Inside the Quebec City mosque that was attacked
The shoes of the victims, removed as is custom before entering the prayer area of the mosque, are still on otherwise empty shelves. Shoes of worshippers who fled the scene as a gunman opened fire are strewn all over the floor.
Two days after a deadly attack that left six people dead, the Centre Culturel Islamique de Quebec opened its doors to media to show “all Canadians what happened.”
“We want to show these images to stop the contribution to the hate, to stop the contribution to the Islamophobia,” said Mohamed Labidi, former president of the mosque.
In a silent video posted online Tuesday night, mosque leaders took viewers on a tour of the empty building, where graphic evidence of the massacre still gives it the appearance of a fresh crime scene.
The walls and carpets of what was once a place of sanctuary are stained with blood. Bullets have pierced the walls.
“The gunman came in by this entry, this is the entrance of the mosque, started shooting two people on the outside at the entrance and then he came in,” Ahmed El Refai, who lost his best friend Azzedine Soufiane in the shooting, told reporters on Wednesday morning, taking them through the scene. “He started shooting, if you look, that’s the bathroom, he started shooting people here and then he entered that opening and started killing people.”
“This is very emotional for me,” he continued. “I cannot describe that, because these were my friends, my brothers who were killed here.”
Labidi described to reporters how Soufiane came out from his hiding place behind a column when he saw the attacker trying to recharge his gun and tried to immobilize him.
“But the attacker was more quick and went back and shot him directly in his body,” Labidi said.
“And he fell down here,” he continued, pointing to a spot by a doorway, “as a hero.”
“Without his intervention, we [would’ve had] more martyrs. Very generous person. I know him very well, and he showed generosity at the end of his life. The last second of his life, he showed the generosity in his heart.”
“This mosque is the heart of our community,” said Labidi, his voice cracking. “We were attacked in our heart. Everyone in our community was attacked on our heart.”
The mosque isn’t officially open yet, but a handful of worshippers showed up to pray on Wednesday morning. The mosque will be renovated “to take these memories out of our heads,” El Refai told reporters.
“We were attacked in our heart. Everyone in our community was attacked on our heart.”
“In Islam, the fundamental principle is that you cannot kill anyone without justice, without cause, without anything,” Labidi told reporters. “If you do so, you kill everyone in the world, says the Quran. If you save one, you save all the people in the world. This is [what’s told] to us in the Quran.”
Yasmeena, who lost friends in the shooting, and only wanted to be identified by her first name told reporters, “I wish we don’t forget the children. What to say to these children? Most of them were born here. They feel absolutely, totally Quebecois.”
“We have, every time, tried to teach them the good values of Islam — not to be angry, not to do bad things. What can we say for them?” she said. “But as Michelle Obama said, ‘When they go low, they go high.’ That’s it.”
A public funeral for Abdelkrim Hassane, Khaled Belkacemi and Aboubaker Thabti, who died in the shooting, is being held tomorrow at the Maurice Richard Arena in Montreal.
Prayers will be held for Mamadou Tanou Barry, Azzedine Soufiane and Ibrahima Barry, whose families are looking into taking them back to their home countries to be buried.
Cover: Photo by Mathieu Belanger/Reuters