Indian Muslim community ensures foreign student gets proper funeral Roommates, strangers attend mosque service for 22-year-old cyclist killed by snowplow
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Javed Musharraf was warned to be careful riding his bicycle in the winter, but the international student from India had two jobs and few other options.
The 22-year-old, who came to Winnipeg from the city of Hyderabad about two years ago, was struck and killed by a city-contracted front-end loader plowing snow in St. Boniface last Thursday while riding home to Balmoral Street and Cumberland Avenue on an electrically assisted bike.
“He had to drive a bike to get to work,” said one of his three roommates, Mohsin Ahmed, 32.
Ahmed said Musharraf told him riding the bus to work was difficult, and the devoutly Muslim young man did not have a Manitoba driver’s licence. Still, he got to his jobs at Canadian Tire and FedEx, where he worked shifts early in the day and late into the night.
“He was a very good person…. He was very hardworking, and very truthful,” said Ahmed.
“We’re going through a tough time… he was like my younger brother… I personally feel very sad. It’s not acceptable (what happened.) He’s only 22.”
Musharraf moved to Winnipeg to study automotive technology at Red River College Polytechnic, and had a bright future in his chosen field, having built the electric bike he was riding that night himself.
Two off-duty Winnipeg police officers came upon the collision at about 10:20 p.m. last Thursday near Mission and Plinguet streets. They gave Musharraf, who was badly injured, first aid while two Winnipeg Transit employees stopped to re-route traffic.
Musharraf was pronounced dead shortly after emergency personnel arrived. The driver of the front-end loader stayed at the scene, police said.
Musharraf’s roommates did not know, at first, why he hadn’t come home.
“We didn’t hear (from him) for two days. He had passed a course, so we thought he might be celebrating with his friends,” said Shakir Shaikh, 22.
“Normally he would go to work early and come back late at night, and we were so busy…. On the second day, we called him.”
Ahmed, who lived with Musharraf for about seven months, said he did not have many friends in Winnipeg, “because most of the time he worked hard and didn’t talk a lot.”
But the young man had no issues with anyone, he said. The victim had no family in Winnipeg, and just an uncle and cousins in Calgary, while the rest of his loved ones are in India.
The Community of Indian Muslims in Manitoba sprung into action after learning of the man’s death, said Irfanulla Rahamathulla, the organization’s vice-president.
“We contacted the police and contacted the uncle (in Calgary), and we tried to arrange the funeral,” said Rahamathulla.
“They were supposed to come, his family members, but flights got cancelled one after the other from Calgary, due to the snowstorm in Vancouver.”
Rahamathulla said the community had arranged accommodations, food and transportation for the seven family members who planned to travel here to attend Musharraf’s funeral Wednesday, but because of the cancelled flights and unsafe winter driving conditions from Alberta, only Musharraf’s roommates and some members of the wider Winnipeg Muslim community were able to be at the service.
Most of the mourners at the Winnipeg Grand Mosque on Waverley Street Wednesday afternoon did not know the young man whose funeral they were attending.
“As a brother in Islam, we feel connected with everyone, to show compassion,” said Rahamathulla.
Community members such as Atif Ijaz, 53, did not know the young student.
“It’s very unfortunate, especially for the family, who are so far away and they cannot reach his funeral — it’s really heartbreaking,” said Ijaz, who is originally from Pakistan.
“He was a student, and like so many other students, he was here to get educated, to get into the Canadian education system, and then enter professional life… It’s very unfortunate.”
Bashshar Habibullah, 32, did not know Musharraf, either.
“We have very few members of the Indian Muslim community — like 150 (people),” he said. “We are trying to help as much as we can… the worst part is none of his family can see him.”
In the mosque, Imam Yacine Mamadou led about 100 people in prayer over Musharraf’s simple wooden casket, telling the mourners to take life seriously and to do good deeds.
As the mourners wheeled Musharraf’s casket from the mosque to a waiting hearse that would take him to a Transcona cemetery, community members video-called his family so they could witness the procession.
Winnipeg Police Service spokeswoman Const. Dani McKinnon said Wednesday the investigation into the collision is ongoing. No criminal or Highway Traffic Act charges have been laid.
“We have confirmed that an independent contractor for the (city) owns the front-end loader,” McKinnon said.
Public works department spokeswoman Julie Dooley would not comment specifically on the incident, directing questions to police, but said in general, the city investigates all incidents on job sites, working closely with both police and provincial Workplace Safety and Health officials.
“In terms of training, both city employees and hired equipment operators are required to undergo training that covers safety, policies and service standards and other topics,” she said.
“City of Winnipeg operators receive extensive and ongoing safety training. Hired hourly operators are contractually obligated to provide workers who are trained and qualified for their respective equipment.”
Erik Pindera reports for the city desk, with a particular focus on crime and justice.
Updated on Wednesday, December 21, 2022 10:42 PM CST: Corrects name of roommate in cutline