On Friday, Imam Hassan Guillet delivered (in English) a eulogy at a funeral for three victims of the Quebec City mosque shooting. In addition to honoring the six people killed in the attack, Guillet extended his sympathies to their families, the community and, in a moment of impressive empathy, to the shooter himself.
"We are here to celebrate Khaled, Aboubaker, Abdelkrim, Azzedine, Mamadou, Ibrahima," Guillet said. "We are going to have a prayer for those who could not finish their prayers. We pray for them.
"Did I go through the complete list of victims? No," he continued. "There is one victim. None of us want [to] talk about him. But given my age, I have the courage to say it. This victim, his name is Alexandre Bissonnette."
Bissonnette, 27, is the white nationalist university student who opened fire Jan. 30 at the Quebec City Islamic Center during evening prayer, wounding 17 people and killing six. Authorities quickly apprehended Bissonnette, who was charged the next day with six counts of murder and five counts of attempted murder. Bissonnette had reportedly adopted extreme anti-immigrant views after Marine Le Pen, president of France's far-right National Front party, came to Quebec City in March.
"Alexandre, before being a killer he was a victim himself," Guillet said to mourners gathered the funeral, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. "Before planting his bullets in the heads of his victims, somebody planted ideas more dangerous than the bullets in his head."
This little kid didn't wake up in the morning and say, 'Hey guys, instead of going to have a picnic or watching the Canadiens, I will go kill some people in the mosque.' It doesn't happen that way.
Day after day, week after week, month after month, certain politicians unfortunately, and certain reporters unfortunately, and certain media were poisoning our atmosphere.
"Let us face it. Alexandre Bissonnette didn't start from a vacuum," Guillet said. "For political reasons, and what is happening the Middle East and unfortunately, for ignorance, a lot of things happened. This guy was empoisoned."
Guillet also issued a call for change: To turn enemies into friends through human connections, helping them to understand Islam is a peaceful religion.
"In this way, we respect the memory of our dead," Guillet said. "In this way, we take care of our orphans, in this way we will be good Muslims, we will be good Canadians, we will be good Quebecers."
Read the full text of Guillet's eulogy here.