Sunday’s Quebec City mosque attack, a brutal shooting that left six people dead and 19 more injured, has sent shock waves rippling through Canadian and American media, and the latest information about the alleged shooter only complicates the already thorny issue of Muslim-Western relations. The lone suspect was a 27-year-old Canadian college student and, according to social media and those that knew him, had recently become an ardent nationalist and Donald Trump supporter.
For Canada to be the target of terror, and specifically for its historic Quebec City to endure a mosque attack during prayer time, seemed far-fetched before Sunday’s horrific shooting, but officials and citizens alike are now reeling and searching for answers. The suspected shooter in custody, Alexandre Bissonnette, was charged on Monday with six counts of murder for the Quebec City mosque attack, according to the New York Times. No particular motive has been put forth, though evidence points to the theory that he harbored resentment towards Muslim immigration and had been vocal in his support of Donald Trump and French nationalist leader Marine Le Pen.
Canadian news outlet the Globe And Mail reported that the Quebec City mosque attack shooter grew up in the Cap-Rouge suburb of Quebec City, a short distance from the scene of the crime, and was a student of Laval University. The Globe And Mail quoted François Deschamps, a Quebec local that runs a refugee support Facebook page, who claimed he immediately recognized Mr. Bissonnette’s photo from his frequent appearances online. Deschamps said the following.
“He was someone who made frequent extreme comments in social media denigrating refugees and feminism. It wasn’t outright hate, rather part of this new nationalist conservative identity movement that is more intolerant than hateful.”
Many details about the Quebec City mosque attack have yet to emerge, but the attack reportedly occurred around 8 p.m. EST at the Quebec City Islamic Cultural Center as nearly 60 people gathered for evening prayers. The gunmen opened fire randomly, leaving six men dead, including Laval University professor Khaled Belkacemi. At least 19 more people were injured, among them five that were initially in critical condition, though according to The Globe And Mail, there are two persons remaining in critical condition, and “health authorities expressed confidence that two of five men wounded most seriously in the attack will survive.” Bissonnette, the suspect, was captured by authorities early Monday morning and remains in custody.
The Quebec City mosque attack came at an inopportune time for Muslim-Western relations, as President Trump’s executive order last Friday has come under intense scrutiny. Labeled as a “Muslim Ban,” the executive order placed an immediate freeze on travel and immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries in the Middle East and North Africa–Sudan, Yemen, Libya, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, and Syria, and led to scores of weekend protests nationwide at American airports. Trump supporters see the ban as necessary to protect the U.S. from foreign terror.
The suspect in the Quebec City mosque attack, Alexandre Bissonnette, was allegedly radicalized nearly a year ago in March, 2017, after France’s nationalist leader, Marine Le Pen visited Quebec City. According to a friend, Bissonnette was empowered by the populist sentiment that has been sweeping the Western world in Europe and the United States since the rise of ISIS and the Syrian refugee crisis has swept the region. The Globe And Mail spoke with Bissonnette’s childhood acquaintance and reported the following.
“Vincent Boissoneault, a student in international relations at Laval University, knew Mr. Bissonnette from childhood and was friends with him on Facebook.
“He said they frequently argued over politics when Mr. Bissonnette attacked refugees or expressed support for Ms. Le Pen or Mr. Trump.”
Authorities continue to investigate this “lone wolf” attack, but the suspect in the Quebec City mosque attack has been characterized by those who know him as a Trump supporter and a nationalist.
[Featured Image by Andrew Harnik/AP Images]