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What happened to… the Quebec mosque shooting

A Quebec flag with the word 'Open' written on it is shown in remembrance of six victims of a shooting at mosque during a vigil in Quebec City on Jan. 30, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

On this episode of the Global News podcast What happened to…?, journalist Erica Vella revisits the Quebec City mosque shooting.

Aymen Derbali knew he would be late for evening prayers, but he decided to go anyway.

He left his home in Sainte Foy, Que., on Jan. 29, 2017.

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“I put on my jacket and my shoes. It was very cold. When I went outside I remember it was very cold,” he said.

When he arrived at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City, he took a spot in the back corner to not disturb others but within minutes, he said he heard a loud noise.

“Just a few moments after finishing the prayer, I heard the firing… Some brothers went to the door to see what happened, and at that moment, I was looking at them — I was behind them — suddenly they were running toward the Mihrab,” he said.

Read more: Quebec City’s memorial to 2017 mosque shooting victims symbolizes defeat of hatred

“I realized in that moment, I realized that it was an attack.”

That night, Derbali was one of the several men who were injured; Derbali said he was shot seven times.

“I was bleeding enormously and I tried to keep my eyes open and to be to remain conscious, but because I was bleeding a lot, it was very difficult. So I closed my eyes and I was hearing a lot of screams, people screaming,” he said.

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Memorial for victims of mosque shooting unveiled in Quebec City – Dec 1, 2020

Six people were killed and 19 seriously injured when a gunman burst into the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City, an attack that stunned the country and was condemned as an act of terrorism.

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Read more: Quebec City mosque shooter’s 40-year sentence unconstitutional, province’s top court rules

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Mosque gunman’s sentence reduced, court rules it unconstitutional – Nov 26, 2020

In the months following the shooting, Canadian Muslims voiced fear around discrimination.

“Many of us would be standing in and in the mosque to pray and there is this sense, should I be looking over my shoulder? Is someone going to send her into the mosque with guns? You know, am I safe here? Where are the exits? I often look at where are the exits? Where would I hide?” said human rights advocate Amira Elghawaby.

After the shooting, a heated debate erupted in Canada over the concept of Islamophobia.

Read more: National day of remembrance set for anniversary of Quebec City mosque shooting

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A Liberal private member’s motion on the issue that had received little earlier attention was suddenly thrust into the spotlight and taken up by the Liberal government.

The motion, known as M-103, had several elements in it picked apart by critics, but most opposition centred on the inclusion of the word “Islamophobia” itself, and the language that ought to be condemned along with all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination.

“The reality is, is that that word, Islamophobia, was being weaponized against us, used it as a lightning rod and until now, we continue to feel the ramifications of that,” Elghawaby said.

On this episode of Global News’ What happened to…? Erica Vella speaks with Aymen Derbali about that night. She also looks at what happened to the man who was responsible for this tragedy and finds out if Islamophobia played a role in the tragedy.

– With files from The Canadian Press.

Contact:

Email: erica.vella@globalnews.ca

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