Calgary Alderman Diane Colley-Urquhart
Credits: STUART DRYDEN/QMI AGENCY
Dr. Bilal Philips, a Canadian-born Muslim preacher with reputed links to terrorists who's been ousted from several countries, is to be a speaker at the Power of Unity Conference.
The event, being held by the Muslim Council of Calgary June 29 to July 1, aims to celebrate multiculturalism and more than a half-century of Islam in Canada.
Pride Calgary spokesman Doug Hass is disappointed Philips, on a roster alongside nearly two dozen speakers, is invited to spread his "hatred" here.
Saying the organization isn't planning any protests, Hass wouldn't be surprised if some people show up to voice their opinion at the event.
"It is a disappointment," he said Saturday.
"We respect freedom of speech and religion. But I believe religion is about peace, love and tolerance, not wishing death against any community."
Ald. Diane Colley-Urquhart said Philips' track record is concerning, but he will be monitored during his Calgary visit to ensure he doesn't cross the line from freedom of speech to pushing hatred.
"I absolutely believe in freedom of speech," she said.
"We have a police service that takes hate crimes extremely seriously and a police chief that is very committed to tolerance.
"On the other hand, the chief also respects freedom of speech ... You can march, you can be free to say whatever you want to say -- your views and beliefs end where my rights begin."
Colley-Urquhart finds it "somewhat ironic" Philips is invited to speak at a conference aiming to unite people.
"I guess every time one of these characters comes to town and espouses extreme divisive views there is always a chance to stand up and say it doesn't define our city," she said.
Calgary immigration lawyer Raj Sharma will speak about multiculturalism at the conference. He signed up unaware Philips was also on the list.
He said his position of an "inclusive, pluralistic" Canada where "homosexuals have the same rights" as anyone else is very different from Philips' stance, and he hopes Philips' attendance won't detract from the aim of the event to look at how Muslims are part of the Canadian tapestry.
"All Canadians should be concerned about hate speech, specific groups should not be targeted with that kind of vitriol," Sharma said.
Philips was kicked out of Kenya earlier this year amid security concerns.
Britain and Australia have barred him and Germany kicked him out last year.
On his website, the Islamic convert said AIDS is a message from God about the perils of homosexuality and last year in Toronto he was quoted as saying "according to Islamic law, homosexuals should be executed if caught in the act."
Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Calgary police were unavailable for comment Saturday while a Power of Unity Conference spokesman declined to comment.