by Daniel Dale, Urban Affairs Reporter | TheStar.com | October 13, 2011
Four of the six speakers scheduled to appear at an upcoming Muslim conference at a downtown hotel have made anti-gay or anti-Semitic remarks.
The “Calling the World Back to Allah” conference is part of the “Canada Launch Tour” of the Islamic Education and Research Academy (IERA), a British organization seeking to establish a presence in Toronto and Montreal.
One of the speakers expected in Toronto, Malaysian convert Hussain Yee, has said “the Jews” are “the most extremist nation in this world.” He also suggested that Jews perpetrated and celebrated the 9/11 attacks.
Hamza Andreas Tzortzis, a British convert, has argued that open displays of homosexuality should be made a crime.
British convert Abdur Raheem Green, who also appeared at a July conference in Toronto, has written that gays, like adulterers, should be stoned to death. At the July conference, Green criticized the media for labeling him hateful and challenged critics to “find a pattern” of homophobia in his hundreds of public statements. “All you can find is one comment I made on my blog where I talked about Islamic law and punishment for homosexuals,” he said.
Toronto’s Abdullah Hakim Quick, an African-American convert, has been lauded for his work to promote women’s rights, improve interfaith relations and eradicate female genital mutilation; he wrote a column for the Star in the 1990s. Later, however, he said AIDS was caused by “sick” homosexuals who want “to take us all down with them” and referred to the “filth” of Christians and Jews.
He has rejected accusations of bigotry. His “filth” comment, he wrote, was merely a plea for “God to heal the spiritual corruption that afflicts some members of religious groups, which in turn leads to injustice against innocent people.”
Quick also wrote that, although he opposes homosexuality, he opposes any violence against gays. He said in New Zealand in 2004 that “Muslims are going to have to take a stand, and it’s not enough to call names.”
The public relations officer for the conference referred questions to an IERA official who did not respond to a request for comment.
A Sheraton convention services employee said hotel staff began researching the event after he was informed of the speakers’ backgrounds Wednesday by a reporter.
“We book things and sometimes we don’t know exactly what they are,” he said.
Howard English, senior vice-president of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said he is “very concerned” about both conference and the IERA’s attempt to establish itself in Canada. He called the speakers’ views “reprehensible.”
“The people that are being tolerated, featured and promoted by this organization are expressing views that, if promoted in Canada, can only serve to divide people rather than uniting people,” he said.
Nick Mulé, chair of the gay activist group Queer Ontario, said he was concerned about the potential impact of the speakers’ views on conference attendees.
IERA CANADA RESPONDS TO BASELESS ACCUSATIONS OF HOMOPHOBIA AND ANTI-SEMITISM
Response from Islamic Education and Research Academy's (iERA) website on October 13, 2011:
On the 12th October 2011, an article appeared in The Toronto Star, accusing the Islamic Education and Research Academy (iERA) of hosting speakers who have expressed homophobic hatred and incitement to violence as well as anti-semitic views. Similar views have been aired on broadcast media, such as The Arena show anchored by Michael Coren. iERA unequivocally rejects these accusations as being false and misleading. Similar allegations were made in the run up to another international conference hosted by iERA in January 2011 entitled Changing the World Through Dawah. At this conference, which took place in London, United Kingdom, iERA clearly demonstrated the baseless nature of the accusations and the conference, which was held at the Hotel Ibis (part of the international Accor chain of hotels) passed without incident.
iERA wishes to make it abundantly clear as part of its goal to educate the world about the religion of Islam that we encourage positive civic engagement through dialogue and action. iERA and its international team of speakers, staff and volunteers have never called for violence or hatred towards members of the Jewish or Homosexual communities. These accusations are antithetical to our work in thought and deed. iERA has been working very hard to empower the Muslim community to engage with people of all persuasions in a peaceful manner and to serve humanity.
The aim of the upcoming conference, far from promoting hatred, will focus on getting Muslims to pro-actively engage with the wider society by sharing the true essence of the Islamic faith in both word and deed. This is what the Quran teaches. This message is simply to believe in and worship God and through this, work to improve the welfare of all Canadian citizens regardless of race, colour, culture or creed. The message that iERA aims to deliver is not unique. Muslim communities, in Canada and elsewhere are already contributing immensely to the social welfare of our society, and that is through remaining loyal to the basic tenets and values of their faith. This is the very theme of our conferences.
Most, if not all major religions forbid homosexuality and Islam is no different. To give the issue further context, Islamic ethics forbid any sexual activity outside of marriage. This very point has been discussed by iERA’s speakers with respect to criminal law in an Islamic state.
iERA urges all members of society, especially Muslims to be model citizens and therefore should obey the law of the land. We believe Muslims need to do more to reach out to their Jewish neighbours with whom they share so much in terms of tradition.
The Qur’an, the book of the Muslims contains many stories and information about the biblical prophets, as it is a core part of the Islamic faith to believe that they received revelation from One, All Powerful God, known in Arabic as Allah. Therefore, Muslims believe all the prophets came with one, universal message, with the final messenger being Muhammad, peace be upon him. This universal message was for human beings to voluntarily surrender their will to the Perfect Divine will of God; this submission is known in Arabic as Islam. Therefore, Islam considers all believers of this one, universal message to be as those who submit to God, i.e. Muslims.
iERA is an organisation dedicated to conducting research and educating humanity about Islam.We welcome open and frank discussion on these key issues, and would like to extend an open invitation to all our detractors from the Jewish Defence League and LGBT activists to come and meet us to find out what we really believe as opposed to using innuendo to stifle debate. As part of this, iERA would also offer them gift boxes which contain accurate and authentic information on the Islamic faith. These are made free of charge to members of the general public as well as media or lobby groups.