Daniel Dale Urban Affairs Reporter
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.
The conference is scheduled for Oct. 23 at the Sheraton Centre. Gay activists in Britain denounced a hotel chain in January for hosting a London IERA event involving several of the same speakers.
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.