Investigative Project on terror:
by David B. Harris
Special to IPT News
December 20, 2012
Nothing says bug-eyed clerical fanaticism more than inviting a hate-spewing Saudi cleric to address your religious revival meeting. But this is part of the under-reported history of the Reviving the Islamic Spirit (RIS) Convention, a conference that Justin Trudeau, a frontrunner in Canada’s Liberal Party leadership race – and son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau – will address this weekend in Toronto. It’s also why moderate Muslims and non-Muslims are aghast at the prospect of Trudeau’s presence legitimizing the conference and some of its notables.
Although organizers pitch the gathering as “A Unique Youth Effort” “to help overcome new challenges of communication and integration” and “reviv[e] the Islamic tradition of education, tolerance and introspection,” there is reason to be concerned. Aspects of the multi-year history and present-day manifestations of RIS invite questions about ideology and influences at play.
This year’s conference was initially sponsored in part by IRFAN-Canada, an international Muslim relief entity that has seen its federal charitable tax status yanked by Ottawa, as a result of the Canada Revenue Agency’s belief that millions in contributions went to “relieve” the Hamas terror organization. Although exposure of this background forced IRFAN’s eleventh-hour cosmetic removal as an RIS sponsor, it is not evident that all remaining sponsors are clear of radical taint. UBS Bank recently blocked the overseas account of British-based charity and RIS 2012 sponsor Islamic Relief, a situation which an Islamic Relief official reportedly attributes to the technicalities of counterterrorism regulations. Meanwhile, some have questions about the uneven ideological record of one or two prominent figures attached to sponsoring organization Zaytuna College, an Islamic institution in Berkeley, Calif.
And, yes, the inevitable Tariq Ramadan, the charming, soft-spoken and dupe-seducing scion of the extremist Muslim Brotherhood – a man who famously called for a moratorium, rather than a ban, on the stoning of women, and avoids condemning Hamas – will also speak at the event. Ramadan is an RIS veteran speaker whose apparent Muslim Brotherhood link offers little reassurance when taken in concert with a Brotherhood strategic plan for Canada and the United States which prescribes “a grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and sabotaging its miserable house.”
Meanwhile, a journalist has exposed expected RIS 2012 speaker Yassir Fazaga as a fixture of Peace TV, an outlet with radical presenters, including Yusuf Islam – the former Cat Stevens – who called for author Salman Rushdie’s death and spoke at the 2009 RIS.
But, years ago, those of us in intelligence who studied RIS conferences had concluded that RIS’s problems exceeded even these present-day issues.