On a quiet Sunday evening at a local mosque, a terrible attack shook the Quebec City suburb of Sainte-Foy when Alexandre Bissonnette murdered six people and injured 19.
The mosque shooting, motivated by hate and ignorance, is one of the worst attacks in Canadian history.
But the attack also produced an outpouring of love and support from Canadians across the country.
Of the many stories of support, there is one in particular that strikes me. In Pickering, Ont., Ryan Slobojan took his young daughter Elizabeth to a local mosque the day after the attack along with a sign that said “Free Hugs.”
It was their first time in a mosque and they had never met anyone there before that day, but their act was greeted with kindness and warmth by all whom they met and hugged. From that initial step, Ryan founded an initiative called Push Back the Darkness, in commemoration of the victims of the Quebec mosque attack and to encourage others to stand against ignorance and hate in Canada. The initiative has also helped support the organizing of vigils in cities across Canada.
I had a chance to visit the Islamic Cultural Centre after the attack, and was welcomed warmly. Even after the attack, they opened their doors to people of all religions and embraced strangers into their community.
The centre proved to be a source of love, affection, peace and brotherhood for all people, regardless of whether they’re Muslim or not. With messages of compassion for all of humankind, the community is an embodiment of the benevolent message of Islam — peace, universal brotherhood and submission to the will of God— in its pristine purity.
When we take the time to get to know our neighbours and build with them the bonds of friendship, we strengthen our communities and ensure the ignorance and hate that struck on January 29, 2017, will have no space to take hold.
We must never forget the high cost of complacency and the need to take action to ensure that Canada remains the shared, diverse and welcoming place we all want it to be.
Anti-Muslim rhetoric has violent consequences every day and that is why I am proud to work alongside my fellow Canadians to push back the darkness of ignorance and hate with the light of knowledge and friendship.
Our words will not be enough. Let us come together to support one another through our actions, and ensure that the world we leave to our children is more tolerant and accepting than the world we have today.
Senator Mobina S.B. Jaffer represents British Columbia.