A mass shooting erupted in Canada at the end of January as gunmen targeted a mosque in the city of Quebec. As a result of the attack, six people were killed and another eight were injured.
The attack has come as a shock to the Canadian public, as Canada is a country in which mass shootings are a rarity.
The shooting has also sparked alarm because Canada is widely regarded as a welcoming safe-haven for refugees who are trying to escape terrorism and fighting in their war-torn and often majority-Muslim nations. It is possible that the incident could tarnish this reputation.
Indeed, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has dubbed the travesty a “terrorist attack on Muslims in a center of worship and refuge.” The site of the attack was the Islamic Cultural Center of Quebec.
Mr. Trudeau also vocalized further the perturbance of the Canadian people. Canada strongly supports the principles of diversity and religious freedom, so the shooting seemingly represents an attempt to subvert these ideals.
However, a motive for the attacks has not yet been released. It seems that the mosque was a target for anti-Islamic sentiment leading up to the attacks. The previous June, a pig’s head was placed at the door of the mosque during the season of Ramadan. The anti-Islamic message – especially during an important religious holiday – was clear, as pork is considered unclean by Muslims. Abstaining from consuming pork is a common dietary restriction for those practicing the faith.
No ties have been drawn between the two incidents as of yet. The investigation is only in its beginning stages.
Some details of the shooting were divulged by the president of the mosque, Mohamed Yangui, when he participated in a radio interview by Ici RDI, a French Canadian broadcaster. While Yangui was not present at the mosque at the time of the attack, he offered some eyewitness accounts second-hand.
According to witnesses, the gunman entered the mosque on the first floor and immediately made his way up to the second floor to the area dedicated to women’s prayer. It is still unclear whether any women were present. It has been revealed that the age range of the victims spanned from 35 to 70.
Furthermore, witnesses reported that the gunmen fired many rounds, reloading their weapons several times.
The two suspected gunmen were quickly apprehended. The first was captured at the scene of the shooting, while the other was arrested close by at the Île d’Orléans.
The timing of the attack has further fueled fears that anti-Islamic feelings could be bubbling to the surface. The attack has followed on the heels of President Trump’s executive order on immigration. This executive order has severely restricted immigration from several Muslim countries, suspended all refugee admission to the United States for the next 120 days and barred all Syrian refugees indefinitely.
The executive order has garnered massive outcry as critics claim the order is directed at Muslims. Canada sought to combat Mr. Trump’s executive order, which has been perceived as anti-Islamic, by continuing Canada’s welcoming policies to refugees from terrorism and war. Following the shooting, it seems that Canada’s stance may be under attack.
Canadian government officials have affirmed that the government will continue to protect its population. Muslims make up a substantial populace. In Quebec alone, approximately 6,800 of the city’s residents identified themselves as Muslim.
Just as Canada responded to changing foreign policy in the U.S. by continuing it welcoming attitude, some areas of the United States are trying to learn from Canada’s experiences as well.
Following the attacks in Quebec, the mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, announced that police protection of mosques would by increased in the city.
Canada is still looking to continue to protect Muslims beyond Canadian borders. Mr. Trudeau has been highly vocal for this cause, especially on social media. On his Twitter, Mr. Trudeau posted a photo of himself welcoming refugees to Canada with the hashtag “#WelcomeToCanada.”
Throughout his term in office, Mr. Trudeau has shown support of the cause of refugees. Since his term in office began back in 2015, Canada has admitted nearly 40,000 Syrian refugees.
On the international stage, Canada has received widespread praise for its acceptance of refugees. However, within Canada’s own borders, this has proved to be a contentious domestic issue.
A survey conducted recently in Ontario revealed that though there was majority support for welcoming refugees, only about one-third of those who took the survey had a positive view of Islam. Furthermore, more than half of this sampling pool believed that the doctrines of the Muslim faith promote violence.
Domestically, less severe incidents have been targeting members of the Islamic community. A mosque in Montreal and another in the Sept-Iles community experienced some damages in December after arsonists attempted to torch the buildings. December brought other targeted attacks; the head of the Association of Muslims and Arabs for a Secular Quebec received online death threats.
Canada is looking to quell what could be rising Islamophobia. A vote proposed by Parliament member Iqra Khalid is to be carried out this week requesting a study on how the government can combat the trend of anti-Islamic sentiment.
Canadian officials are further showing that they stand with the refugees and the Muslim populace as plans move forward to host solidarity rallies expressing outrage at the shootings.