Students gathered at Memorial University’s St. John’s Campus on Monday to honour the lives lost in the Quebec City mosque shooting one year ago. On January 29, 2017, six worshippers at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City were killed and nineteen others injured when a gunman opened fire at the centre shortly after evening prayer.
“It’s affected me personally, as a Muslim woman” said Dr. Sobia Shaikh, a professor in MUN’s school of Social Work, “it shook me.”
Shaikh is also the co-organizer of the Addressing Islamophobia in Newfoundland and Labrador project, which was behind Monday’s event. The project, as Shaikh explained, came out of conversations within the community about islamophobia and it “supports the community’s capacity […] to deal with islamophobia”.
The project has applied for some funding to do workshops in the fall for service providers, educators, community organizations and university groups, with the goal of teaching these groups how to handle incidents of islamophobia.
When asked why she felt it was important to have an event on campus on the anniversary of the shooting, Shaikh explained, “It was really important to show solidarity with other Muslim communities […] and also to do some action against islamophobia”. She also emphasized that she wanted to “showcase some of the really amazing work that’s being done on campus” with respect to fighting islamophobia.
Various MUN organizations were present at the event to show their support for Muslim communities across Canada and the world, as well as to educate the student body.
Reem Abu-hendi, President of the Muslim Students Association, was present, providing information about the MSA and what they do. She highlighted Hijab day on February 1 and Islam awareness week, which runs from February 23 until March 1, as important events that the MSA works to put off. She emphasized the importance of communication in understanding one another, stating: “If you have any questions, approach a Muslim, ask them, it’s better than to have some stereotypes in your mind”. She added that it is important to “have an open conversation going on”.
Students who dropped by the gathering were also invited to sign a petition urging the Federal Government to make January 29 an official day against islamophobia. Abu-hendi explained: “We just want a day to remember the people who have been affected in the Quebec shooting and also other people around Canada who have also been experiencing islamophobia”.
She also explained that this past year, especially since the islamophobic posters were put up around MUN, there have been an increased number of complaints by Muslim students that they are facing islamophobia, as well as an increased concern for the safety of Muslim students.
“It’s important for Muslims to put their voices out there” she added.
Representatives from Memorial University’s Student Union and the Canadian Federation of Students were also present at the event.
Renata Lang, MUNSU’s Director of External Affairs, emphasized the importance of standing up against islamophobia, stating “We do say that we’re an open and accepting country, of course we’ve got some open immigration policies, our Prime Minister has said that he does stand with refugees and such, and it can be very powerful to say those statements. But for us, just to say them is symbolic, but to solidify it in policy and in governmental changes […] makes those goals set in stone”.