Kingston observes fifth anniversary of Quebec City mosque shootings

Saturday, Jan. 29, 2022 will mark five years since a hate-driven Islamophobic attack on mosque worshippers occurred at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City, located in the suburb of Sainte-Foy.

The gunman, 27-year-old Alexandre Bissonnette, killed six worshippers and injured five others in under two minutes during evening prayer on Saturday, Jan. 29, 2017. It was one of the deadliest mass shootings in Canadian history, described as an act of terrorism by both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard. The attack has since sparked widespread conversations around Islamophobia, racism, and right-wing terrorism in Canada. In 2021, the Federal Government declared January 29 The National Day of Remembrance for the Victims of the Quebec City Mosque Shooting and Action Against Islamophobia.

Kingston City Hall illuminated green for Islamic History Month in 2020. City Hall will be illuminated in green, in remembrance of those victims lost in the 2017 Quebec City mosque shooting, and purple, in remembrance of the young girl who was killed, along with three of her family members, in the 2021 London, Ontario attack, on Saturday, Jan. 29, 2022. Image via ISK.

Events of observance being held in Kingston

There are several events being held in the area throughout the weekend by the Islamic Society of Kingston (ISK) and Muslim Societies, Global Perspectives (MSGP) at Queen’s University, which have been annually observing the Day of Remembrance since the first anniversary of the attack. The events run in conjunction with the Green Square Campaign, whose website encourages people of all faiths to “wear a green square [symbolizing the green mats of the Québec City mosque] in solidarity with the six widows, the seventeen children left fatherless, Aymen Derbali who is left paralyzed for life, and every single person suffering the consequences of this hateful and despicable act of violence.”

In previous years, The Green Square Campaign, coordinated byThe National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCN), raised funds for the victims’ families. Funds were also raised for Aymen Derbali, who is now paralyzed due to his heroic attempt at protecting the Quebec City mosque worshippers.

Dr. Mona Rahman of Queen’s University spoke on behalf of this week’s events of observance during a phone interview on Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022.

Dr. Rahman stated that this year, the Green Square Campaign does not have a fundraising component to it. Instead, NCCN is encouraging people to write letters of remembrance for the victims. By writing letters, Dr. Rahman explained, people can reflect on “why the Green Square Campaign is important to you and what action you wish to see to make Canada a safer place for all Canadians.”

Everyone deserves sanctuary

“Everybody just wants to be safe,” asserted Dr. Rahman. “One of the reasons that this really did affect, not just Muslims, but people in general, is because it was the first time an event of significance like it was a horrible attack on a place of worship, and places of worship in general. It doesn’t matter what your place of worship is, whether it’s a church or synagogue, or a mosque or a temple. These are places of sanctuary. These are places that people go to find peace.”

Microaggressions escalate and lead to violent acts

Islamophobia, racism, and hate are at the core of violence against Muslims. “There’s a whole range of how Islamophobia manifests itself,” explained Dr. Rahman, “whether it’s a microaggression or whether it’s something like the… black Muslim women… being attacked in Edmonton.” Dr. Rahman encouraged everyone to be aware of the spectrum of racism and to call out offences of any measure. “Just like with any type of racism or bigotry, you first need to stop pushing it under the rug. You need to stop making excuses for it and and call it what it is.”

The National Day of Remembrance for the Victims of the Quebec City Mosque Shooting can serve as an opportunity to teach children and adults alike about the dangers of buying into negative misinformation and stereotypes around Islam. “A lot of this violence is rooted in those misunderstandings, misconceptions, and hate,” explained Dr. Rahman. “As with all microaggressions, that needs to be acknowledged, and people need to realize that no, that’s not okay. Because it escalates. It’s the microaggressions that build up and [that’s] when you get to these violent acts.”

Kingston Muslim community sees ‘tremendous amount of support’

The Muslim community in Kingston has seen “a tremendous amount of support” when hardships are experienced, said Dr. Rahman. “I remember the first and second years [after the Quebec City shooting]. You did see a lot of community support. It looked like you had more people from outside the Muslim community than [from] within the Muslim community.”

On community support, Dr. Rahman said, “there will be individuals that that hold opinions that are hateful, but the opinions of an individual are not a reflection of the community per se… When you look at the response of a community when things like this happen, it’s really how you take the pulse of the community.”

Even with the support the Islamic community has found in Kingston, “we’re not immune to Islamophobic events and, you know, even after the vigil for the [Muslim family killed in London, Ontario in June, 2021], there were students walking downtown that were harassed,” said Dr. Rahman. “There are people that are ignorant and have these views and they take it out on on the Muslims. But I think in general, what we have found as a community is that there is a lot of support, and part of that has to do with the amount of involvement [our] community has in the community at large… We’re not an unknown entity, and we’re small enough [here in Kingston] that… you probably have a Muslim friend and Muslim neighbor.”

City Hall to be lit up in green and purple in solidarity

In addition to the events, “this is the first year that Kingston City Council has approved for the lighting up of City Hall in recognition of the day,” explained Dr. Rahman. “We chose green for the Green Square Campaign, but you can actually choose a secondary color as well. And we chose purple… because purple was the favorite color of the young woman who was killed with her family in London.”

Mayor Bryan Patterson and MPP Ian Arthur, as well as other faith leaders in the community, are expected to be present at some of Saturday’s events, which are outlined in the information below.

Choosing to honour everyone affected by Islamophobia

Dr. Rahman said, “It’s not just about remembering the ones that were killed on that day; we’re also remembering everyone that has been affected by Islamophobia. And that includes the gentlemen that were killed in the mosque; [we also] chose to honour [the London] family because they do have relatives in Kingston… So it does hit us as a community as well, in a more direct way.”

For more information on the Green Square Campaign and how you can show your support, visit their website.

Information on the Prayers for Peace & Remembrance for Victims of the Quebec City Mosque Attack, held by the Islamic Society of Kingston, can be found on the ISK’s Facebook page.

Letters of Remembrance for the Quebec City Mosque Massacre Victims can be submitted here.

Today, Friday, Jan. 28, a panel discussion on “Islamophobia: Historical and Global Perspectives on the 5th Anniversary of the Quebec City Mosque Massacre,” co-sponsored by MSGP and Muslim Awareness Week, is being held at 5:30 p.m. EST.

As Kingston marks the National Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Québec City Mosque Shooting and Action Against Islamophobia, let us not forget the names of those lost tragically in violent acts of Islamophobia in Canada:

Ibrahima Barry
Mamadou Tanou Barry
Khaled Belkacemi
Abdelkrim Hassan
Azzedine Soufiane
Aboubaker Thabti

(killed during prayer in Quebec City, January 2017).

Salman Afzaal
Madiha Salman
Talat Afzaal
Yumna Afzaal
(family members killed in attack in London, June 2021).

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