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Canadian Leaders: Rhetoric Around Muslim Immigrants Has Grown Too Ugly


We're learning more today about the French Canadian man who killed six people at a mosque in Quebec City on Sunday. Alexandre Bissonnette injured 19 more - two seriously - when he opened fire during a prayer service. Brian Mann has this from Quebec City.

BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: People here are being cautious about exactly what Alexandre Bissonnette's motives might've been. Emanuel Trottier marched as part of a vigil last night.

EMANUEL TROTTIER: I think we have to wait for the police to do their work. And then we can analyze what happened and what we can do to prevent it from happening again.

MANN: But a growing number of sources say the 27-year-old college student was increasingly radicalized, embracing anti-Islamic and anti-feminist rhetoric. His Facebook posts, now deleted, suggest he was particularly drawn to Marine Le Pen, the populist French leader who visited Quebec last year. In a YouTube video posted by a right-wing group here, Le Pen issued dire warnings about Muslim immigrants.


MARINE LE PEN: (Speaking French).

MANN: Le Pen said the people of Quebec are naive. And she predicted a total war from the fundamentalist Islamists. This kind of rhetoric has shaped Quebec politics for years. The influential, nationalist Quebec Party has campaigned on a cultural platform that includes banning Muslim garments, especially the burka and the veil. The party's leader, Jean-Francois Lisee, once warned voters that Muslim women might hide AK-47 rifles under their robes. Speaking this morning on CBC Radio, Lisee apologized and said he would tone down his language.


JEAN-FRANCOIS LISEE: Not a good choice of argument - I agree with you.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: So you regret that now?

MANN: Quebec's Liberal Party premier, Philippe Couillard, also argued today that the way politicians talk about Muslim immigrants has to change. Words can hurt, he said. Words can be knives slashing at people's conscience.


MANN: Outside the mosque where this brutal attack took place, Achmaoui Fadwa was kneeling in the snow today, lighting candles at a memorial for the victims. Her cheeks were covered in tears. She said too many people around the world have a twisted idea of her faith.

ACHMAOUI FADWA: We are a kind people. It's peace. It's kindness. It's happiness. It's friendships.

MANN: Fadwa, who moved to Canada from Morocco, said she feels guilty now because she's happy that her husband didn't go to prayer on Sunday, which means he's here today, safe.

FADWA: It's something sad because someone else was killed here.

MANN: Fadwa said if she had her way, the new political language in Quebec would replace fear with curiosity.

FADWA: If you are different from me, I have to learn another culture. It's not to have fear. No, we are just humans.

MANN: Canada is a nation of immigrants with more refugees and newcomers arriving all the time. So there's a lot riding on how the country responds to this attack. For NPR News, I'm Brian Mann in Quebec City. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.