Montreal

Young Quebec Muslims search for answers after Paris attacks

A week after the co-ordinated terrorist attacks in Paris that killed 130 people, young Muslims in Quebec are struggling with the feeling of being stigmatized.

'What is the world coming to?' asks a Muslim teen in Quebec following terrorist attacks

Abdelghani Zerga says it's hard to explain to other people the true meaning of Islam in the face of the attacks in Paris and Beirut. (Radio-Canada)

A week after the co-ordinated terrorist attacks in Paris that killed 130 people, young Muslims in Quebec are struggling with the feeling of being stigmatized.

How do I explain to a young person my age what's happening in the world, when even I don't understand it?- Abdelghani Zerga, young Muslim

"When I found out, I was shocked," said 14-year-old Omar Benthami. "A life is still a life — whether it's the life of a French person, the life of a Palestinian person, the life of a person from whichever country. Nobody has the right to take a life."

"I asked myself, 'What is the world coming to?'" he continued.

Defending Islam

At home and at school, some Muslim youth have been unable to avoid the subject of the attacks in Paris and in Beirut.

Myriame Haddadi said she doesn't feel personally targeted by people's curiosities and condemnations — she's accustomed to people looking at her because of her hijab — but the larger Muslim community around her does feel like it's being examined under the microscope.

"I was sure that by the end, people would point their fingers at [Muslims] — 'it's Islam, it's Islam.' But Islam does not preach this," said Haddadi.

Abdelghani Zerga said it's challenging to navigate people's expectations of an explanation, considering he doesn't feel personally involved.

"I don't want to explain to another person who doesn't understand, why these kinds of attacks are done in some countries," Zerga said.

"Personally, I don't want to answer those questions and have to justify to other young people how we live. It's complicated for me… How do I explain to a young person my age what's happening in the world, when even I don't understand it?"

Omar Benthami, Myriame Haddadi and Abdelghani Zerga talked to Radio-Canada about how they feel the recent terrorist attacks have impacted the local Muslim community. (Radio-Canada)

Creating a less divided future

If the world is divided now, the youth interviewed for this story hope the future can be better.

"Of course it's heavy for someone between 14 and 17 to carry, but if we understand the challenges, if we understand that we're responsible for it because we are the future of tomorrow," Benthami said. "If we understand the context and work together, the future will be better than what we are living today."

Haroun Bouazzi of the Association of Muslims and Arabs for a Secular Quebec said his organization has received a high volume of calls from concerned Muslims since last week.

He has simple advice for young Muslims: Be proud to be Quebecers, and be proud to be Muslims. 

Taking the time to explain to people that the acts of a few do not represent the intentions of most, he said, is necessary in times like these.

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