Pres­i­dent of Que­bec City mosque lat­est tar­get in string of hate crimes

Montreal Gazette - - FRONT PAGE -

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.”

PHIL CAR­PEN­TER/FILES

The car of Is­lamic Cul­tural Cen­tre of Que­bec pres­i­dent Mo­hamed Labidi, cen­tre, was set on fire on Aug. 6.

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