'Silent majority' needs to be heard in wake of Quebec car torching, says Imam

The recent torching of a car belonging to the head of the Quebec City mosque, where six worshippers were killed in January, suggests a small minority remains committed to poisoning Quebec society with racism and xenophobia, says a prominent Imam.

Torching of Quebec City mosque leader's car needs powerful public response, says Hassan Guillet

Imam Hassan Guillet said Quebec's political and social discourse had been "poisoned" by fear and hatred of Muslims. (CBC)

The recent torching of a car belonging to the leader of the Quebec City mosque where six worshippers were killed in January suggests a small minority remains committed to dividing Quebec society, says a prominent Imam.

Hassan Guillet caught the world's attention with his address at the funeral last February for three of the mosque shooting victims — Ibrahima Barry, Mamadou Tanou Barry and Azzeddine Soufiane.

In light of the torching of the car of Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre president Mohamed Labadi, Guillet said the act is a clear reminder that some Quebecers continue to oppose his call that day for acceptance, compassion and love.

"It is a very, very tiny minority that is trying to poison our society, put fire in the society," he said. "It's bad for everybody — yes, the direct victims are the Muslims at that mosque, but the real victim is our values as Quebecers, as Canadians, as a human being."

Accordingly, he said the silent majority of Quebecers, who are "good-intentioned people, honest people," have to break their silence and speak out.

"The only voices we hear are the xenophobe voices, the Islamophobe voices, the racist voices, so somebody looking at our society from the outside might think that we are all racist  and we all reject each other and we all plan to kill each other, and this is not the case," he said.  

"This is why I appeal to every citizen in Quebec to be vocal on social media, in the media, on the phone, in our work, our universities, in our lives to say, 'No, no, these xenophobes don't represent us.'"

Politicians, media have key roles to play

Guillet said politicians and the media also have key roles to play in helping Quebec society silence such hatred once and for all.

"Politicians should weigh every word they say," he said.

"When it comes to politicking or fighting about one issue or another, these politicians should be very, very careful because even if they don't do bad things themselves, certain people might misinterpret certain positions and declarations and take it to the extreme."

As for the media, Guillet said its members have to remember that "words are important."

"Words can help build, and they can help destroy," he said.

He said he's seen a "positive trend" in media discourse since the mosque shootings, and that's a welcome development.

"We did not solve all the issues, but I'm seeing what's going on in the media and it's a good trend," he said