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Vigils are held for victims of Quebec mosque attack

"This is the first time I’ve felt unsafe as a Muslim in Canada."

People hold candles at the vigil at Dalhousie University.   Robert Bartley-Crossley

For many in the Muslim community in Nova Scotia, this was a day of great sorrow, but also of hope. On Jan. 30, Halifax citizens held ceremonies and vigils around the municipality in memory of those killed in the attack on a mosque in Quebec City.

Amina Abawajy is the vice president of the Dalhousie Muslim Student’s Association, and she was one of the people to speak at a vigil held on Dalhousie campus.

“My sister posted today on Facebook, saying, ‘this is the first time I’ve felt unsafe as a Muslim in Canada,’” Abawajy said in an interview after the event, reflecting on what the tragedy means for her. “It really shook me and hit me hard.”

After the student vigil, however, she felt a great sense of community.

“The most emotional part for me today was seeing so many non-Muslims gathering and showing their solidarity,” she said.

A sign reading “Mikmaq in solidarity with Muslims” from the Grand Parade vigil.   Robert Bartley-Crossley

At a vigil held later in the day at Grand Parade, several hundred people gathered to pay their respects and stand in solidarity.

Safia Abdoulla, a young Muslim woman who attended the event, is worried about what the tragedy in Quebec could mean.

“As a young woman, I always go out with the headscarf on and it’s like a target,” she said. “So I get really nervous when I hear about stuff like this that happens in my own country.”

She also expressed great happiness at seeing the number of people who had come out in support, saying, “it means a lot, because I know that people are here, and they support us. They don’t support the Islamophobia that’s going around. It’s very supportive. I love it.”

Richard Martin, who was also in attendance, said events like this matter for what they can represent to a community.

“It means there are people who want to live in a country without hate and without prejudice, and that’s heartening,” he said.

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil issued a statement saying, “on behalf of Nova Scotians, I want to extend deepest sympathies to the Muslim community of Quebec City and everyone touched by this senseless act of violence.

“Canada is a welcoming and diverse country and I stand with my colleague and friend, Premier Philippe Couillard, in embracing the values of a multicultural society.”

People gathered and lit candles in Grand Parade.   Caitrin Pilkington