Thou­sands gather for vigil

Speak­ers at vigil for Que­bec City at­tack high­light in­clu­siv­ity, tol­er­ance

The McGill Daily - - News - Ellen Cools & Xavier Richer Vis The Mcgill Daily

On Mon­day, Jan­uary 30, thou­sands of peo­ple gath­ered out­side the Parc metro sta­tion for a vigil in sol­i­dar­ity with Mus­lim peo­ple in Que­bec. The vigil was or­ga­nized in di­rect re­sponse to the ter­ror at­tack which had oc­curred at the Is­lamic Cul­tural Cen­ter of Que­bec City the pre­vi­ous day, in which six men pray­ing in the mosque were killed.

A va­ri­ety of speak­ers ad­dressed the crowd, both in English and French. Many had come with signs and can­dles, and a large group of peo­ple gath­ered on top of a small snow hill stood with a sign that said “Make Racists Afraid Again.” Oth­ers walked around with their own signs, such as one that said “I’m Mus­lim, I’m Que­be­coise, I’m Hu­man Too #Unit­ed­for­peace.”

Vigil speeches touched pri­mar­ily on in­clu­siv­ity. One speaker, who did not pro­vide their name, be­gan by say­ing, “I truly did not ex­pect this. I thought half this crowd would be Mus­lim [...] but that’s not the case.”

They then high­lighted the need for unity and sol­i­dar­ity, a com­mon theme through­out the night.

“We are one peo­ple, and when one of us are hurt in so­ci­ety, all of us get hurt. And that’s why we are com­ing to­gether to­day, all of us to­gether, [...] to say that an at­tack against one of us is an at­tack against all of us,” they said. This was met with loud cheers from the crowd.

They em­pha­sized that ev­ery­one has a part to play in fight­ing against racism and Is­lam­o­pho­bia, and high­lighted the need to make Mus­lims and other marginal­ized groups feel in­cluded, in the face of events that threaten their com­mu­ni­ties.

“We must call for the pos­i­tive con­tri­bu­tions of Mus­lims and mi­nori­ties in our so­ci­ety to be cel­e­brated and rec­og­nized, and it is only then that we will have pos­i­tive dis­course and that we will move away from the types of prob­lems we are see­ing to­day,” they said.

One speaker, Ab­dul, took the time to rec­og­nize ev­ery­one in the crowd.

“To those who lost some­one dear to them, As­salamu Alaikum,” he be­gan in French. “To those who this day are be­tween life and death, As­salamu Alaikum. To those Mus­lims present here to­day de­spite the cold and the fear, As­salamu Alaikum. To all our fel­low cit­i­zens, who took time out of their days to gather with us, As­salamu Alaikum. To those elected of­fi­cials of Que­bec present here, As­salamu Alaikum.”

“Dear brothers, sis­ters, friends, and com­rades, we are gath­ered here to­day dur­ing dif­fi­cult times, and our mes­sage is clear,” he said in French. “We are gath­ered to re­mind ter­ror­ists that you will never di­vide us [...] to re­mind those who would profit from our fears, from our wor­ries, those who would con­done vi­o­lence against Mus­lims, in our places of wor­ship, you will never di­vide us.”

“Dear brothers, sis­ters, friends, and com­rades, Que­be­cers have con­gre­gated to­day to show that they are united against ad­ver­sity,” he con­tin- ued. “They’ve come to­gether in Chicoutimi, Sher­brooke, Trois-riv­ieres, to make clear we con­demn vi­o­lence and hate. Que­be­cers here in Mon­treal have come out to re­mind us that our bat­tle is one to co-ex­ist. [...] De­spite our dif­fer­ences, the ide­ol­ogy that will unite us, the doc­trine that we live by with­out hes­i­ta­tion will be one of peace, jus­tice, equal­ity, and lib­erty.”

Sim­i­larly, an­other speaker, who iden­ti­fied her­self as a “an anti-racist, fem­i­nist, queer, South-asian Mus­lim woman,” high­lighted the im­por­tance of Mus­lim and other marginal­ized com­mu­ni­ties’ voices.

“I ac­knowl­edge [...] the greed and in­jus­tice that this land ex­pe­ri­ences and wit­nesses on a daily ba­sis, in­clud­ing on­go­ing sys­temic op­pres­sion against In­dige­nous and black na­tions, against mi­grant or racial­ized com­mu­ni­ties, in­clud­ing Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties, and again, queer, trans, women iden­ti­fy­ing peo­ple who are part of th­ese com­mu­ni­ties,” she said, to a loud cho­rus of cheers.

“I want to say that this in­jus­tice stops here and now,” she con­tin­ued. “That sys­tems based on op­pres­sion, power and priv­i­lege, lead­ing to the tragedy that we are try­ing to grap­ple with to­day must end now, it must.”

“I also know that so many of us have been say­ing this for far too long, in­clud­ing protest­ing state sanc­tioned white supremacy and xeno­pho­bia, like the racist and misog­y­nist un­rea­son­able Ac­com­mo­da­tion Com­mis­sion and the so-called Char­ter of Val­ues,” she went on to say, again re­ceiv­ing loud cheers from the au­di­ence.

The speaker then in­vited ev­ery­one to “take a mo­ment to re­flect on our hu­man­ity and to keep hold­ing each other in all of our com­plex­i­ties, lived re­al­i­ties and our iden­ti­ties, to keep hold­ing each other as com­mu­nity, to keep hold­ing each other in space, in words, in art, in con­ver­sa­tion, in breath, with deep love, care, and com­pas­sion.”

“To my fam­ily, to my friends, to com­mu­ni­ties who are liv­ing in fear and sad­ness, let us breathe in re­silience and let us breathe out re­silience. We will make it through, even through the haze of our tears, in sol­i­dar­ity in our fight for so­cial jus­tice and lib­er­a­tion,” she con­cluded.

This par­tic­u­lar speaker seemed to res­onate deeply with the crowd. In an in­ter­view with The Daily, one at­tendee, Kasha, noted that this speech was most mem­o­rable for her.

“What stood out about her speech sim­ply was that I think she touched upon all marginal­ized pop­u­la­tions and all marginal­ized com­mu­ni­ties and [...] set a mes­sage and a prece­dence of in­clu­sive­ness. So I think that who­ever you are, wher­ever you’re com­ing from, if you’re here, you felt that you were part of this com­mu­nal en­ergy,” she said.

Other at­ten­dees also high­lighted the sense of sol­i­dar­ity at the vigil.

When asked how she felt about the event, one at­tendee, Manaima, said, “I think it’s re­ally sad [...] not just for us [Mus­lims]. It’s not just for Mus­lim peo­ple be­cause ev­ery­body’s go­ing to be sad and ev­ery­body’s go­ing to be af­fected by it. I don’t know how to ex­plain it but it’s very sad for me.”

After the speeches ended, sev­eral hun­dred at­ten­dees re­mained in the square chant­ing slo­gans such as “Musul­mans, bi­en­v­enue [Mus­lims wel­come]!” for at least an­other half hour.

Conor Nick­er­son | The Mcgill Daily

An at­tendee at the vigil.

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