The firebombing of a Muslim leader’s car in his Quebec City driveway as his family slept at home has his community demanding action and provincial political leaders wondering what they must do to clamp down on emboldened right-wing zealots.
Mohamed Labidi, president of the Centre culturel islamique de Québec, right, shakes hands with Boufeldja Benabdallah, left, interim coordinator at the Centre Islamique de Quebec, and Quebec City Mayor Regis Labeaume after announcing the establishment of a Muslim cemetery on Aug. 4, 2017.
JACQUES BOISSINOT/THE CANADIAN PRESS
Mohamed Labidi, president of the Centre culturel islamique de Québec, says his wife was roused around 1:30 a.m. on Aug. 6 when she heard a blast outside. The couple found the family car engulfed in flames.
Mr. Labidi received minor burns trying to put out the fire, which also burned a hedge. No one else was hurt. The car was destroyed and taken away as evidence. Mr. Labidi and the cultural centre agreed to a police request to stay silent about the attack so they could carry on their investigation discreetly. No arrests have been made in the attack or other recent acts of vandalism aimed at the mosque, police said.
“This hateful crime against the president and his family add to a long list of hateful acts against our organization,” the cultural centre said in a statement. Mr. Labidi declined to give interviews, directing inquiries to the mosque’s statement.
Mr. Labidi and his community decided to make the attack public this week after an Aug. 20 protest by the extreme right-wing anti-Islam group La Meute appeared to gain the group some sympathy in the media after opponents of La Meute clashed with police.
“We exhort the public and politicians in Quebec and Canada to pay special, diligent attention to the rise of the extreme right in Quebec City,” the mosque’s statement said. “These aren’t simple protests of extremists against immigration. These acts threaten our lives.”
Mohamed Yangui, the former president of the mosque, said anxiety is on the constant rise among Muslims in Quebec City. “We’re frustrated and scared and we don’t feel safe anymore,” Mr. Yangui said.
Just 36 hours before the attack, Mr. Labidi was tearfully buoyant. Eight months after the mosque shooting that killed six of his community members, after several acts of vandalism targeting his mosque and a failed attempt to build the first Muslim cemetery in the area, he held a media conference on Aug. 4, where he delivered several pieces of good news.
The last of the men who were wounded in the Jan. 29 mosque attack had been released from hospital and were making progress with rehabilitation. But the main news was the announcement the mosque had struck a deal with Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeaume to build a cemetery after decades of frustration.
On Wednesday, Mr. Labeaume said “it would be a wild coincidence” if Mr. Labidi’s car fire had nothing to do with the cemetery announcement.
“These acts are starting to pile up, aren’t they,” Mr. Labeaume said, when asked if he spotted a troublesome trend. In the past year, a pig’s head, blood, a torn Koran and excrement have been left at the mosque’s entrance with no arrests made. In recent weeks, extreme groups have launched anti-immigration poster campaigns. The city is also the headquarters for La Meute and other right-wing extremist groups. “We believe Jan. 29 was an isolated act, but we have new acts. We’re worried,” Mr. Labeaume said. “It’s clear some people feel free to act in a way they haven’t been before.”
Provincial politicians said extremists form a small minority of the Quebec population and most say they don’t believe such groups are growing. Manon Massé, the co-leader of Québec Solidaire, the province’s fourth party and by far the friendliest to minority groups and immigration, issued a statement decrying a “spiral of hate” taking place in the province.