Walking into a Quebec City mosque for Friday prayers, Hassan Douahi says he was shocked to hear about the two deadly shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand.
At least 49 people are dead and many others seriously injured in Christchurch, located on New Zealand’s South Island, following the attacks during Friday prayers.
Forty-one of the victims were killed at Al Noor mosque on Deans Avenue and seven were at a mosque on Linwood Avenue. Another died at Christchurch Hospital, Commissioner Mike Bush said at a news conference.
WATCH: The leader of the Islamic Centre of Quebec, which saw several people killed in a shooting in 2017 in Quebec City, said the impact in New Zealand of the shooting at two mosques will be lasting and that their thoughts are with the victims and the community.
He said the incident mirrors the deadly Quebec City mosque shooting, where Alexandre Bissonnette opened fire and killed six men dead in January 2017.
“I don’t understand. I am really shocked and in my mind I think, ‘Why are those people attacking us, why?'” asked Douahi.
“We are not different. We are the same. We are only people praying. I don’t know.”
WATCH BELOW: Leader of Quebec City mosque calls for action on stopping copycats
Born in Morocco, Douahi has lived in Quebec for 46 years. He is a Canadian citizen. He’s married to a Quebecoise woman and they have two children together.
“I think about the people who lost their lives and their families and we take prayer for them,” he said.
“It was really sad for me when I heard this information. It was very sad. I was shocked. I think it will take a lot of time to let it go, to separate myself from it.”
WATCH BELOW: Quebec imam says he’s ‘not surprised’ about incident
Douahi noted that the discourse surrounding immigration is separating people who come from different countries from those who are born in Canada.
“I am here for 46 years and I consider myself a Canadian,” he said.
“You know, all the people in this country are immigrants. You are maybe from Ireland, from France. We are all immigrants. Maybe they came here many years before us, but we are all immigrants.”
Members of Quebec City’s Muslim community say they know exactly what the families in New Zealand are going through and they, themselves, are being forced to relive the terror of the night of Jan. 29, 2017.
“I’m convinced they are feeling a terrible pain. Imagine the children of those families here in Quebec who are hearing it on the radio and will watch their mothers cry and ask, ‘Why are you crying?”’ said Boufeldja Benabdallah, head of the Quebec City Islamic Cultural Centre.
“The mothers will remember the 29th, when they ran to get husbands who were killed by Alexandre Bissonnette.”
He says people in his community are feeling indescribable pain and it’s time for lawmakers to legislate against extremism.
WATCH BELOW: Quebec premier denounces New Zealand mosque attacks
“We must get back to work once again to explain, to tell these extremists of all stripes who politicize religion, like extremists who use race as a basis for discrimination, that we must change,” Benabdallah said.
“The world cannot continue like this.”
Alpha Barry, who is also a member of the Quebec City mosque, said the question remains why these attacks continue to happen.
“The reaction is the same as what we experienced already,” said Barry. “We have been affected, our population is affected and we keeping asking why? Why is this happening every day?”
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‘It’s totally unacceptable’
Quebec Premier François Legault noted that he understands “perfectly how feels today.”
“It’s totally unacceptable, what happened in New Zealand. It’s a shame,” he said.
“I want to tell all the people of New Zealand and people from the Muslim communities that my thoughts are with them and that we denounce strongly what happened.”
WATCH BELOW: Quebec City mosque gunman Alexandre Bissonnette appeals sentence
The Christchurch shootings come days after Crown prosecutors filed an appeal to the sentence handed down to the Quebec City killer.
Bissonnette was sentenced on Feb. 8 to life behind bars without the possibility of parole for 40 years — the harshest prison term ever in Quebec.
Both the Crown and the attorney general are seeking to have the inadmissibility period raised to 50 years.
During sentencing, the Crown had sought 150 years, which could have been the longest sentence in Canadian history.
Lawyers for Bissonnette said they are also appealing the killer’s sentence, asking that he be eligible for parole in 25 years.
Police forces in Montreal and Quebec City have confirmed that officers will be increasing surveillance around mosques and potentially other places of worship in light of the deadly shootings in New Zealand.
— with files from The Canadian Press.
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