Feds try to bar radical British imam's visit
Updated Thu. Jun. 29 2006 5:33 PM ET
CTV.ca News Staff
The federal government has taken steps to prevent a controversial British imam from entering Canada on Friday to speak to a Muslim youth conference in Toronto, CTV News has learned.
Sheikh Riyadh ul-Haq, a prominent cleric in England who has been accused of publicly vilifying Jews and Hindus, among other groups, was slated to be the keynote speaker for the weekend Youth Tarbiyah conference, sponsored by the Islamic Foundation of Toronto.
Sources told CTV News that Immigration Minister Monte Solberg informed immigration officials that ul Haq should not be allowed into the country because of his extreme views.
The cleric has been accused of making inflammatory comments about Jews, Hindus and moderate Muslims, as well as gay, bisexual and transsexual people.
Ul Haq was recently called into the Canadian High Commission in London and was told he would not be admissible to Canada on grounds that his views could incite hatred and violence.
"The government has taken the decision that he is not a Canadian citizen, and why are we going to let somebody like that into the country to propagate these kind of views?" CTV's Ottawa bureau chief Robert Fife told Newsnet. "And the government is confident that most people will support them on that view."
News of the imam's planned visit has enraged Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and gay-rights groups, who wrote last week to Solberg calling for Canada to refuse ul Haq entry to Canada under anti-hatred laws.
In a letter, the Muslim Canadian Congress, Canadian Jewish Congress, Hindu Dharma Mission and Egale Canada, a gay-rights group, said ul Haq's history of "dangerous and inflammatory" statements are an affront to Canadian values.
The Canadian Jewish Congress issued a statement on Thursday commending Solberg's decision.
"We applaud Immigration Minister Monte Solberg's leadership when he made it clear that minority communities in Canada will not face unnecessary and hateful vilification," said CJC National President Ed Morgan.
"We all felt it was vital to speak with a united voice to in order to ensure Canadian society would not be polluted by this man's dangerous and inflammatory views," said Morgan.
Tarek Fatah of the Muslim Canadian Congress said he does not want to see fellow Muslims coming to Canada to spew hate under the banner of Islam.
"It's a very dangerous recipe, mixing of religion and politics ... and it is counter-intuitive to any civic society," Fatah said.
As a British citizen, ul Haq does not need a visa to enter Canada. A decision about his entry would fall under the discretion of immigration officers.
UI Haq was scheduled to speak last Sunday at a Montreal Islamic youth conference, but organizers cancelled the appearance over concerns about negative publicity.
The outspoken cleric has visited Canada on at least four other occasions, including a speech he gave in front of 15,000 people at the Reviving the Islamic Spirit Conference at Toronto's Rogers Centre last year.
The arrest of 17 suspected terrorists in the Greater Toronto Area has raised concerns about the radicalization of Muslim youth by extremist preachers.