Nearly a year after a deadly mass shooting inside a Quebec City mosque, Mohamed Labidi is weighing an outpouring of support from Canadians against signs that Islamophobia continues to rise in his community.
“My feeling is split between hope and fear,” the president of the Quebec City Islamic Centre told CTV News on Sunday.
Six people were killed and 19 injured in the shooting inside his place of worship on Jan. 29, 2017. Monday marks one year since the attack. Alexandre Bissonnette, 27, faces six counts of first-degree murder and six counts of attempted murder. His trial is scheduled to begin March 26.
Labidi says he hoped the shocking act of violence would quell longstanding cultural divisions and that hate crimes would fall. Those hopes were dashed. Quebec City police said hate crimes doubled in 2017.
Far-right groups like La Meute appeared emboldened in the wake of the shooting. Some claimed the attack had been blown out of proportion.
Meanwhile, a plan to establish the area’s first Muslim-owned cemetery in the town of Saint-Apollinaire was voted down by residents.
“It was very astonishing that you can find one person that can say no and stand against a cemetery for someone,” Labidi said.
A parcel of land was found three weeks later, but only after Quebec City Mayor Regis Labeaume brokered a deal for city land.
Days after that, Labidi became a target.
“My own car was burned because I am Muslim,” he said. “Still we are receiving messages of hatred, messages of rejection.”
In October, Quebec’s National Assembly also introduced of a controversial bill that prohibits citizens from receiving or giving public services with their faces covered. The legislation was widely criticized as targeting Muslim women who wear face veils.
The public rallies ahead of a judge’s ruling that Quebec cannot force people to uncover their faces offered, for many, a glimmer of hope that Quebecers are willing to stand up for the religious freedoms of Muslims.
Labidi says that he has enough signs of support over the past year to remain cautiously optimistic about the future.
“Together, we will emerge stronger from this,” he said. “More united then before.”
With a report from CTV’s Vanessa Lee is Quebec City and The Canadian Press