05/26/2019 18:45 EDT | Updated 05/26/2019 23:22 EDT

Police Probe Hate-Motivated Incident At Quebec City Mosque

The same mosque was the site of a deadly shooting in 2017.

Quebec City police are investigating an alleged assault outside the Centre culturel islamique de Québec on Saturday.

Sandra Dion, a spokeswoman for the force, told HuffPost Canada that a 911 call was received for disorderly conduct at 11:55 a.m.

A 47-year-old man was taken into custody after allegedly assaulting a taxi driver. Witnesses reported that he was also yelling Islamophobic and anti-immigrant comments at others outside the mosque.

Dion said the alleged victim left the scene before authorities arrived and has not filed a police report about the incident.

ALICE CHICHE via Getty Images
The Centre culturel islamique de Québec, where the alleged assault took place.

The suspect was released after a promise to appear in court.

Police are investigating the assault as a potentially hate-motivated incident, Dion said, adding the altercation doesn’t fall into the parameters of what’s considered a hate crime under the Criminal Code.

Repeated target

 “We are deeply saddened to hear about the attack, especially during the month of Ramadan, where Muslims devote themselves to charity, self-reflection, and meditation,” said Mustafa Farooq, executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, in a news release Saturday.

“But while we are saddened, we are not shocked.”

The cultural centre is the same mosque that was attacked on Jan. 29, 2017. Six people were killed and 19 others injured after a gunman opened fire on congregants attending Friday evening prayers.

New threats have been made against the Quebec City mosque since the 2017 shooting, Farooq said. Six months after the massacre, a defaced Qur’an was mailed to the cultural centre.

Farooq made a connection to a divisive piece of provincial legislation.

“Minority communities continue to be under the microscope as divisive legislation like Bill 21 moves through the National Assembly,” he said.

He called for increased security presence around the mosque for the remainder of Ramadan.

Concerns about secularism bill

Bill 21 — also known as the secularism bill — would ban public employees such as teachers, police officers, and judges from wearing religious symbols including hijabs, turbans and kippas while on the job.

Immigration, Diversity and Inclusiveness Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette denied the recent incident at the mosque is related to controversy over the bill.

“There is no link with Bill 21,” Jolin-Barrette told the Montreal Gazette. “Bill 21 covers all religions and covers women and men. It’s a bill which aims to separate the state from religion… the bill in no way condones this kind of behaviour.” 

He condemned “all forms of violence.” 

Quebec Premier Francois Legault speaks to the press following the First Ministers' Meeting in Montreal on Dec. 7, 2018.

The mosque is already the site of frequent police patrols to ensure the community’s security, Dion said. The force’s investigation had not revealed any increased risk after Saturday’s incident.

She added that the police force’s Muslim community liaison officer has been in touch throughout the weekend with mosque officials to address their concerns.

Quebec Premier François Legault — who does not think Islamophobia is a problem in the province— condemned the incident, according to CBC News.

“You will always have, unfortunately, some racist people” in any society, he said.

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