canadasvoice:QUEBEC — Even before a gunman strode into a Quebec City mosque and killed six people last January, the city’s Muslim community had been living in fear.
At one mosque, vandals had sprayed hateful graffiti and broken windows. At another, someone left a pig’s head outside the door during Ramadan.
And Muslim-owned stores around the city had been targeted by people distributing business cards for the far-right Quebec group La Meute; in one case, the person dropping off the cards said “a war” was about to start against Muslims.
One of the cards had been handed to grocer Azzeddine Soufiane, who was later killed in the Jan. 29, 2017, mosque massacre.
Mohamed Labidi, former president of the mosque where the shooting occurred, recounted the incidents in a Quebec City courtroom Thursday during the sentencing hearing for Alexandre Bissonnette, who has pleaded guilty to six counts of first-degree murder and six of attempted murder.
Labidi told Justice François Huot that after the massacre, the mosque was in a “race against time” to increase security because the Muslim community was traumatized by the attack and worried more violence would follow.
The front door is now locked at all times and worshippers need a smart card to get in. During Ramadan, security guards patrol around the mosque.
“Alexandre Bissonnette defiled a meeting place, a place of spirituality and tranquility,” Labidi said.
The attack compelled leaders to curtail mosque activities and led to a drop in attendance.
Social events for children were cancelled for four months. Meetings for women were cancelled for six weeks. Since the attack, 20 fewer children now attend the mosque’s religious school.
Overall, the number of worshippers has dropped by one third, Labidi said.
He called Bissonnette’s actions as “an act of terrorism,” noting the confessed murderer “was inspired by fanatical and hateful propaganda on the internet and social media.”
Bissonnette has not faced any terrorism-related charges. And the 28-year-old killer has said he is not Islamophobic, telling a police interrogator he “wasn’t targeting Muslims. It could have been anybody.”
But Labidi said evidence presented in recent days — including the fact that Bissonnette was closely following right-wing anti-immigrant extremists online — shows he was obsessed with Muslims.
“I conclude that without a shadow of a doubt Islamophobia and racism were (Bissonnette’s) main motive,” Labidi said.
He said Bissonnette succeeded in “intimidating the Muslim community,” noting some Muslims have left or are contemplating leaving Quebec and Canada.
The co-founder of the mosque also testified Thursday. Boufeldja Benabdallah read a letter directly to Bissonnette, telling him the Muslim community has been receiving, daily, letters, smiles, handshakes and flowers from supportive people.
He said Quebec Muslims are haunted by terrible memories of the attack.
“Despite the fact that the bright red blood of my dead or injured brothers has been cleaned from the mosque’s green carpet, and that the walls have been replastered to hide the bullet holes from those who are praying or coming to visit us, there will always be the memory of the bodies — lying still or moving in pain — and that will remind us of the tragedy, of which you were the architect,” Benabdallah said told Bissonnette.
Since Monday afternoon, the prosecution has been calling to testify people directly affected by the shooting, including the injured and those who escaped unharmed, and relatives of those who died.
An emotional Ahmed Cheddadi told the court Thursday that he is haunted by what he saw in the mosque on the night of the shooting. Images of a terrified child screaming as bullets flew, the sight of Bissonnette firing his gun left and right, and shooting at Soufiane after he had tried to tackle Bissonnette and had fallen to the ground.
Cheddadi concluded by telling the court that his 10-year-old daughter is afraid for him to go to the mosque. This, he said, is what she told him: “Papa, the mosque is dangerous at night, you should not go there another Bissonnette could come and hurt you, we need you, please don’t go there.”
The hearing continues on Monday. The maximum punishment Huot could impose is life in prison without the possibility of parole for 150 years….More
Source – The Gazette