family moved to Canada from Pakistan. They were out for a walk Sunday night when a driver is accused of deliberately running his pickup truck onto the curb. A 9-year-old, Fayez, survived the attack but was hospitalized with serious injuries.

HEGAZY: What happened goes very deep for the entire community. I mean, will the kids be safe? Will parents feel that their kids are safe, walking down the street or playing in the neighborhood?

JACOBS: The executive director of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, Nuzhat Jafri, also lived in London, which she describes as home to well-established Muslim communities and says she's hearing from friends and family there.

NUZHAT JAFRI: This is all very real. This is like, oh, my goodness, it could happen to any of us.

JACOBS: She notes the attack follows other Islamophobic violence in Canada, including a shooting at a Quebec mosque in 2017. She says the government must do more to address hate speech and white nationalist extremist groups.

JAFRI: Let's pray that this is the last murder of its kind, but we have to be vigilant, and we have to continue to recognize Canada as a place where hate does live and do something about it.

JACOBS: Hegazy, the family's neighbor, says he is struggling to figure out when and what he will tell his oldest son, who is 11.

HEGAZY: It'll be a difficult conversation, but I think what's important to say in that conversation is that don't be ashamed or don't be shy of who you are and, you know, you belong to this country just as everybody else does.

JACOBS: Still, he says of the attack, quote, "this is not a lone incident. Something has to change."

For NPR News, I'm Emma Jacobs in Montreal.

(SOUNDBITE OF KEANE SONG, "ATLANTIC") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.