Saturday, December 15, 2012

Justin Trudeau's Terror-Linked Islamic Conference

The Liberals came under fire on Wednesday over Justin Trudeau's participation in an Islamic conference whose sponsor was stripped of its federal charity status last year for supporting Hamas, the outlawed terrorist organization.

The Liberal leadership candidate has defended his scheduled speech at next week's Reviving the Islamic Spirit conference in Toronto, and the Canadian Council on American Islamic Relations condemned attempts to "smear" the gathering.

But in a letter to Liberal Party of Canada president Mike Crawley, Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre CEO Avi Benlolo said Mr. Trudeau's presence at the event would lend credibility to supporters of Hamas.

"Numerous members of FSWC have conveyed their alarm to me; they are wondering if there is a deeper meaning to his participation, and whether the Liberals are aligning themselves with a belief system that is contrary to traditional Liberal values," the letter reads.

On Thursday, the Muslim Canadian Congress said it had sent letters to interim Liberal leader Bob Rae and Irwin Cotler, the party's Justice and Human Rights critic, asking them to encourage Mr. Trudeau to skip the convention.

"At a time when liberal Muslims across the world are fighting rightwing Islamists, it is sad to see the aspiring leader of the Liberal Party of Canada throw his weight behind those who would snuff out liberalism and stifle free speech in the name of Islam," MCC president Salma Siddiqui said.

The conference, the largest of its kind in Canada, has been held annually for a decade but concerns surfaced after a Quebec blogger noted that one of the event's sponsors is IRFAN-Canada, which lost its charity status in 2011 over its ties to Hamas.

IRFAN-Canada is listed as a "diamond sponsor" of next week's Reviving the Islamic Spirit conference.

Documents obtained Wednesday from the Canada Revenue Agency show that IRFAN, listed as a "diamond sponsor" of the conference, was described by federal charities regulators as "an integral part of an international fundraising effort to support Hamas."

"Our findings indicate that IRFAN-Canada provided $14.6-million in resources to operating partners that were run by officials of Hamas, openly supported and provided funding to Hamas, or have been listed by various jurisdictions because of their support for Hamas or other terrorist entitles," according to a summary of the CRA's findings.

In addition, the CRA said it had found IRFAN videos at the group's Mississauga office that "demonize Israel, characterize the Arab-Israel conflict as a religious war, appeal for all Arab and Muslim nations to join in the struggle against Israel and glorify martyrdom."

IRFAN has denied knowingly funding Hamas and accused the CRA of misinterpreting its relief work. It describes itself as an international humanitarian organization. While no longer a registered charity, it continues to operate in Canada as a non-profit.

Appearing on CBC News Network on Wednesday, Mr. Trudeau said Prime Minister Stephen Harper had sent a congratulatory message to the conference organizers last year. "Every year members of all political parties go but suddenly I'm going and the Conservative government decides to play politics with it," he said.

"It's an opportunity to speak to 20,000 Muslim Canadians about this extraordinary society based on values of openness, of respect that we've managed to build here in Canada. This level of engagement, this level of optimism and hope for the future is a message that absolutely needs to come out. And people trying to quash that kind of dialogue and that kind of discourse through intolerant attacks like we've seen is not what has made this country great."

The Charities Directorate wrote a 27-page letter to IRFAN in December, 2010, that spelled out the reasons why its charity status was being revoked. The letter said regulators did not have to establish any knowledge or intent to break Canada's charity rules.

"Nevertheless, the evidence we have accumulated through our current and previous audits and upon which this letter is based show, in our view, a marked persistence in aiding groups connected to Hamas, the existence of institutional links between IRFAN-Canada and key members within the organization structure of Hamas, and an intent to contribute to the success of Hamas by enhancing its ability to engage in its cause in the manner expressly contemplated by the Hamas Charter."

Hamas is devoted to the destruction of Israel. Public Safety Canada calls Hamas "a radical Islamist-nationalist terrorist organization" and "one of the primary groups involved in suicide bombings aimed at Israelis."