News by Professionals 4 Professionals

icom

Quebec: Uniting to fulfil mosque attack victim’s dream

Mamadou Tanou Barry once dreamt of bringing a permanent supply of fresh water to his native town in Guinea. But his dream was brutally cut short when a gunman opened fire on a mosque in Quebec City, killing Barry and five other Muslim men as they prayed.

The attack[1] at the Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre on January 29 sent shockwaves across Canada, and prompted candlelit vigils, rallies, and an outpouring of support[2] for the victims families and the larger Muslim community. Now, three months after the killings, Barry’s family, their supporters, and the Guinean community in Quebec City have launched a campaign to commemorate all six victims – and turn Barry’s unrealised goal into reality.

Organisers hope to raise about $18,000 to establish two water wells in Central Guinea, which is where Barry, a father of two, and his friend, Ibrahima Barry, a father of four who was also killed in the attack, were originally from. The wells will be dug in their memory, and in the memory of the other victims: Aboubaker Thabti, Abdelkrim Hassane, Khaled Belkacemi, and Azzedine Soufiane.

“We can t replace these fathers,” Souleymane Bah, president of the Guinean Association of Quebec, said. But the project will show the men’s families that the world has not forgotten about them, he told Al Jazeera.

“All we’re asking is for sensitivity, joy, and generosity from people, in the hopes of realising this dream.”

OPINION: Why the Quebec mosque shooting happened[3]

Organisers hope to build the wells in Guinea this summer in collaboration with a French NGO. Kim Vincent, another campaign volunteer, said the goal is “to create some sort of positive action as a result of such a horrible event”.

Security measures

The Muslim community across Canada, and in Quebec in particular, is still coming to terms with the deadly attack. Mohamed Labidi, interim president of the Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre, said the first priority after the shooting was to re-open the mosque and bring some semblance of normality back to the Muslim community in the city. Quebec mosque shooting puts islamophobia in focus

“We spent one week cleaning and putting the space back in order,” Labidi said. “After we tried to re-launch all the activities we did before,” including prayer services, meetings, and Arabic lessons.

“Especially for those who lived through the tragedy, who were eye-witnesses, yes, they were quite traumatised by it, and we feel it daily. But it didn’t stop them from coming back to the mosque to pray.”

He said mosque officials have taken steps to provide greater security at the mosque, which prior to the attack was always open, especially during prayer times, giving anyone access to the building. The mosque is now locked, but about 1,000 electronic entry passes have been distributed to regular congregants, Labidi said, and plans to reinforce the building’s glass facade and build more emergency exits are under way. He said putting a better security system in place was a long-standing priority, but the attack created a sense of urgency.

“The hateful acts started with graffiti on the walls, continued with leaflets passed around to houses in the neighbourhood, and culminated with the pig’s head” that was left on the doorstep of the mosque in June 2016, Labidi said.

“All that put us on guard that something was being prepared. It was like a race against the clock.”

In the immediate aftermath of the attack, both Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard described it as “a terrorist act”. But the alleged shooter, Alexandre Bissonnette, does not face explicit terrorism or hate crimes charges. The 27-year-old has been charged with six counts of first-degree murder, and five counts of attempted murder. Labidi said charging Bissonnette with terrorism is important because it would send a clear message to society at large “that hate can cause tragedies, [and] can cause audacious criminal acts”.

Anti-Islam rallies

In the months since the attack, anti-Muslim rhetoric has seen a rise in Canada. Far-right hate groups, spurned on by Conservative Party politicians, have recently become more vocal, rallying in several major Canadian cities against a federal parliamentary motion on Islamophobia.[4]

Passed in March, the federal motion condemns all forms of systemic racism, including Islamophobia, and tasks a parliamentary committee to study the issue, and track hate crimes. Opponents said the bill would lead to Islamic law in Canada, and stifle freedom of speech, and far-right groups held protests against it at city halls across the country, often shouting anti-Muslim slogans.

OPINION: Quebec mosque shooting – Beyond the official rhetoric[5]

Mosques have been vandalised in Montreal and Ottawa, and Montreal police recorded a spike in reported hate crimes in the city immediately after the attack in Quebec City. Elsewhere, anti-Muslim protesters calling for a ban on Islam picketed outside a Toronto mosque in February, and several incidents of anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim graffiti have been reported. A poll released earlier this week found that 59 percent of Quebecers thought that racial discrimination is a “very serious” or “somewhat serious” issue.

Still, Labidi said the Muslim community received a great show of solidarity and sympathy from people across Quebec and Canada following the attack, and that this openness and sense of inclusion is still being felt today.

“There are very positive signs,” he said.

“It continues, and we hope it doesn’t fade because I hope that everyone learnt the lesson from this, to have a better integration of Muslims and a better openness towards Muslims from their co-citizens in Quebec and Canada.”

Quebec: Uniting To Fulfil Mosque Attack Victim's Dream Six people were killed in the attack on January 29 [Mathieu Belanger/Reuters]

Source: Al Jazeera

References

  1. ^ The attack (www.aljazeera.com)
  2. ^ outpouring of support (www.aljazeera.com)
  3. ^ OPINION: Why the Quebec mosque shooting happened (www.aljazeera.com)
  4. ^ motion on Islamophobia. (www.aljazeera.com)
  5. ^ OPINION: Quebec mosque shooting – Beyond the official rhetoric (www.aljazeera.com)

Alaska National Guard to Host Radiological-Hazard Response Exercise

[1] Apr 28, 2017. Alaska National Guard To Host Radiological-Hazard Response Exercise

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Andrew Markham, an Alaska Army National Guard Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Environmental technician, gears up in 2016 exercise. Image-U.S. Air Force/ Airman Isaac Johnson

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska The Alaska National Guard s 103rd Weapons of Mass Destruction- Civil Support Team will be testing its ability to respond to a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threat in the municipality of Anchorage, May 1-3, alongside a multitude of other state Civil Support Teams and local, state and federal agencies. The annual exercise, dubbed Orca 2017, provides an opportunity for multiple agencies to tandemly react to a weapons of mass destruction event. During the exercise, teams will receive several notional CBRN threats within a 24-36 hour window that require rapid reaction and response by the players. This particular training will allow each agency to perfect its role within a weapons of mass destruction event and also sharpen their proficiencies when operating collectively.

Among the agencies who will be participating are: Alaska National Guard s Joint Operations Center, the Guam-based 94th WMD-CST, Nebraska-based 72nd WMD-CST, North Dakota-based 81st WMD-CST, Rhode Island-based 13th WMD-CST, 176th Civil Engineer Squadron, Alaska Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Alaska Public Health lab, Anchorage Police Department (SWAT), Anchorage Fire Department (HAZMAT), Palmer Fire Department, Port of Anchorage, Providence Hospital, Alaska Native Hospital, Anchorage Water & Wastewater Utility, University of Alaska, Alaska Railroad, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, Federal Bureau and Investigation, U.S. Coast Guard, Environmental Protection Agency, Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, JBER Counter-Improvised Explosive Device, National Weather Service and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

References

  1. ^ (alaska-native-news.com)

Armed standoff at Asante ends peacefully

Ryan Pfeil Mail Tribune @RyanPfeil

A three-and-a-half-hour standoff with a man who allegedly threatened a security guard with a gun and threatened suicide ended peacefully this morning outside Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center. Police used a flash bang and a “stingball” grenade a nonlethal device that deploys little rubber balls to subdue the man, 59-year-old Donald Earl Moore Jr., of Cave Junction, Medford police said. Prior to Moore’s arrival at Asante, Emergency Communications of Southern Oregon 911 dispatch center received a 3:10 a.m. call from a man claiming he was suicidal and in need of assistance, though he would not provide his name or location, a police news release said. Dispatch officials tracked the call to Valley of the Rogue State Park outside Rogue River, but Oregon State Police and Jackson County Sheriff’s Office deputies were unable to find anyone there.

Moore arrived at the RRMC emergency room parking area at 4:17 a.m. and menaced a security guard with a gun, Medford police said in a Facebook post. Police and Jackson County Mental Health officials responded and engaged Moore in conversation, containing him to the parking lot. They identified the man and determined he had been the one who made the earlier 911 call. A SWAT team deployed the flash bang and stingballs at about 8 a.m. and took Moore into custody. He was medically cleared at the hospital and lodged in the Jackson County Jail on charges of unlawful use of a weapon, disorderly conduct and menacing, police said. He is held on $15,000 bail, according to jail officials. Asante instituted a “code silver” during the incident at the hospital, a protocol enacted whenever someone comes onto the campus threatening people with a weapon, according to hospital public information officer Lauren Van Sickle. Police closed multiple entrances around RRMC to contain the flow of people going in and out.

“The one benefit we had was that it was very early in the morning,” Van Sickle said. “There wasn’t a lot of foot traffic.”

Anyone who showed up at the emergency room for care was directed to the south entrance, where they were escorted to ER by hospital personnel, Van Sickle said.

“Our patients and staff were not at risk,” Van Sickle said. “(Police) were spot on. They contained the situation quickly.”

All entrances at the hospital are back open.

“Ultimately, an excellent resolution to what could have been a tragedy,” said Medford police Lt. Kerry Curtis.

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or [email protected] Follow him at www.twitter.com/ryanpfeil.