Fifth anniversary of Quebec City mosque shooting remembered with in-person and online vigils

Community members emphasized inclusion, awareness of Islamophobia as paths forward

Participants holding signs remembering the victims Mamadou Tanou Barry, Ibrahima Barry, Ezzedine Soufiane, Khaled Belkacemi, Abdelkrim Hassane, and Boubaker Thabti respectively. Photo Courtesy Elisabeth Ndeffo

Hundreds gathered over the weekend commemorating the fifth anniversary of the Quebec city mosque shooting.The commemoration was the first following the federal government marking the day of the massacre as National Day against Islamophobia.

Muslim Awarenes Week organized an online event on Jan. 28, hosting 50 people. An event at Parc metro station with the National Council of Canadian Muslims, was held the next day where approximately 150 members of the community attended, lighting candles to mourn victims.

Six Muslim worshippers were killed and five were seriously injured in a gunshot attack after evening prayers in the Great Mosque in the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City on Jan. 29 2017.

As a result of the shooting, MAW was created by an alliance of more than 70 Canadian Muslim organizations shortly after. Held annually during the last week of January, it aims to highlight the contributions and achievements of Muslim Quebecers while raising awareness about Islamophobia. 

“A few of us came together and concluded that empathy and compassion alone will not deal with the core reasons of the problem that we are facing,” said Ehab Lotayef, former president and founding member of MAW. “We need to do something that will help build bridges, that will help break down stereotypes." 

The Minister Responsible for the Fight Against Racism in Quebec, Benoit Charette, participated in the commemoration via recorded video message. On behalf of himself and the government of Quebec, Charette expressed solidarity with the families of victims. He called for more openness between Quebecers to deconstruct judgments and preconceived ideas. 

“I invite all Quebecers to grab this moment to establish a lasting and constructive dialogue between the various communities,” said Charette.

Participants initially gathered virtually to commemorate five years since the attack in Quebec City. Photo Courtesy Amany Mohanna

Participant Sumaiyah Saleek, remembered how she was in a state of shock for more than a year after this tragedy. She explained she used to call her father after every single daily prayer at the mosque to make sure he was safe.

The attack made her think how close her family was to the tragedy. “[After hearing about the shooting] I instantly thought what if it was my dad who had been shot and killed,” Saleek said. 

Saleek believes Islamophobia is still an ongoing issue, so participation in commemoration events helps raise awareness.

“I also believe that I have a responsibility to educate others so that the misconceptions of Islam are replaced with respect and acceptance,” she added.  

According to McGill’s Associate Provost for Equity & Academic Policies, Angela Campbell, the influence of the ceremony is more inclusive to similar causes of social justice.

“The memorial ceremony also reminds us of the ongoing work needed to address all forms of racism and social oppression including Islamophobia,” said Campbell.