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Youth-led video honours Afzaal family

A local youth-led organization, created to bring education and awareness to Islamophobia, has put out a powerful video to honour their friend Yumnah, who was killed when her family was run down by a truck in what police have called a hate-motivated attack.

Maryam Al-Sabawi is one of the founders of the Youth Coalition Combating Islamophobia (YCCI). On the organization website, after the June 6, 2021 attack that killed four members of the Afaaal family, her feelings of helplessness and fear of such attacks continued to grow.

That led her to create a group, “for all those who felt like me,” reads the group’s website.

Now, just days before the one year anniversary of the attack, YCCI has released a video, To Yumnah With Love.

“I’ve lost an aunt, an uncle, a cousin, a friend, they were my only family in London, Ont....I saw Yumnah like the little sister I never had...she had so much potential and a lifetime ahead of her to change the world, the same that world that let her down in the end,” said Ayesha Islam in the video.

The 10-minute piece features friends and family of Yumna and the Afzaal family talking about their personal experiences with Islamophobia as well as the fear and challenges they face on a regular basis.

“If you had asked me last year what put London, Ont. on the worldwide stage, I might have said our university, our health care system or even our gardens. I never would have imagined that our city would be talked about in Beijing and Washington because of hate, racism and terror that came to us on June 6 [2021],” said Safiya Lawendy in the video.

Selma Tobah, an executive with YCCI said that the video was meant to be emotional, but also educational.

"The purpose of the video was to explain Islamophobia in all its forms; that's it's interperonal, it's systemic, it's not just these large violent events,” Tobah said.

"One of the things that I heard the most in the weeks following the attack, whether at work or at school, was the sentence, 'I don't understand how this happened.' And, while I understand the intention behind that statement, it's also really frustrating to hear because, as Muslims, we experience Islamophobia every single day, and 42 per cent of Canadians believe we deserve,” said YCCI Executive Munya Haddara in the video.

The video was produced in part with YSK Media, who was fully committed to taking on the project.

"We wanted to produce something that was strong, something that would make an impact,” said Wasef Yasin of YSK Media.

For Rua Yasin of YSK Media, it was — and still is — an emotional endeavour.

"I promise you, every time I teared up. I had goosebumps over and over again. I memorized the entire thing, but I would still tear up,” Yasin said.

As the organization continues to grow, it pledges to plan a number of long-term projects and initiatives for youth to educate and empower youth in the fight against Islamophobia and hopes the video will be a catalyst for change.

— With files from CTV News London’s Gerry Dewan Top Stories

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