The Current

Quebec City reacts to lethal terrorist attack at local mosque

Six people were killed and eight wounded during evening prayers Sunday, in what Quebec's premier described as a "murderous act directed at a specific community."
Police officers patrol the perimeter near a mosque after a shooting in Quebec City, January 29, 2017. (Mathieu Belanger/Reuters)

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A mass shooting at a Quebec City mosque Sunday night has left six dead, and eight wounded — sending shock waves across the country.

Thirty-nine people escaped the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec (Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec) in the Sainte-Foy neighbourhood without injuries. Police say the victims range in age from 35 to 70, with some of the wounded in critical condition.

One man has been arrested in the shooting — which law enforcement and politicians are treating as a terrorist attack.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described the shooting as a "terrorist attack on Muslims in a centre of worship and refuge." (Mathieu Belanger/Reuters)

"It's a murderous act directed at a specific community," said Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard.

"I think the majority of citizens, not just in Quebec but elsewhere, would describe it that way."

The CBC's Marika Wheeler was one of the first at the scene, and on The Current she describes the reaction on the ground — including from one men who had just heard his good friend had died in the shooting.

"He was just shattered ... he'd seen this friend that very afternoon."

Haroun Bouazzi, the co-president of the Association of Muslim and Arabs for a Secular Quebec, says Sunday's shooting significantly affected the whole Muslim community of Quebec.   

People were crying. It was really shocking for the community. People are scared.- Haroun   Bouazzi

However, Bouazzi was not surprised by the attack given the recent increase of violence against the Muslim community in Quebec.

He points to acts of vandalism against Muslim institutions, attacks against Muslim women in public, and mounting islamophobic rhetoric.

Bouazzi thinks a focus on Islam and its cultural practices in public debate has contributed to this hatred.

"We never stop talking about the right of a woman to wear a veil or not ... we should actually think about the other real problems of society. Our politicians should start working seriously in equality and fighting all kinds of racism, islamophobia, sexism and homophobia — not dividing us or for cheap political gain."

People gather outside Iqaluit's mosque in commemoration of the shooting in Quebec City.

Human rights advocate Sameer Zuberi agrees, adding that the political climate in the U.S. has been key to the growing discrimination against people of the Middle East, especially with the recent travel ban against seven Muslim countries.

"The visa ban has definitely emboldened people. But I would say that it's not only that — it's the type of stuff that Donald Trump is promoting in general."

Bouazzi affirms that many Canadians have rallied in support for the Muslim community after the attack in Quebec City, and stresses the importance of coming together in protest.

"The people that have been subject to all this blood were actually peaceful worshippers from the Muslim faith and hopefully we will all get together in the streets … to show that we're all together in this and hopefully never again anything like this can happen in our country."

Several cities are hosting vigils for the victims of the Quebec City terrorist attack on January 30, 2017 — including Montreal, Ottawa, and Dorval. 

Listen to the full conversation at the top of this post.