The following piece was originally published at Urbania.ca as "Attentat de Québec : Les mots de Nader Daher, 26 ans, Québécois et musulman," on January 30, the day after the shooting; Melissa Bull has translated the piece for Maisonneuve.
We surely belong to Allah and to Him we shall return. These sacred words from the Quran ran through my mind all last night.
To comfort myself, to comfort my family, my friends, my community, and all those horrified by what had just happened. Death and fear can seem very distant until you find yourself watching familiar faces on television—frightened, terrorized, bereaved, and murdered.
Last night it took many consecutive and frenetic calls before I could reach my father, who lives a few steps away from Quebec City’s Islamic Cultural Centre.
I thought of every possibility. What if he’d been walking by and was hit by a stray bullet?
I’m not ready to lose my father. I’m not ready to lose any member of my family.
The longest minutes of my life.
He eventually called me back and told me he’d heard everything but he was safe and sound. My father lived through the war in Lebanon. He can recognize the shots of machine guns among a thousand and one sounds. He said to me, “My son, I knew right away that the mosque had been attacked…”
A flurry of calls to friends and family followed. The more the night progressed, the more we learned. So-and-so’s father had died. Someone else’s neighbour. All members of our peaceful community. Fathers, pious men who’d wanted nothing more than to love God in all tranquility on that fateful Sunday.
I spent the rest of the night with a friend in tears, crying over the deaths of this community that had watched him grow and become a member of Quebec’s society. I was struck by a mixture of sadness, anger and alarm in the face of this horror that occurred in this house of God.
Today, the Muslim community is in mourning, but I cannot say, unfortunately, that we are surprised. We have been ostracized, accused, stigmatized; we have received death threats; pig’s blood has been sprayed; pig heads have been left outside our doors. Each time we have dared to utter the words racism and Islamophobia, we have been rebutted… Now, we are frightened, terrorized, in mourning, and murdered… But no, we are not surprised. The harbingers were there.
I saw the signs every time we’ve mentioned the discrimination and hatred we suffer on a daily basis. We’ve been told not to exaggerate, that it is much worse elsewhere. And I feel the political authorities have betrayed us over the years, turning our community into political capital. The media in general has turned its back on us, preferring to show a frightening, alarmist image of our community. Police have repeated that the threats against us were unfounded all the while maintaining surveillance on our youth.
Today, we mourn our dead, exemplary Quebecois and Canadian citizens killed for their faith, whom we cannot even bury in Quebec because the municipal authorities have refused us a cemetery for years. In their memory, we go on living, we will persevere, we will move forward, exhorting righteousness and respect towards others, in the hopes that one day we can be seen as full citizens.
May the peace of God be with them. My thoughts and sympathies go out to the families of the victims and to everyone in our community.