Montreal

Quebec City mosque offers 'heartfelt condolences' after Pittsburgh shooting

The frightful story of a heavily armed gunman entering a house of worship and opening fire is all too familiar for members of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City.

Islamic Cultural Centre calls on authorities to crack down on hateful acts that 'cannot leave us indifferent'

Boufeldja Benabdallah, co-founder of Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City, offered his condolences to the Jewish community in the wake of the shooting in Pittsburgh. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

The frightful story of an armed gunman entering a house of worship and opening fire is all too familiar for members of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City, where the deadly mosque shooting took place nearly two years ago.

"Today we understand very well the pain that Jewish families feel and we are wholeheartedly with them," the CCIQ's board of directors wrote in an open letter Sunday — one day after the synagogue shooting in the United States left 11 dead and six injured. 

The letter offers the CCIQ's "heartfelt condolences" to the families affected by the deadly rampage.

Saturday's alleged gunman, who reportedly has a history of expressing anti-Semitic beliefs online, has been charged with 29 federal crimes, including hate crimes, for opening fire during a Sabbath service at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

On Jan. 29, 2017, the Quebec City shooter killed six and injured 19. In its letter, the CCIQ draws a parallel between its own experience and that of the synagogue as people were once again killed while praying in a "sacred and untouchable place." 

The CCIQ calls on authorities to crack down on such hateful acts that "cannot leave us indifferent."

'Brothers in humanity'

Boufeldja Benabdallah, co-founder of the Quebec City mosque, picked up the phone to convey his condolences to the local Jewish community as soon as he heard about Saturday's tragedy.

"The synagogue, like the mosque, is sacred," Benabdallah told Radio-Canada.

"We go there to pray, to meet, to discuss, to talk about doing good and proscribe evil."

David Weiser, President of the Jewish Community of Quebec, shakes hands with Boufeldja Benabdallah, co-founder of the Quebec City mosque. (Radio-Canada)

Benabdallah said he wanted to demonstrate that CCIQ has not forgotten the support shown by the Jewish community after the mosque shooting.

"We are friends, we are brothers in humanity," he said.

"We had their support during the event of Jan. 29. And it's not just reciprocity. We are all humans and humans sympathize with humans who are affected by tragedies like these."

David Weiser, president of Quebec City's Beth Israël Ohev Sholom synagogue, said he was touched by the mosque's effort to reach out after the Pittsburgh tragedy.

Weiser said he is pleased with the "dialogue" and "friendships" that have developed following the Quebec City shooting.

Another vigil planned for Montreal

Montrealers of varying faiths gathered Sunday to hold a vigil outside the city's Holocaust Museum. 

The Federation CJA and the CIJA-Québec, two Jewish organizations, have teamed up to host a second vigil Monday at 7:30 p.m. at the Beth Israel Beth Aaron Congregation of Côte Saint-Luc. 

Rabbi Reuben Joshua Poupko told CBC Montreal's Daybreak that the vigil is open "to members of all communities and certainly we encourage everybody to attend."

Poupko grew up in the Tree of Life synagogue's neighbourhood before settling in Montreal.

"We are a strong and resilient people," he said. "But, in the immediate aftermath of an event like this, there is just heartbreak and sadness."

WATCH: The victims of the tragic Pittsburgh shooting, remembered:

The former Tree of Life president, Howard Elson, speaks to the CBC's Michael Serapio about the victims of the tragic shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. 6:05