QUEBEC – Haroun Bouazzi is a moderate spokesman for Quebec’s Muslim community, working to combat radicalization of Muslim youth while defending religious freedoms. This public role has come at a cost. Since entering the fray in 2013 during the debate over the Parti Québécois’ Charter of Quebec Values, Bouazzi says he has received tens of thousands of hate messages, including death threats.
“Line him up in front of the firing squad,” one commenter wrote on Facebook last fall after he questioned the constitutionality of Quebec’s Bill 62, which would prohibit people from providing or receiving any government services with their faces covered. Others on Facebook have said he should be hanged, set on fire or get “a bullet between the eyes.” He has complained to Montreal police, but so far nobody has been charged.
Bouazzi says the online abuse he receives is symptomatic of more widespread anti-Islam sentiment, and when he learned that a gunman had opened fire in a Quebec City mosque Sunday, he was pained but not surprised. “I know no Muslim who was surprised,” he said in an interview this week. “We’ve been saying again and again that we didn’t know what, we didn’t know when, but we knew something bad was going to happen.”