For families of the Quebec City Mosque attack, January 29 revives painful memories.
Five years ago, Alexandre Bissonnette, then 27, entered the Quebec City Mosque and shot and killed six Muslim worshippers and wounded 19 others, one of them (Ayman Derbali) crippled for life.
We owe it to the victims and their families to not forget them.
Khaled Belkacemi (60), was Professor of Engineering at Laval University, where Bissonnette was a student but in a different department.
Mamadou Tanou Barry (42) and Ibrahima Barry (39), not related, were the first to be shot and killed at the entrance to the mosque.
They were on their way out after finishing Isha prayers.
Azzeddine Soufiane (57), a genial grocery store owner, tackled the gunman and saved more people from getting killed while he fell down in a hail of bullets.
Abdelkrim Hassane (41) and Abubakr Thabti (44) were also killed that fateful evening.
Lest someone claims that Bissonnette was a lone gunman and suffered from some mental disorder, let us recall what led to his committing the most horrific terrorist attack against a place of worship in Canada.
Police search of his computer showed that he was inspired by the likes of such notorious Islamophobes as Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller, David Horowitz and the Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik who shot and killed 69 children whom he accused of holding pro-Palestinian views.
Bissonnette was also extremely anti-immigrant.
Following then US president Donald Trump’s ban on entry of citizens from seven Muslim majority countries into the US, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted:
“To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada.”
It was January 28, 2017, a day before the Quebec City Mosque attack.
Already harboring anti-Muslim sentiments, Bissonnette took it upon himself to rid Canada of Muslims.
He took two guns and went on a shooting rampage.
Following this horrific attack Trudeau called it a ‘terrorist act against Muslim’.
The day after the shooting, Bissonnette told a police investigator during a three-hour interview:
“I was watching TV, and we found out that the Canadian government was going to take in more refugees; those who couldn’t go to the US would come here. I saw that and it was like I lost my mind.”
Immediately after the terrorist attack, Bissonnette was presented in the media as a ‘quiet’ lonely figure more interested in his sauce recipes than plotting to indulge in mass murder.
Yet, the Montreal Gazette revealed a different side of this psychopathic killer.
It reported that “Bissonnette told the social worker he ‘wanted glory and regretted ‘not having killed more people’.
Other reports in the local media said that Bissonnette “searched for Trump-related material 819 times over the month before the attack.”
While Bissonnette is serving a 25-year sentence without eligibility for parole, his case will be heard by the Supreme Court of Canada in March to determine whether his sentence should be increased.
His original sentence of 65 years was overturned by the Quebec Superior Court that the Quebec prosecutor has appealed against.
Beyond Bissonnette’s sentence lies the much larger question of the political climate in Quebec where laws have been passed targeting Muslim women.
Quebec’s Bill-21 is a troublesome piece of legislation.
Passed in June 2019, it bars public employees, including judges, lawyers, police, and teachers, from wearing religious symbols.
Fatemeh Anvari, a young popular and competent teacher was removed from her teaching post at Chelsea Elementary School in Quebec last month because she wears the hijab.
In the aftermath of the Quebec City Mosque killings, politicians vowed to confront Islamophobia claiming hate has no place in Canada.
Wonderful words, but no meaningful action has been taken.
Even after the horrific murder of three generations of the Afzaal family on June 6, 2021 in London, ON (four members of the same family were deliberately killed by a truck driver), politicians uttered the same platitudes but did not enact legislation to declare Islamophobia a hate crime.
Regrettably, Muslims are considered “outsiders” in Canada and more such attacks against them will occur unless the authorities enact meaningful legislation to confront it.
While legislation alone will not end this disease, it will send a clear message that the government is serious in tackling it.
Until then, unfortunately, more innocent Muslims will be killed.
Muslim life, it seems, is cheap.