Montreal

After New Zealand attack, solidarity and grief at the Quebec City mosque

Members of the Quebec City mosque where six men were killed two years ago gathered for Friday prayers, and paid tribute to the victims in New Zealand.

'I have difficulty believing that some people have so much hatred,' says one mosque member

Maëlle Warth, a member of the Quebec City mosque, said it was important to pray there on Friday because of the mass shootings in New Zealand. (Sarah Leavitt/CBC)

Just like every Friday around noon, members slide off their boots and shoes as they make their way into the Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre for jumu'ah — Friday prayers.

This time, though, their thoughts are filled with the victims of the mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand and, along with that, memories of the shooting that killed six of their own members, two years ago.

"I have difficulty believing that some people have so much hatred," said Brian Semple, a member of the mosque.

"[This has] brought back the same memories I had two years ago when my friends were killed in the mosque we're standing in front of."

On this Friday, the mosque was busier than usual. Some came from across the river in Lévis, Que., choosing to attend jumu'ah at the Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre in solidarity with those who lost loved ones in the 2017 attack.

"It was very important. I needed to be here with my brothers and sisters, and to pray," said Maëlle Warth, another mosque member, who recently immigrated from France.

Brian Semple, a member of the Quebec City mosque, says the New Zealand shootings brought back the terrible memories of the attack on his own mosque two years ago. (Sarah Leavitt/CBC)

'We are praying for them, to get mercy from God'

Included in today's jumu'ah were prayers for the absent, a Muslim tradition for praying for people whose bodies aren't present.

"We are praying for them, to get mercy from God," said Ezzat Ragab, who moved to Quebec City two decades ago. 

"These people who were killed, they have families, they have kids. They are normal people like everybody else."

Ragab said he is nervous of going to prayers. Police across Quebec increased their presence in the aftermath of the New Zealand attack. 

"I feel it could have been me, it could've been anyone. So I feel concerned," Ragab said.

"But this is not gonna stop me from coming to the mosque. I will always come to the mosque.  It's part of who I am."

Ezzat Ragab says shootings like the one in Christchurch and at his own mosque in Quebec City make him concerned, sometimes scared, to come to prayers. (Marika Wheeler/CBC)

A troubling pattern

For many, learning the alleged shooter in Christchurch may have been influenced by Alexandre Bissonnette, the Quebec City mosque shooter, was shocking, yet not surprising.

Photos of the ammunition believed to belong to the New Zealand accused, which were posted on a Twitter account that has now been suspended, show the name of Bissonnette, who pleaded guilty in the 2017 shooting at the Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre, alongside the names of others who had committed race- or religion-based killings.

"It's a model, it's repeating the same concept. He came with a machine gun to kill Muslims. It's a kind of pattern," said Ragab.

"We have a big concern about that."

Aymen Derbali says he watched part of a video alleged to be a live feed of the Christchurch shooting, though he's not sure why. Derbali was shot seven times on Jan. 29, 2017. One of the bullets hit his spinal cord. 

"I saw the video this morning and it made me relive what we experienced here," he said.

"It brings such sadness, makes me upset."

Aymen Derbali, one of the survivor's of the Quebec City mosque shooting, says the shooting in New Zealand has brought back fresh memories of his own experience. (Marika Wheeler/CBC)

About the Author

Sarah Leavitt

Journalist

Sarah Leavitt is a journalist with CBC Montreal.