Already a bustling business in the city’s south end, the Flag Shop London has become an even busier place this week.
In the back room, a trio of volunteers work quickly to cut and staple thin strips of material together. But this rapid work isn’t to fill orders for flags. Instead, two colours of ribbon — purple and green — are being quickly combined to become symbols of support and hope that people in London are wearing on their chests in honour of the lost members of the Afzaal family.
“We are making them here and sending them out,” said Sana Yasir, who is helping co-ordiante the effort. “We have a lot of requests through social media platforms. People want to wear them at the march and other events.”
Four members of the family spanning three generations died Sunday when they were run down by a pickup truck during an evening walk. Police believe the attack was a deliberate, pre-meditated act which targeted the Afzaals simply because of their Muslim faith. The youngest member of the family, nine-year-old Fayez, is recovering in hospital.
The colour combination isn’t a random choice.
Purple was Yumna Afzaal’s favourite colour. She died Sunday along with her parents and grandmother. The 15-year-old was an honour-role student and talented artist whose work on a mural at the London Islamic School is now a cherished part of her legacy there.
Green has multiple associations with Islam, including on the flag of Pakistan. Sana says on these ribbons, it’s intended to be a symbolic push back against Islamophobia.
“I think it shows people that the London community is standing with Muslims,” said Yasir. “Even if they don’t express it verbally, if they wear the ribbons we know they’re supporting us.”
The idea for the purple and green ribbons didn’t start at the Flag Shop. Soon after the attack at the London Islamic School, a teacher there used the project as an outlet for the sorrow students were feeling over the loss of Yumna.
Demand for the ribbons has grown all week and Muhammad Zeeshan, co-owner of the Flag Shop, offered his workroom and cutting tables to help speed up production.
“We have done over 600 so far within a day,” he said. “I’ve received orders from Muslims and non-Muslims, which is great.”
On the day CBC News came to the shop, an order for 30 ribbons came in for employees at a nearby Tim Hortons.
“We want to show a positive image, that we are one family in London and that we want to help each other out through this,” said Zeeshan.
Anyone interesting in getting a ribbon can contact the London Islamic School (519) 679-9920.