Nearly a year has passed since the attack on a mosque in Quebec city that left six men dead, and nineteen wounded. On Sunday, January 29, 2017, just as evening prayers were ending, a gunman entered the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City, and opened fire.
Quebeckers and Canadians were horrified, and many events were organized to express solidarity with the Muslim community. The Saturday following the attack, Rev. David helped organize a vigil here in Verdun which was attended by local politicians as well as representatives of various cultural and religious communities. Over 100 people gathered in the Parc des souvenirs in front of the borough hall, and afterward all were invited across the street into the mosque (Islamic Centre of Verdun) for tea and cookies. It was an inspiring moment of neighbours overcoming their differences and recognizing their shared humanity. The front door of the mosque the day after the shooting was also a testament to this desire to reach out and console our neighbours. It had been spontaneously decorated with flowers, candles and personal notes expressing love and solidarity.
The six men who died were all fathers, with a total of 17 children among them. A few of those children were already adults, but most were toddlers and preschoolers. The religious community has been helping the widows and orphans as best they can, even while the rest of Quebec society seems to have almost forgotten the mass shooting, which was the worst in the province since the Polytechnique in 1989.
As long as we insist on labeling this act of violence an “isolated incident” rather than an extreme manifestation of an all-too-present prejudice, we do a disservice to all Quebeckers. An imam who spoke at one of the funerals following the attack said that Alexandre Bissonette, the shooter, was also a victim, because his mind has been poisoned by the misinformation so readily disseminated by talk radio and the internet.
Our politicians have refused to name January 29th a National Day of Action Against Islamophobia. They say on the anniversary this Monday we should focus on the men who died and were wounded. Of course we should, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t also look into our own hearts and try to change. Like the Verduners who came out for the vigil last year, we can counter prejudice, which is really just ignorance, by getting to know our neighbours, by realizing that headgear is just headgear, skintone is literally skin-deep; that all humans bleed, that all families mourn.
We remember: Ibrahima Barry (aged 39), Mamadou Tanou Barry (aged 42), Khaled Belkacemi (aged 60), Aboubaker Thabti (aged 44), Abdelkrim Hassane (aged 41) and Azzedine Soufiane (aged 57). May they rest in peace.