‘We will still pray’
Blood spattered Quebec mosque opens doors after weekend shooting
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.
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.