Afzaal family: GoFundMe for Nathaniel Veltman's 'hate crime' victims raises over $556K

Four members of the Afzaal family died after they were attacked by a 20-year-old man in a pickup truck who hit them and drove his vehicle over them


                            Afzaal family: GoFundMe for Nathaniel Veltman's 'hate crime' victims raises over $556K
Members of the Afzaal family targeted by Nathaniel Veltman in Ontario and (Twitter/Anna Ahronheim) floral tributes to the slain Muslim family (Justin Trudeau/Twitter)

In a horrific act of hate crime, 20-year-old Nathaniel Veltman took the lives of four members - including three generations of the Afzaal family in London, Ontario. The family was out on their daily evening walk on Sunday, June 6, when Veltman killed them by hitting them with his pickup truck and driving all over them at around 8:40 pm. All the family members, except 9-year-old Fayez, died in the act. The lchild, who's stable now, is still in the hospital, while his attacker Veltman has been arrested and charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder.

This attack is said to be the worst one against Muslims in Canada since a man gunned down six members of a Quebec City mosque in 2017. The suspect, Veltman, is said to have jumped the curb in his vehicle and hit the five members of the Afzaal family who were out for their walk. The brutal cold-blooded nature of the hate led to close friends of the family starting a GoFundMe page for the remaining members. The page was launched by Sana Yasir who knew the Afzals and was friends with them for 12 years. 

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Initially set up just a day ago on June 7, with an original goal of $500k, the GoFundMe for the Afzal family was able to fundraise almost C$120,000 ($99,000) in just one hour. With over 10,000 people donating for the cause, the fundraiser has collected a sum total of $556,495 as of June 9. It describes in detail what happened to the Afzaals and how dearly adored they were within their community. Yasir, who also lived near where the murders happened, titled the fundraiser 'Salman Family Sadaqa Jariya Fund'. The page also lists one Aisha Afzaal who seems to be 'supporting' the process while Yasir is listed to be 'organizing' the donations made in honor of the family. 

The London community is heartbroken in the wake of this devastating loss and act of hate," the fundraiser shares in its lengthy description, further adding: "Mr. Salman Afzaal (46) was a physiotherapist and beloved member of the London community - whether at his local cricket matches or at the Masjid, the first thing to greet you would be his gentle and welcoming smile. His wife, Mrs. Madiha Salman (44) was in the process of working towards finishing her exams to obtain her PhD at Western University in Civil engineering; she was a brilliant scholar and a caring mother and friend. Yumna Salman (15), their daughter, a loving friend to many, was finishing up her grade 9 year at Oakridge Secondary School. Accompanying the family, was Yumna and Fayez’s grandmother (74), mother of Mr. Afzaal, who was a pillar of their family that cherished their daily walks. The family is survived by Fayez Salman (9) who is currently in the hospital and being supported by his extended family."
 
The GoFundMe has urged donors saying: "We understand that there is little we can do to ease the grief and trauma that Fayez and his extended family are going through, but we started this gofundme campaign to raise money so that the family can donate on behalf of the deceased. The family has indicated that they do not need financial assistance at the time however, if you would like to help and donate the money will be used as Sadaqa-Jariya on behalf of the deceased."

They further explained: "Sadaqa jariya is an important concept within Islam - it is a gift that not only benefits others in this life but also benefits us and our loved ones in the next. (Hadith of the Prophet ﷺ, narrated by Muslim) “When a person dies, all their deeds end except three: a continuing charity, beneficial knowledge and a child who prays for them.”

The fundraiser also condemns the hate crime that took the innocent lives of four members of the Afzaal family, noting: "The horrific nature of the crimes perpetrated against the Salman family serve as a reminder of the long shadow of Islamophobia that is cast on the lives of peaceful Muslim families across the world. This gofundme campaign is one of many ways the Pakistani community in London can support each other in the face of the hatred our community has undeservedly received in this instance and countless others. Ya Allah have mercy on this family and give sabr to Fayez and those who are affected by this horrible tragedy."

 Yasir, who started the fundraiser, also told Reuters that the family had moved from Pakistan to Canada in 2007. The women in the family were clad in traditional South Asian attire known as salwar kameez and had their heads covered with hijabs, Yasir told the publication, noting: "They were visible,” Yasir said. “It could have been me.”

"There is evidence that this was a planned, premeditated act, motivated by hate," Detective Superintendent Paul Waight of the London police department told reporters. 
"We believe the victims were targeted because of their Islamic faith," Waight said.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Twitter that he was "horrified" by the news, adding that "Islamophobia has no place in any of our communities. This hate is insidious and despicable - and it must stop."