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Mosque Shooting Inspires Support For Canada's Muslim Community


Here's another of today's main stories. Canadian officials arrested a suspect in the massacre at a mosque. He's 27, a university student and an online critic of immigration. North Country Public Radio's Brian Mann is in Quebec City.

BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: Police here say Alexandre Bissonnette, a French-Canadian, walked into the mosque in this quiet neighborhood of Quebec's provincial capital during prayer service and started shooting. Six men were killed, including a grocer and a college professor. Two others remain in critical condition. No one's sure why he did it. But Bissonnette's Facebook posts suggested he was drawn to right-wing politicians and opposed immigration.


PRIME MINISTER JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Canadians will not be broken by this violence.

MANN: Prime minister Justin Trudeau spoke yesterday before Canada's parliament. He promised to stand with the country's fast-growing Muslim community.


TRUDEAU: The people who commit these acts mean to test our resolve and weaken our values. They aim to divide us, to sow discord and plant hatred. We will not close our minds. We will open our hearts.

MANN: Police at first thought there might be two gunmen. They now say Bissonnette allegedly acted alone, and later turned himself in.

Exactly 24 hours after the shooting, thousands of people marched in silence Monday through the snowy streets near the mosque, which was still cordoned off as a crime scene.

EMANUEL TROTTIER: Some people left candles. Some people are just here as a sign of solidarity and walking, just together, peacefully.

MANN: Emanuel Trottier lives in the neighborhood. She said she wanted to send a message to her Muslim neighbors.

TROTTIER: We want to show them our respect and affection.

MANN: But many of the people who gathered here were clearly shaken. Vicky Bonsaint said the attack had left her feeling confused and disillusioned.

VICKY BONSAINT: I'm here because I'm really sad about what happened here in Quebec. This should never happen. I thought we were a place of peace.

MANN: She said she's baffled that anyone could hate so much to kill during a prayer service. But while Quebec and all of Canada have welcomed growing numbers of refugees and immigrants in recent years, there have been tensions.

This mosque was vandalized last year during Islam's holy month of Ramadan. A pig's head - considered unclean by Muslims - was left on the front step. Daniel Fradette who marched last night said this community faces the same backlash that threatens Muslims and immigrants across Europe and North America.

DANIEL FRADETTE: You find scapegoats in the minorities and the people which is the other, which you can pin your fear, I would say.

MANN: But Canadians turned out by the thousands in vigils all across the country yesterday to show that they do welcome Muslims, that they do consider newcomers to be fully Canadian. That was also the message sent by Quebec's provincial premier Philippe Couillard who spoke directly to Muslim citizens.


PHILIPPE COUILLARD: (Speaking French).

MANN: "We are with you," Couillard said. "You are home, and you are welcome in this home. We are all the people of Quebec." For NPR News, I'm Brian Mann in Quebec City. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Brian Mann
Brian Mann is NPR's first national addiction correspondent. He also covers breaking news in the U.S. and around the world.