Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Tuesday expressed concern over the “rising trend of Islamophobic attacks in the Western world” and called on the global community to “pay attention and arrest the trend immediately”.
He made the comments while speaking about the killing of four members of a Pakistan-origin family in Canada late on Sunday evening in what the Canadian police termed as a “premeditated” attack.
A 20-year-old suspect had rammed a pickup truck into the family of five, who were reportedly out on their daily walk, killing four of them and injuring the fifth — a nine-year-old boy.
“There is evidence that this was a planned, premeditated act, motivated by hate. It is believed that these victims were targeted because they were Muslim,” Detective Superintendent Paul Waight told a news conference.
The names of the victims were not released, but they include a 74-year-old woman, a 46-year-old man, a 44-year-old woman and a 15-year-old girl — together representing three generations of the same family, according to the city’s Mayor Ed Holder.
Speaking on the floor of the National Assembly on Tuesday, Qureshi said he had contacted Pakistan’s consul-general in Ontario as well as the country’s high commissioner in Canada for information, adding that details of the attack made his “heart shake and eyes wet”.
“We are seeing the trend (of Islamophobic attacks) for some time [and] they are on the rise in the Western world. For the last two years, we are bringing global attention to this — that this is a trend, not individual acts.”
He said Western governments may want to “colour it as [the act of a] crazed man or an individual act but if we see the trajectory, this is a rising trend and it is concerning”.
Qureshi said he was concerned the rising trend had “started to divide societies”. The foreign minister said around 65 million Muslims resided in Europe, two million in Canada and six million or more in the United States because of which the “Western world will have to pay attention to this.”
“This rising trend of Islamophobia will have to be arrested immediately. If [Western countries] do not do this, the situation can worsen, society can be divided, hate speech, incitement, conflict can be created. Emotions arise and tragedies happen,” he warned.
He said Prime Minister Imran Khan had also talked about Islamophobia in the past, stressing that the Muslim ummah should be “united and decide on a plan of action”.
“If only Pakistan raises its voice, it will not be that effective. If we all raise our voices, that will be effective,” Qureshi emphasised, adding that he had submitted a resolution on the instructions of PM Imran during the 47th session of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers in Niamey, asking the body to “take up the problem with one voice”.
The resolution was not only adopted unanimously but Muslim countries also directed their permanent representatives to the United Nations in New York to take up the matter and build the international community’s consensus on the issue, he shared. Pakistan’s Ambassador to the UN Munir Akram was also playing his role, he added.
Qureshi said that according to his conversation with Pakistan’s consul general in Ontario, there was a 12-hour gap between the incident and when the family was informed. “Our consul general was the first person to talk to the family and listen to them,” he disclosed.
“I believe that this is not only a hate crime and there is no doubt that four counts of murder are applicable [to the suspect] but we cannot rule out terrorism,” he said.
Giving details about the family, he said they hailed from Lahore and had moved to Canada 10 years ago. The father was a physiotherapist and the family had spent ordinary lives, living in peace and nobody had any complaints with them, he added.
“Only faith-related hate can be seen in the incident that happened to them. The [family’s] only sin was that they were from a society and a religion that repeats [the kalima].”
Qureshi said the family was shocked and grieving and was hesitant to talk to the media right now, however, the deceased man’s brother who lived in Australia had been contacted and he was flying to Canada.
He said that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had tweeted about the incident and “adopted a clear stance which is encouraging”.
In his tweet, Trudeau had said he was “horrified” by the attack.
“To the loved ones of those who were terrorised by yesterday’s act of hatred, we are here for you,” he said, singling out the nine-year-old boy in hospital.
“To the Muslim community in London and to Muslims across the country, know that we stand with you. Islamophobia has no place in any of our communities. This hate is insidious and despicable — and it must stop,” he added.
He said he had shared the “Pakistani nation’s emotions and concerns” with Canadian High Commissioner to Pakistan Wendy Gilmour. The foreign minister recalled New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s response to the 2019 shootings at two mosques in Christchurch and said the Canadian premier who was “very enlightened and progressive” should also “step up and rise to the occasion”.
Qureshi suggested Trudeau should meet the family of those killed, saying it would reassure them. He also requested the Pakistani community in Canada to play their role and “express solidarity with the family and console them”.
He shared that a call had been arranged between him and Canada’s foreign minister for 6pm tomorrow in which he would “present the emotions of this parliament and the nation” to him.
He also shared that the federal government had offered help to the family to bring back the bodies to Pakistan but they said they “do not want it”.
“We are in contact with the Canadian government and we are taking our policy on Islamophobia forward,” he added.
Qureshi said international human rights organisations should discuss the attack because “this is a human rights incident”. He called upon the international media to “not ignore this incident either” so the global community could “adopt a plan of action based on a holistic view against this trend”.