Mosque shooting victim says police should have warned Muslims about 'climate of hatred'
Saïd El-Amari says even locked door could have prevented some deaths
One of the victims injured in the Quebec City mosque shooting said a warning from police that there was a "climate of hatred" directed towards Muslims in the provincial capital could have prevented some bloodshed.
Those are the words police used in the investigation report into the pig's head left on the doorstep of the mosque in June 2016.
Saïd El-Amari is one of five men who survived being shot in the Jan. 29 attack, in which six other men died.
"In my mind, if police had acted then, there would have been fewer consequences during the mass shooting," El-Amari told CBC.
It's the first interview the father of four has given since being shot twice — in the right leg and on the left side of his abdomen.
El-Amari spent two months in hospital recovering from the gunshot wounds.
"We would have taken precautions," said El-Amari. "Even if the door had been locked, at least the killer would have slowed down, at least momentarily. Either he'd have fled, or if he'd succeeded in opening the glass door, it would have taken more time, and people inside the mosque could have gone out the emergency door."
El-Amari said everything happened so quickly, no one had time to flee or hide.
'Race against death' to safeguard mosque
The new head of the mosque's board of directors, Mohamed Labidi, said mosque administrators had already started planning renovations to the building to make it safer.
"We felt like it was a race against death, making the mosque safer," said Labidi.
Labidi also said he wished police had alerted mosque administrators about the "climate of hatred."
"We were disappointed [the pig's head incident] was not treated as a hate crime," said Labidi.
He said there had been signs of escalating hatred targeting Muslims in the years leading up to the shooting. In November 2014, two people were caught on videotape sticking posters on the city's three main mosques telling Muslims to "go home."
And in the fall of 2016, members who identified themselves as members of the far-right group La Meute dropped off business cards at several halal grocery stores in the city.
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Labidi said he is at peace with how mosque administrators reacted to those incidents.
"We don't regret anything," said Labidi. "We insisted to police we were worried, and no one listened."
He said he racks it up to the inexperience of the Quebec City police service, adding that no one could have predicted the shooting.
Complaints never trivialized, police say
Quebec City police say they did everything possible to investigate the incidents against Muslims.
"When an event is flagged, it is never trivialized," said Cpt. Mario Vézina who works in the Quebec City police force's major crimes unit.
Vézina said the term "climate of hatred," used in the report to describe the incident when the pig's head was left at the mosque, might be going too far.
Vézina prefers to say someone was "sending a message" meant to disturb people there.
He added that every detail of the police investigations was passed along to mosque leaders so that they could make the final decision.
Labidi said the mosque now has a chip-card system on its doors, so only its 300 members can enter. He also said the police are patrolling regularly.