Quebecers who helped get Muslim cemeteries built say they’re a sign community is putting down roots

Standing in entrance of the gates of the Quebec City Muslim Cemetery, Boufeldja Benabdallah reflects on the more than 20 years he spent looking to identify a local burial flooring for his group.

“It was once 22 years of combating, analysis and conferences,” he said. “Folks were burying their family members on the Muslim cemetery in Montreal.” 

Benabdallah, who’s the cemetery director and co-founder of the Quebec City Islamic Cultural Centre, mentioned it was extraordinarily difficult to find land that was once available, inexpensive and properly zoned.

Reda Bouchelaghem of the Affiliation Culturelle Islamique de l’Estrie (ACIE) in Quebec’s Japanese Townships mentioned his group confronted equivalent demanding situations.

Each men say it took a tragedy that surprised the country for their cemeteries to see the light of day. 

Quebec City mosque assault

It has been five years since the fatal assault at the Quebec Town mosque. On Jan. 29, 2017, six individuals of Benabdallah’s congregation have been killed, and 5 others had been significantly injured while a gunman entered the city’s Islamic Cultural Centre during evening prayers. one in every of the injured remains to be in a wheelchair. Alexandre Bissonnette is serving two concurrent life sentences for the killings.

Following the shootings, the bodies of 5 of the six Muslim men killed have been sent to their countries of starting place. The sixth was buried in Laval, Que., which on the time had the only two Muslim cemeteries in Quebec.  

according to Islamic tradition, the frame of a deceased Muslim is to be washed, shrouded and a communal prayer performed earlier than it’s interred in the shortest conceivable time after demise — something that is been historically tough for Muslims in Canada. 

a few months after the attack, Benabdallah discovered a potential cemetery website in Saint-Apollinaire, a town of 6,000 about 45 kilometres south of Quebec City. The mayor of Saint-Apollinaire authorized an Islamic cemetery, but a group of citizens protested the challenge. They driven the problem to a municipal referendum, the place it was once voted down.

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Former mayor Régis Labeaume steps in

Benabdallah as a substitute got the ear of Quebec City’s then-mayor Régis Labeaume, who stated he was determined to work with the city’s Muslim group in an attempt to heal and transfer ahead after the 2017 assault.

in the days after the capturing rampage at the mosque, Labeaume promised to find an acceptable web page for a Muslim cemetery.

“we are operating with them to see what they want. we will assist them,” he said at the time.

Benabdallah, left, signed a land acquire settlement with former Quebec City mayor Régis Labeaume, proper, in 2019 that allowed the cemetery to be built within the Sainte-Foy neighbourhood where the 2017 capturing at a mosque claimed the lives of six folks. (Nicole Germain/Radio-Canada)

It was once Labeaume who later discovered a parcel of land on Frank-Carrel Street in the related Sainte-Foy neighbourhood because the Quebec City mosque.

“He knew the difficulties we have been having, and all of a sudden, he discovered a domain that belonged to the city and was already zoned for a cemetery,” said Benabdallah.

Quebec Town mayor vows to give Muslims a place to bury dead

After raising greater than $250,000 in donations, the Quebec City Islamic Cultural Centre signed a purchase agreement with the city in 2019. The cemetery opened in June 2020, and since then, SIXTEEN Muslims had been buried there.

Labeaume’s gesture “in reality touched the neighborhood,” Benabdallah mentioned.

Quebecers who helped get Muslim cemeteries built say they're a sign community is putting down roots

Mohamed Behache, who got here to Quebec from Algeria in the sixties, is one in all 16 other people laid to relax on the Quebec City Muslim cemetery. (Hadi Hassin/Radio-Canada)

Muslim cemetery in Sherbrooke

in the Eastern Townships, Bouchelaghem shares a similar story. The Sherbrooke guy who first came to the area 20 years in the past began on the lookout for a burial floor for Muslims in 2015. 

“Again then, it felt like we have been working up in opposition to a wall, however issues sooner or later began to open up for us,” he mentioned, “particularly after the attack in Quebec Town.”

In 2018, the town of Sherbrooke agreed to sell the Islamic cultural affiliation a small website online within the north finish of town, close to Victoria Park. Following a fundraising marketing campaign and approval from the province, the cemetery opened remaining November.

“Now Muslims who are living here in Sherbrooke should not have to go to Montreal to put plant life on a grave,” said Bouchelaghem. “It Is an enormous acquire … spiritually and emotionally.”

CBC reached out to town officials in Quebec Town and Sherbrooke to ask approximately the have an effect on the 2017 mosque assault had on their relationships with the Muslim community but didn’t pay attention back.

Quebecers who helped get Muslim cemeteries built say they're a sign community is putting down roots

Reda Bouchelaghem, president of the Japanese Townships Islamic Cultural Association, helped get a Muslim cemetery inbuilt Sherbrooke. He and his family have lived in the region for greater than twenty years. (Submitted via Reda Bouchelaghem)

Hanging down roots

Bouchelaghem has watched Sherbrooke’s Muslim neighborhood grow over the prior two decades, as more world scholars arrived to review at Bishop’s University and waves of Syrian refugees and other immigrants settled in the area.

He says language challenges for Muslim immigrants who don’t talk French and Quebec’s Invoice 21 — which bans a few civil servants from dressed in religious symbols at paintings — have driven some Muslims out of the province, however many within the neighborhood consider it home.

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“We’re here to stick,” he said. “the bulk of the community, we are well dependent right here. we have paintings, our children go to college right here, and we are operating to increase our society.”

Sombre anniversary

For Benabdallah, the status quo of the Quebec City cemetery is a sign of progress.

“Whilst anyone decides they want to be buried here and puts it in their will, it is a sign of integration,” he stated. “It Is an indication to the circle of relatives, to the kids that this is someplace we will are living.”

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As he pondered the 5th anniversary of the mosque attack, Benabdallah mentioned he thinks of the lives that had been lost, the people who were harm — and the fact he and his buddies have been centered as a result of their faith.

“we have that legal responsibility to commemorate and take into account that the ones moments, to bear in mind our brothers and those who had been injured,” he said.

But even as attitudes towards Muslims have progressed, he stated, the wider struggle in opposition to discrimination must proceed.

“The cries of hate have not disappeared. Islamophobia persists … however this stuff, we will modification,” he said.

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