I don’t remember exactly where I was when I heard the news of the attack, but I do remember the onslaught of feelings that it unleashed; horror, sadness, anger, shame, frustration and despair that I carried in my bones in the days, weeks, and eventually months that followed.
As an anti-racist activist, who had been witnessing (and trying to organize against) the growing influence of the alt-right, Islamophobic and nationalist rhetoric in Quebec, sadly, despite the shock, I was not genuinely surprised. I was ashamed at our failures.
I remember trying to be there for my friends, but not knowing quite how to. I remember sitting in long silences. And I remember the urgency felt in needing to somehow respond. I designed and printed these two posters as a testament to those feelings, as a small contribution to the struggle against Islamophobia, white supremacy, and racism. There is so much work to be done.
My love to all the families.
On January 29, 2017, around 7:52pm, a young white man entered a mosque in Quebec City in Canada and in the course of a few minutes, murdered Azzeddine Soufiane, Mamadou Tanou Barry, Khaled Belkacemi, Aboubaker Thabti, Ibrahima Barry and Abdelkrim Hassane. Five others were badly injured: Aymen Derbali, Said El-Amari, Mohamed Khabar, Nizar Ghlai and Said Akjour.
This was the largest political mass shooting in Canada in 25 years, and the first time Muslims had been killed inside a mosque in North America. It is one of the most important moments in recent Canadian history. January 29th happened in the context of decades of wars against Muslim-majority countries, which has normalized the killing of millions of Muslims. This dehumanization has resulted in the rate of attacks on Muslims inside Canada increasing 253% between 2012 and 2015.
We #RememberJan29. Hussan had fallen asleep early, he woke up to his phone ringing. The news at that time was only being reported in French. The few English sources were insisting then there were two shooters – one of them a Muslim man. It was like waking up to a nightmare. Aliya was out of the country. The day she’d left, all the screens in the airport were tuned into Trump’s Muslim ban press conference, and then Quebec City happened. She remembers feeling heartbroken and spent the day glued to her phone, feeling scared and helpless, waiting for updates.
When we sit together and talk about ‘where were you when’ in the context of a important historic moment, we are building web of common experience, connecting ourselves to that moment and to each other.
To #RememberJan29 is to insist that what happened on January 29th is not resolved, and won’t simply be resolved with a trial. It is ongoing, it has broader implications and it must be understood for all its complexity. This is one of many attempts. It only works if you participate.