‘Ottawa’ Vigil Shows Solidarity in Face of ‘Unspeakable’ Tragedy
As political, spiritual and community leaders stood shoulder to shoulder at a vigil to denounce Sunday’s “unspeakable” act of terror that claimed six lives in Quebec City, Ottawa’s Muslim leaders rejected fear and division in the wake of the tragedy.
Imam Samy Metwally of Ottawa’s main mosque on Northwestern Avenue said he spoke with civic leaders, police agencies and concerned citizens through the day Monday, and said all agreed the act of violence does not reflect the Canada they know and love.
“There arose a question of safety and security, and I will say no — we feel safe, we feel secure, we feel love from all our Canadian fellow brothers and sisters. We live in God’s paradise on Earth, here in our country Canada,” Metwally said.
Standing in the glow of the Eternal Flame on Parliament Hill at Monday’s candlelight vigil, surrounded by a throng of mourners and supporters, many of whom also attended a demonstration against the U.S. travel ban at the American Embassy earlier in the day, Metwally said the news of Sunday’s shooting at the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec was “very saddening and shocking.”
But as local worshippers arrived to the mosque for Monday prayers, Metwally said they were greeted by an outpouring of support and solidarity.
“One of (the messages) said, ‘I support freedom of worship and love.’ Another message said, ‘Be proud of who you are,’ and we are such proud Canadians. What happened (Sunday) does not reflect the Canada that we know. In fact, what happened today by your gathering here and the messages of support we’ve received from everyone, that reflects the Canada that we know.”
Amira Elghawahy, of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, called the mass shooting “a moment of utter horror and grief,” and said the Muslim community is “overwhelmed by the love and support and sheer kindness, and the feeling that we are not in this alone.”
Elghawahy read aloud the names of the six people who perished in Sunday’s shooting.
“They were at a place of worship, a place of sanctuary, where they were taking refuge from the difficulties of this world … going to a place that should be the most safe, the most comforting to stand with their fellow worshippers in prayer,” she said.
“We must reinforce a message of peace, of solidarity, of welcome, of inclusiveness. We shall not allow voices of hate or division to overcome. We know that our voices and our love is much, much stronger, and thank you for proving that tonight.”
Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna (centre) addresses the crowd. More than 1,000 people came out to a candlelight vigil for the victims of the Quebec mosque attack Monday (Jan. 30, 2017) in front of Parliament Hill’s eternal flame..
Gov. Gen. David Johnston called the tragedy “an unspeakable act that touches us all,” and led a chorus of Parliamentarians — including Environment Minister Catherine McKenna and Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen, who received perhaps the loudest applause — in denouncing the “brutal act of terror.”
Hussen spoke of the pride he felt in seeing the sheer enormity of the crowd, which Parliament Hill security estimated at around 1,500 people who braved the frigid evening to express their grief and solidarity.
“This is the response … this is the clear message,” he said. “When hatred expresses itself so brutally, we will always stand shoulder to shoulder, and make sure we strengthen each other and be there for each other. It gives me so much pride in Canada. This is the exact response we should be giving.”