Quebec City Muslims share their stories at human library event
Weekend event aims to challenge prejudice through storytelling
Dozens of volunteers from Quebec City's Muslim community agreed to take part in a human library event on Saturday.
People showing up at the Monique-Corriveau library in Sainte-Foy could sign out a "living book" and hear first-hand the stories of Muslim people who have chosen to live in Quebec City or who have converted to Islam.
The city's public health agency, the CIUSSS de la Capitale-Nationale, organized the event, along with several local organizations and mosques, in an effort to challenge stereotypes and prejudice.
"I felt the responsibility, the desire to speak out, to say, 'We have different beliefs but we live like everyone else,'" said Naïla Khalil, who describes herself as Tunisian, Muslim and "Québécoise."
Khalil remembers the moment she received her Canadian visa in 2015, after a six-year wait.
"I had always dreamed of coming here, it was really a special moment."
The mother of two is now a computer analyst with the Quebec government.
"It really shocked me. I was depressed, seeing all these heinous comments on social media, on the news, it was very difficult."
Khalil said she now takes part in several community events like the human library to set things straight, and make sure people don't misrepresent the meaning of Islam.
Choosing to put on the veil
Khajida Zahid also said her perspective had changed since the attack.
"As a woman who wears the veil, it's a topic that comes up all the time, in the media, at the National Assembly, that it's a danger for Quebec society. And that affects me because it's not the truth."
She started wearing the veil in 2011, a decision which took her several years to come to.
"This is not something that will limit my ability to be integrated. It's a choice that I made, no one forced me to do this."
Zahid said she thinks Quebecers and Canadians have to accept the differences in culture that come with immigration.
"We come here because we are invited. [The government] knows immigrants coming from north Africa are in majority Muslim, and that they will bring their religion with them," Zahid said.
She suggested that instead of dividing the population with rules once people have arrived like Bill 62, the government should foster understanding and lay the groundwork for integration.
Tackling some of these prejudices was the starting point of the initiative according to Brigitte Paquet, who works with the CIUSSS de la Capitale-Nationale.
"It's really to promote living together," Paquet said.
The health agency has been working closely with the Muslim community since the mosque attack to help in the recovery process.
"We wanted to make sure that people will understand their whole life story, and also answer questions people might have on Muslim culture," Paquet said.
But he said there are certain rules that need to be put in place.
"We have to legislate on these topics," said Vachon. "But we mustn't let this situation make us have no respect for women who wear veils."
Sana Tedjini has been studying civil engineering at Laval University for two years.
In the midst of deciding whether to go back to Algeria to pursue her career, she said that meeting two Muslim women engineers, who raised their families in Quebec, was eye-opening.
"It's been difficult living far from my family but meeting these women has given me a new outlook.