'We need to stop this Islamophobia': Friend of Quebec City mosque victims speaks out
Published Tuesday, January 31, 2017 10:38PM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, February 1, 2017 10:21PM EST
Sitting across from the butcher shop where Azzedine Soufiane would welcome him with a warm smile, Ahmed El Refai struggles to understand how his best friend was killed along with five other men inside a Quebec City mosque.
El Refai had left the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec just moments before the gunman opened fire, killing the men as they prayed and wounding more than a dozen others.
The sound of police sirens brought El Refai back. He was one of the first to witness the aftermath, watching as first responders pulled victims out of the building.
He soon learned that one of the dead was Soufiane, 57, owner of the Epicerie-Boucherie Assalam.
“We used to pray in this mosque every day -- every day, literally every night we would go to the prayer,” he told CTV News Chief Anchor Lisa LaFlamme. “I used to take my kids with me. And this is where my best friend was shot.”
El Refai said he’s been told Soufiane died trying to save others.
“He’s one of the heroes in the mosque because, from what we’re hearing from the witnesses, he was trying to stop this gunman. He tried to stop him and that’s why he got those deadly shots,” he said.
El Refai has been gladdened by the show of support from political leaders, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and the outpouring of support from Canadians across the country.
“This was a very strong message for us, that our neighbours are with us. So I feel overwhelmed with this kindness,” he said.
But he also looks warily to the United States and the policies of the new Trump administration, like the travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries.
“We need to send a strong message here in Canada, that our neighbours in the south should not affect us,” El Refai said. “Because in my opinion, what’s going on in America, it’s affecting us, so we need to stop that at the border. Stop this ignorance.”
Such ignorance, El Refai said, being voiced online.
"These fascist groups on the Facebook -- we need to stop that," he said. "We need to stop the Islamaphobic wave that will affect us. Not just the Muslim community, but all the races and all the minorities."