Austin relatives of Muslims killed in reported hate crime in Canada mourn tragic loss

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — “My mom just came in my room, and she was hysterical,” said Amenah Nomani.

Amenah is a relative to a Muslim family of five that was the target of a reported hate crime in Canada this week. A driver plowed a pickup truck into a family, killing four of them and seriously injuring the fifth.

The suspect, Nathaniel Veltman, 20, of London, was arrested in the parking lot of a nearby mall after the incident, according to the Associated Press. He faces four counts of first-degree murder.

While Canada mourns and denounces the attack, Muslims here in the U.S. are sending their thoughts and prayers and offering help. But this hits even closer to home here in Austin, where the family’s extended relatives live.

The Nomani family works to calm their nerves. To say they’re stunned doesn’t even do justice to what they’re feeling. 

The Nomani family works to calm their nerves. To say they're stunned doesn't even do justice to what they're feeling. (KXAN Photo/Jala Washington)
The Nomani family works to calm their nerves. To say they’re stunned doesn’t even do justice to what they’re feeling. (KXAN Photo/Jala Washington)

“She [my wife] said, ‘hey, they got killed.’ I said, ‘what do you mean they got killed?’ And she was like, ‘someone ran them over with their car,'” Ahmed Nomani, Amenah’s brother, said.

Ahmed and Amenah lost their aunt, her husband, mother-in-law and daughter — attacked in Ontario.

“You just go into shock,” Amenah said.

Police there believe they were targeted for being Muslim. 

“It’s definitely been a whirlwind of emotion,” Ahmed said. “A lot of crying, a lot of questioning ‘why.'”

They’re thinking of how best to support their surviving loved ones, especially with COVID-19 restrictions in place.

“Right now Canada is still under strict quarantine, so how can we be there for our family, when we can’t be there physically?” Ahmed asked.

So, at sunset on Friday, there will be a vigil at a north Austin mosque to pray, mourn and honor the three generations lost. 

“As a community, I’ve noticed that it’s not just us that’s affected. Family or not — it’s just a huge hit to the whole Muslim community,” Amenah said.

The community support has also turned into thousands of dollars raised for their now orphan cousin, who is just nine years old, the lone survivor of the attack. There’s a fundraiser, where those supporting the family have donated to.

Even amid the indescribable pain, they’re calling for unity.

“They want us to be scared, they want us to fade away,” Ahmed said. “We’re not going to do that.” 

The vigil Friday starts at 8:40 p.m. and is hosted by Austin’s chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR).

“Our community is no stranger to Islamophobic attacks. We hope this vigil will offer some solace not only to our community in the wake of this tragedy but also to the extended members of the Afzaal family that live in Austin,” CAIR manager of Government Affairs, William White, said.  

The family tells us funeral services for the victims will be on Saturday.

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