SHAFAQNA – An attack Monday outside a mosque in London was all too familiar for Muslims in Quebec City, where just six months ago a gunman burst into a prayer room, killing six and injuring 19.
In a speech broadcast live over social media, an imam at the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec — site of the January shooting — condemned the London attack.
Worshippers were leaving a mosque in north London after Ramadan prayers around midnight when a van struck several pedestrians gathered outside.
Eight people were taken to hospital and one person died at the scene, though police later said it wasn’t immediately clear what caused the death.
“It wasn’t long ago that in this mosque, someone killed six and injured many,” Sheikh Kamel Gahen said at the Quebec City mosque, just after hours of the London attack.
Gahen spoke in Arabic; his words were simultaneously translated into French. He was kneeling at the front of the room where in January a man — suspected to be 27-year-old Alexandre Bissonnette — walked through the front door during a similar prayer session and opened fire.
“This man drove into worshippers praying outside the mosque like they were nothing,” Gahen said of the London attack, adding the suspect knew “nothing of humanity.”
The Quebec City mosque broadcast Gahen’s comments on its Facebook page early Monday morning.
In the comments below another Monday morning post, the mosque said one of the men injured in the January shooting, Aymen Derbali, was watching from his hospital room.
“These kinds of tragedies show us that the religion of Islam is, in a way, targeted,” Gahen said. “Islam is against violence.”
‘Fear part of daily life’
It’s the third time in three months that a vehicle has been used to attack pedestrians in Britain.
“Obviously the first thought I was thinking about was what happened here in Quebec in January,” Haroun Bouazzi, co-president of the Association of Muslims and Arabs for a Secular Quebec, told CBC Montreal’s Daybreak.
Bouazzi said there are differences in the public reaction’s when a white person is suspected of committing violence.
In these cases, the focus tends to be on the perpetrators’ mental health. And while that can be an important factor, Bouazzi said, it is often accompanied by a reluctance to use the term “terrorism.”
This time, police in London were swift in declaring the incident a terrorist attack — within eight minutes of it happening — but British media has been criticized for being slow to use the label.
“The Muslim community is obviously terrorized,” Bouazzi said. “And, in this case, civilians have been targeted to terrorize the Muslim minority in England.”
At home, Muslims are still apprehensive, he says.
“The fear is actually part of — especially for women wearing scarves — part of daily life,” he said.