Kathryn Blaze Carlson, National Post
Toronto — A massive upcoming Islamic conference in Toronto, which was to be headlined by an Indian televangelist until he was recently banned from Canada for his inflammatory statements, features a list of speakers whose past comments against Jews, homosexuals and the West have raised red flags in other countries.
The Journey of Faith Conference — billed as North America’s largest Islamic conference and slated to attract upwards of 10,000 people to the city early next month — features such personalities as Abdur Raheem Green, who has advocated “fighting jihad” and who was reportedly invited by the Christmas Day airline bomber to address British students in 2007, and Sheikh Hussein Yee, who once said Jews are the “extremists of the world” and will “go to Hell.”
The National Post reported yesterday that the conference’s main speaker, Peace TV founder Dr. Zakir Naik, will not be allowed to enter Canada because of concerns surrounding past statements such as “every Muslim should be a terrorist,” Jews are “our staunchest enemy,” and “If [Osama bin Laden] is fighting the enemies of Islam, I am for him.”
But while Dr. Naik recently grabbed headlines around the world — first for his exclusion from the U.K. ahead of a speaking tour later this month — the conference itself has managed to keep a relatively low profile, despite its controversial list of a dozen speakers and chairman.
Although the speaker bios posted to the event website are laudatory and innocuous, the reality — in some instances, and sometimes dating back two decades — reveals a less favourable portrait of some speakers.
Mr. Green, for example, was put on a “movement alert list” and barred from entering Australia in 2005 after a government official accused him of “spreading hate.” And another Journey of Faith Conference speaker, Sheik Riaz Ansary, is described as having worked with Dr. Bilal Philips, who was reportedly named by the U.S. government as an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and who was banned from entering the U.K. last weekend to attend a conference, according to his blog.
“They appear to be competing against each other in their level of hate, and Zakir Naik was the star performer,” said Tarek Fatah, founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress.
Dr. Naik’s 16-year-old son, Fariq, is also listed as a speaker, and is described on the website as the child of “an illustrious father and world renowned orator on Islam and comparative religion.”
Likewise on the event program is Abdullah Hakim Quick, who was reportedly uninvited from an April conference in Sweden after it surfaced that, many years ago, he said the Islamic position on homosexuality was “death.”
“If these extreme voices are given a platform, then very easily people could assume that these extreme views represent the whole Muslim faith, and obviously they don’t,” said Rev. Brent Hawkes, of Toronto’s Metropolitan Community Church, who performed Canada’s first same-sex marriage.
The chairman of the conference is Imam Saed Rageah, whose Toronto mosque, the Abu Huraira Centre, made headlines last fall after several young worshippers vanished and were feared to have joined a Somali militant group.
Imam Rageah also incited controversy last year after he used a prayer to call for Allah to “destroy” the enemies of Islam from within.
Imam Rageah declined an interview request, but earlier this week passed along a web video via email of Dr. Naik defending his comments and promising to challenge the U.K. ban.
According to the Journey of Faith event website, the “hope” of the July 2-4 conference at the downtown Metro Toronto Convention Centre is for Muslims to “renew their forgotten relationship” with the Koran.