Panel discussion remembers Quebec mosque massacre one year later

Students, professors and community members gather to discuss Islamophobia in Canada

Left to right: Imam Ryan Carter, Dr. Margaret Aziza Pappano, Sayyida Jaffer and Dr. Ariel Salzmann.
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On Jan. 29, Muslim Societies Global Perspectives hosted a panel discussion to mark the one-year anniversary of the Quebec City mosque massacre. The room was full with approximately 50 members of the Queen’s and Kingston community. 

Muslim Societies Global Perspectives (MSGP) hosted the panel on Monday — titled ‘Remembering the Quebec Mosque Massacre’ — in partnership with the Queen’s University Muslim Students Association (QUMSA) as part of Islamic Awareness Week. QUMSA is holding its annual Islamic Awareness Week from Jan. 29 to Feb. 2 this year with several lectures, panels and information booths set up on campus.

Professor in the Department of History and founder of MSGP Adnan Husain began the event by calling upon the audience to remember the six men who were killed and the 19 other worshippers who were injured by a gunman while attending Friday prayers at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City last year.

To mark the somber nature of the occasion, Imam Ryan Carter — a chaplain at the Royal Military College of Canada — lead the room in a moment of silent reflection to “reflect upon the lives of these six men who were injured and the families and communities that have been affected ever since.” 

Nadia Mahdi, ArtSci ’18, followed by reading an original poem she wrote about the response to the massacre and the importance of acknowledging the prevalence of Islamophobia in Canadian society. 

The panelists offered insight into many aspects of Islamophobia in both modern and historical contexts. Carter was the first panelist to speak, illustrating in his speech the need to maintain our sense of empathy in the wake of tragic events. 

“When we lose empathy, we fall victim to hate, we fall victim to discourse of ‘you and them,’” Carter said.

He also said this sort of discourse “does nothing but make us look at others as less than we are.” Carter then called for an end to the othering of Muslim communities and for continuing reflection upon and acknowledgment of “the disease of hatred” that exists within Canadian society. 

Margaret Aziza Pappano, a professor in the Department of English, offered a legal angle to the discussion. She highlighted the 2001 anti-terrorism laws that passed in Canada following 9/11 that specifically targeted Muslim men. 

Pappano specifically referenced Alexandre Bissonette, the non-Muslim man who attacked the mosque in 2017 and is currently facing murder-related charges rather than terrorism ones.

“Bissonette could have easily been termed a Le Pen-inspired terrorist, or a Trump-inspired terrorist … One of the tragedies that the failure to prosecute Bisonnette under terrorist laws exposes is the extent to which far right ideologies have become mainstream,” she said.

Sayyida Jaffer, a community member and one of the organizers of the event, spoke next. She discussed her own experience of learning about the Mosque shooting last year, noting that she felt isolated given there weren’t many spaces for her to express her grief and anger. 

History professor Ariel Salzman concluded the panel with an examination of the prevalence of open bigotry and prejudice in North American society. She cited the international network of Islamophobic institutions that leaders like Donald Trump have strengthened. “We are pushing back against a wall of hatred … and Muslims are on the front lines,” she said. 

After some discussion, Husain said he felt the event was a good start on a path to establishing an annual tradition to honour the victims of the attack. 

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