Aymen Derbali poses for a photo in Quebec City. Aymen Derbali, the father of three shot seven times and partly paralyzed in the Quebec City mosque shooting last year, says Friday he’s not surprised at the generosity of people around the world who have donated to his fundraiser. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

More than $300,000 collected for Quebec man paralyzed in mosque shooting

MONTREAL — Aymen Derbali, the father of three shot seven times and partly paralyzed in the Quebec City mosque shooting last year, says he’s not surprised at the generosity of people around the world who have donated to his fundraiser.

More than $300,000 has so far been collected and organizers initially set a deadline for this Monday to raise $400,000 but have decided to extend it another two weeks in order to reach their goal.

Witnesses who were at the mosque last January when a shooter killed six people and seriously injured five said Derbali tried to get the gunman’s attention in order to help others flee.

The efforts cost him the use of his legs.

Paralyzed from the waist down after receiving the seven bullets, Derbali and his family are still looking for a home better adapted to his disability and closer to the mosque where the tragedy occurred.

The fundraiser’s goal is to help his family pay for a new place to live.

Derbali said he started returning to the mosque for prayers in July.

“Unless you have a medical issue you should go to the mosque to pray, especially on Fridays,” he said in an interview from a Quebec City rehabilitation centre.

He said rather than causing him anxiety by being haunted by memories of the shooting, going to the mosque helps the psychological side of his recovery.

“I have the capacity to go — I’m in a wheelchair, but I can still do it.”

Derbali said his days are filled with physiotherapy and other exercises to help him recover, and he said he is looking to leave the centre by the summer.

A significant portion of the money so far collected has come from the United States, something he said doesn’t surprise him.

“The Americans are by nature pacifists,” he said. “There has been a lot of solidarity from around the world.”

Amira Elghawaby, a volunteer with DawaNet, the Toronto-based organization that helped launch the fundraiser, expressed confidence the $400,000 goal will be reached.

“(Derbali’s) story has been translated into many languages,” she said. “His story is a heroic tale and a lot of people around the world have been interested in it.

“I don’t think it’s surprising a lot of donations are coming from the U.S. I think there is a heightened awareness there of anti-Muslim bigotry.”

On Friday, Quebec City’s Muslim community began four days of commemorations for the Jan. 29, 2017, shooting.

The mosque was scheduled to hold a special prayer Friday night that was to be open only to Muslims, although the event was to be broadcast online.

On Saturday, the mosque is organizing an open house featuring widows of the victims as well as others touched by the tragedy.

On Sunday evening, a spiritual rally will bring together members of the Muslim, Jewish and First Nations communities.

The commemoration ends Monday evening — the anniversary of the shooting — when people are invited to bring flowers and candles to a vigil, which will take place outdoors close to the mosque.

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