The Quebec City mosque that was the target of a mass shooting last January will boost security after a flux of “hateful messages.” And while they report receiving one or two pieces of hate mail per week, one of the most aggressive ones arrived last week.
The Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec received a package on Friday containing a defaced Quran and a note suggesting the community use a hog farm as a cemetery.
The package arrived two days before a controversial referendum in a nearby town rejected a plan to build a long-sought Muslim cemetery.
The note reads: “You’re looking for a cemetery to bury your dirty carcasses? Then here is an ideal place for you. It will smell like pork anyway.” Last year, a pig’s head with a note that read “bon appétit” was found outside the mosque.
A group that campaigned aggressively against that cemetery say they had nothing to do with the defaced Quran.
While Friday’s package might be the most aggressive message the mosque has received in recent months, the centre’s president Mohamed Labidi says the hate mail has become increasingly common — he told VICE News that the mosque receives one or two hate messages per week.
“We have received a lot of messages like ‘go to your home, you’re not safe here,’” he added. “There is some fear. We try to calm our community to pass through these difficulties … and to fight together to eradicate racism and xenophobia.”
She hopes that authorities will “take things seriously this time.”
The mosque was the scene of a deadly mass-shooting last January, when a gunman opened fire at the end of evening prayers, killing six. Alexandre Bissonnette is set to stand trial for the shooting. He was arrested near the scene of the shooting after reportedly confessing to the crime on the phone to police. His social media presence suggests an affinity for right-wing and far-right causes.
Members of the Quebec Muslim community have increased concern about their safety at the mosque. Labidi said the mosque will be working to implement more security at the front doors and aim to finish in three to four months.
A spokesperson for the Islamic Cultural Centre called on worshippers to “remain vigilant and to report to the police and the centre any suspicious threats or behaviour,” on the centre’s Facebook page on Wednesday.
Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard denounced the “coward” who sent a defaced Quran and a note suggesting a hog farm be used as a Muslim cemetery to the mosque.
“These are Quebecers who are Muslim and no one deserves to be treated in that manner,” Couillard told reporters on Wednesday. “It’s a cowardly act. Someone anonymously delivers a hurtful document to the doors of the Quebec City mosque. That person is a coward.”
Members of the group commented on the post that they are shocked by the “vicious” behaviour and that there should be severe punishment for such an act. One member wrote she hopes that authorities will “take things seriously this time.”
Labeaume told CBC that the referendum results were “sad”
According to CBC, Quebec police are currently investigating who is behind the package sent.
La Meute, a far-right Facebook-based group prominently known in Quebec for its anti-Islam stance with more than 40,000 members, denied any affiliation with the note sent to the mosque on Friday.
La Meute national spokesperson Sylvain Brouillette told VICE News that the group doesn’t “stoop down to that kind of stupid action.” He added that they aim to fight for democracy and fundamental rights.
“This gesture is cowardly and disgraceful, this is not our approach and we strongly condemn this type of action.”
When asked whether he believes the group’s discourse promotes this kind of action, Brouillette said it’s not their action that encourages it, but the media’s portrayal of La Meute as “a group of hateful and racist extreme right radicals.”
Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeaume committed to getting the cemetery approved after the shooting in January. It was to be built in Saint-Apollinaire, a small municipality southwest of Quebec City. Citizens of the small town — at least those who voted — narrowly voted to reject the cemetery.
Labeaume told CBC that the referendum results were “sad” due to the majority of eligible voters staying silent in a province-wide matter. Just 36 residents voted in the referendum — 19 against, 16 in favour.
Couillard dismissed criticism of the provincial government not getting involved in the referendum, but added that the province will now aim to find a solution to the lack of burial space for the Muslim community in Quebec. He said the government’s decision to not influence voters was due to the fact that there were so few registered voters, that it “didn’t seem like a good idea.” He added the government would soon sit down with Muslim community members to find a solution.
No specific agenda was mentioned on how the province plans to combat this issue.