Going to Makkah next month for this first time since the pandemic began, imam Munir El-Kassem will make sure to keep the Afzaal family killed in the truck hate attack in his heart and prayers.
“They’re in my heart. . . . They will be with me when I make the trip,” El-Kassem, imam at the Islamic Center of Southwest Ontario, told London Free Press.
The imam was referring to the Afzaal family killed in June’s hate crime in London, Ontario.
Salman Afzaal, 46, his 44-year-old wife, Madiha Salman, their 15-year-old daughter, Yumna, and her 74-year-old grandmother, Talat Afzaal, were killed while out for an evening walk.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the killings a “terrorist attack”. He vowed to clamp down on far-right groups and online hate.
“The trauma that we (the community) were subjected to is enough to leave an impact,” imam El-Kassem said.
“That impact will be long-lasting. . . . It (the trip) puts everything in perspective. There, you feel so connected to the source.”
Imam El-Kassem will lead a group of approximately 50 Muslims on a two-week Umrah trip to Saudi Arabia. This umrah trip will be the first for El-Kassem since 2019.
While it’s difficult to predict pandemic-related travel restrictions, El-Kassem is cautiously optimistic the group will be able to make the pilgrimage next month.
“There may be some changes in the plans, because governments all over the world are changing their rules as the dynamics of the pandemic change,” he said.
“But so far, everything is a-go.”
Umrah is called the minor or lesser pilgrimage because unlike Hajj it’s not compulsory. Although they share common rites, Umrah can be performed in a few hours and involves fewer rituals.
Saudi Arabia began accepting vaccinated foreigners wanting to make the Umrah pilgrimage in August.