“I had a co-worker help me with it,” she says of her sign written in Arabic. “It essentially says, ‘We all come from God and to God we return,’” she says. “It also says, ‘We feel your sorrow, we feel your pain.’”
On Friday afternoon, a small crowd of about 100 fellow Calgarians join Ibsen on the steps of City Hall.
Hosted by the Islamic Supreme Council and Muslims Against Terrorism, the anti-racism rally hears from several community leaders and activists, cheered on by people holding signs with such slogans as “No Ban, No Wall, Pray for Quebec” and “No Place for Hate.”
“It’s cold out, but people still come out to show solidarity with us,” says Syed Soharwardy, a local imam and founder of the group Muslims Against Terrorism. “We cannot be divided by these hate-mongers. These tragic incidents bring us together, rather than tear us apart.”
The tragic incident of late is one that for the past week has dominated news headlines across the country, not to mention the minds and hearts of millions of Canadians.
Alexandre Bissonnette, 27, a Quebec native said to have anti-immigrant beliefs, is accused of storming into a Quebec City mosque last Sunday during evening prayers, shooting to death six men and leaving another five critically injured.
The dead, all between the ages of 39 and 60, included a university professor, a popular shopkeeper and a computer scientist. One was a new father, all left wives to mourn their loss.
Over the last few days, vigils and other memorial events have taken place all over the country to both remember the lives senselessly taken and to call on Canadians to fight such forces as racial and religious division, as well as the latest immigration policies and rhetoric from U.S. President Donald Trump impacting the Muslim world.
On Friday, the day of the last of two memorial services for the six victims, Canadians came out by the tens of thousands to show their support. Some formed human circles of peace around the outside of mosques. Others attended rallies to decry what has been called an act of terrorism and to, as one speaker on the steps of Calgary’s City Hall says, show that “only love can drive out hate.”
On Friday, members of Calgary’s 125,000-member Muslim community joined with other citizens at a variety of events to both mark the tragedy and to show solidarity.
Along with hundreds watching the live stream of the memorial service in Quebec at Genesis Centre in the city’s northeast, local mosques held open houses to welcome all to their places of worship, in a nationwide “Visit a Mosque” campaign.
“We lost six lives,” says Sultan Mahmood earlier on Friday as he welcomes a small but passionate contingent of non-Muslims to Baitan Nur, a mosque that services the local Ahmadi Muslim community.
“But they are first and foremost human beings, it doesn’t matter what their faith or race.”
While it has been a sad and frightening time for those who regularly attend local mosques, Mahmood says that once again, the tragedy reminds him why he is so proud to be a Canadian. “The whole community at large has come out to support us,” he says. “It has really been overwhelming.”
One of those Calgarians taking up the offer to visit Baitan Nur for the first time is Kathy Grigor, who brings her 14-year-old son, Hunter, along for a tour.
When asked why she came, Grigor chokes back tears. “We shouldn’t be made to feel unsafe, where we live, where we play, where we work, where we worship,” says the mother of three. “I’m grateful my kids grew up in a neighbourhood that’s diverse. They think diversity is normal.”
As for Kirsten Ibsen, not even biting winter winds and a sudden deep freeze would stop her from coming out and, as she calls it, support her Muslim brothers and sisters.
“We’re all Canadians,” she says. “When terrible things happen to some of us, they happen to all of us.”