‘We will still pray’

Blood spat­tered Que­bec mosque opens doors af­ter week­end shoot­ing

Cape Breton Post - - CANADA -

Mem­bers of the city’s Mus­lim com­mu­nity walked over thick crusts of blood dried into the car­pet of their mosque on Wed­nes­day as they re­turned to the scene of last week­end’s car­nage where six men were shot to death.

Blood was ev­ery­where: on the prayer car­pet, the walls, ta­bles and in foot­prints lead­ing to the base­ment where peo­ple took refuge from the shooter.

Ahmed El­re­fai, a wor­ship­per, pointed to sev­eral spots of blood across the room and said that was where his friends were hit.

“Some­one was shot un­der the mike,” he said, point­ing to a dried pool of blood near a prayer car­pet at the front of the room.

El­re­fai said de­spite the stains and bul­let holes in the win­dows and walls, three men re­turned to the mosque Wed­nes­day morn­ing to kneel for prayers.

He said Mus­lims in Que­bec City wanted the mosque to re­open as soon as pos­si­ble, just days af­ter a shooter killed the six men and wounded sev­eral oth­ers.

“The mes­sage is that we will still pray, even with blood on the floor,” he said.

Mosque vice-pres­i­dent Mo­hamed Labidi says he wanted to open the cen­tre to the public so peo­ple could see what wor­ship­pers had to suf­fer.

The six vic­tims, aged be­tween 39 and 60, were killed when a gun­man stormed the mosque and opened fire on men who were at­tend­ing prayer. Au­thor­i­ties have re­fused to spec­ify what type of firearm was used in the mass shoot­ing.

Labidi, stand­ing in front of a thick gob of blood at the en­trance to the car­peted prayer area, pointed down and said the re­mains be­longed to his friend, Azzed­dine Soufi­ane.

He said Soufi­ane ran to the shooter and tried to strug­gle with him, only to be shot dead.

“He was a gen­er­ous man,” Labidi said. “Gen­er­ous to the last mo­ment of his life. He is our hero.”

Since the shoot­ing, Labidi had been de­mure and quiet, but his voice rose as he spoke about his friend and his strug­gle liv­ing as a for­eigner in Que­bec City.

“We went to univer­sity to­gether, he got a PhD in ge­ol­ogy — and he couldn’t find a job in this city be­cause his name was Azzed­dine Soufi­ane.”

He forged his own path and started a gro­cery store, Labidi said.

“I didn’t want to talk about it be­cause it wasn’t the time to do it ... but go to taxi stands and you’ll see PhDs and peo­ple with master’s de­grees be­cause we do not find jobs here.”

Ahmed El-Ghan­douri wiped away tears as he spoke about know­ing Soufi­ane for 35 years and help­ing him start his gro­cery store.

“This is my sec­ond home,” he said. “But we have to re­turn here. We don’t have the choice. We have to clean, put it back in order. And we wel­come peo­ple to come and see what Is­lam is re­ally about.”

The Op­po­si­tion Con­ser­va­tives are crit­i­ciz­ing the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice for com­plain­ing to Fox News about a tweet iden­ti­fy­ing the sus­pect in the Que­bec City mosque shoot­ing as “Moroc­can.”

In an open let­ter to Fox News Channel co-pres­i­dent Bill Shine, PMO Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Di­rec­tor Kate Pur­chase wrote that Canada is “an open, wel­com­ing coun­try that stands by its cit­i­zens.”

She ac­cused the tweet of “per­pet­u­at­ing fear and di­vi­sion” and dis­hon­our­ing the mem­ory of the vic­tims of Sun­day’s mass shoot­ing, in which six peo­ple were killed.

She asked that it be taken down.

Fox News re­sponded by delet­ing the tweet and say­ing it re­gret­ted the er­ror.

Con­ser­va­tive MP and party lead­er­ship can­di­date Lisa Raitt says while she un­der­stands frus­tra­tions over mis­in­for­ma­tion be­ing re­ported, Justin Trudeau should be fo­cused on more im­por­tant mat­ters.

“We’ve got a se­ri­ous is­sue in New Brunswick right now with re­spect to an ice storm,” Raitt said, re­fer­ring to a power out­age that has af­fected thou­sands of peo­ple.

“We’ve got jobs leav­ing the coun­try, we have had a ter­ri­ble tragedy in Que­bec City,” she added.

“So why do you pick fights with the Amer­i­can news me­dia?”

But on his way into a Lib­eral cau­cus meet­ing on Wed­nes­day, Trudeau said that ask­ing the news or­ga­ni­za­tion for a cor­rec­tion was the right thing to do.

“It’s a ques­tion of get­ting the news right,” Trudeau said.

“I think it’s im­por­tant to em­pha­size what ac­tu­ally hap­pened in Que­bec City and think about lessons we need to learned from it.”

In the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math of the shoot­ing, re­ports in­di­cated that two peo­ple had been ar­rested and a num­ber of Cana­dian news or­ga­ni­za­tions also re­ported the in­cor­rect in­for­ma­tion, but later re­tracted the ref­er­ence to a Moroc­can na­tional.

Po­lice have only charged one sus­pect, 27-year-old Alexan­dre Bis­son­nette, in con­nec­tion with the shoot­ing spree.

Of­fi­cials said a sec­ond man who was ar­rested was not in­volved in the shoot­ing but rather was a wit­ness to the at­tack.

CP PHOTO

Que­bec City Mosque vice-pres­i­dent Mo­hamed Labidi speaks to re­porters in Que­bec City Wed­nes­day. Labidi says he wanted to open the cen­tre to the public so peo­ple can see what wor­ship­pers had to suf­fer.

Trudeau

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