President of Quebec City mosque latest target in string of hate crimes
Leaders across the political spectrum in Quebec expressed shock Wednesday over a string of attacks this summer on the Quebec City mosque where six men were shot and killed in January.
On Wednesday, it came to light that the building housing the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec and its president were the victims of two different hate crimes since the beginning of the month.
A car belonging to the president of the centre, Mohamed Labidi, was set on fire on Aug. 6. A few days later, excrement was thrown at the doors of the mosque, according to a statement published Wednesday by the mosque on its Facebook page.
“This hate crime targeting our president is the latest in a long series of hate crimes against our organization,” the mosque’s statement said. In July, the mosque alerted authorities when it received a package containing a defaced Qur’an and a hateful note.
Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeaume stressed that, despite their gravity, the recent incidents have taken time to come to the public’s attention for a very simple reason.
“Silence was the best thing to move the investigation forward,” he said to the media, insisting that what happened disgusted him to the highest degree.
He said that when he was informed of the news, he was “shocked” and “deeply disappointed,” but said the timing was probably not a coincidence.
The incident occurred only days after Labeaume announced an agreement with the mosque on the creation of a new Muslim cemetery in the city.
“What happened isn’t like Quebec City,” he told reporters. “Quebec City is an open city where everyone must be able to live together in safety and respect.”
During a Parti Québécois caucus meeting in St-Eustache, PQ Leader Jean-François Lisée condemned the attacks when asked about the incident at a news conference.
“I call on all Quebecers to show solidarity in denouncing this act of violence, which is not acceptable,” Lisée told reporters, adding that the PQ has spoken to those affected and expressed “revulsion” over what happened.
“I am sure we all agree — violence is not acceptable.”
He said if some political parties want to make political hay out of the incident, that is their business, but he won’t.
He said he is concerned that there seems to be a rise of individuals on the extreme left and the extreme right, but they remain marginal in his mind.
Manon Massé, a spokesperson for Québec solidaire, denounced the attack in a statement.
“This accumulation of hateful incidents against the Muslim community in Quebec City in recent months is distressing,” she said. “Do I have to remind you that this same community was the victim of an attack that claimed the lives of six people last January? … As a representative of the political class, I can only fear this spiral of hatred and denounce these hateful and dangerous actions. For us, there is no doubt that the extreme right exists in Quebec. The multiplication of acts of this type, which target a particular community, demonstrates this. The political class must act resolutely against hatred.”
The statement from the mosque provided details of the incident involving Labidi’s car.
It states the vehicle was parked near his home when it was set on fire around 1:30 a.m. The fire spread from the car to a hedge in front of his house, according to the mosque’s statement. It took firefighters 30 minutes to put out the blaze.
A Quebec City police spokesman, Lt. Jean-François Vézina, described the fire as criminal but said authorities haven’t yet determined whether it was a hate crime.
“Nothing is being ruled out,” he said. “It could be a gesture that isn’t at all connected to the Muslim community as much as it could be an event of a hateful nature.”
Vézina said police haven’t identified any suspects, and he encouraged the public to come forward with information.
A statement from the cultural centre condemned all forms of terrorism or extremism, including the recent attack in Barcelona.
“Violence will never be the solution. Like the citizens of Barcelona last week, we say no to violence,” the statement read.
“To our fellow citizens, we say that we will never forget your generosity after the shooting on Jan. 29. Today, we call on that same generosity to denounce with us these criminal acts and to say no to all forms of extremism, which do nothing but sow fear in our society.”
The car of Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec president Mohamed Labidi, centre, was set on fire on Aug. 6.