A portrait of Iran's Late Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini
Credits: REUTERS/MORTEZA MIKOUBAZL
TORONTO -- Jewish groups are calling out Ontario Liberals for permitting an "anti-Semitic hate rally" to be held at Queen's Park by an Islamic group labelling Jewish nationalists in Israel as "oppressors and criminals."
An Islamic group marking International Al-Quds Day -- started in 1979 by Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini to mark the last Friday of Ramadan -- has been approved by sergeant-at-arms Dennis Clark to gather outside the Ontario legislature on Aug. 18, as they did last year and years before that.
Last year's rally featured several controversial speakers, including Zafar Bangash, an Islamic journalist and commentator from Toronto who called Israel an "apartheid state" of "oppressors and criminals," and urged Muslims to "march" to liberate Palestine.
Anita Bromberg of B'nai Brith Canada claims organizers of this year's Al-Quds rally have been kept under wraps.
She said Jewish officials from B'nai Brith approached Clark to learn who filed the application to hold this year's event, so they "could touch base with this group and express (their) concerns directly."
"Our concern ... is the veil of secrecy that is around it," Bromberg said, adding while nobody has been arrested for hate crimes at previous rallies, the tone of what has been said at past gatherings could incite hate.
"This year, there is no information on who is behind the (event's) committee. If you're going to have public rallies ... the organizers should come forward and stand behind what they are doing," she said.
In a video from last year on the website Shia TV, Bangash appears at Queens Park, bellowing into a microphone while a demonstrator behind holds a photo of the Ayatollah.
"When shall I see that day, when we, the Muslims, march on Palestine and liberate Palestine for all the people in the world ... and under Islamic law, they will live as equals," Bangash yelled. "The Zionists ... claim that Muslims hate Jews ... I challenge any Zionist ... to come and prove to us that any Jewish people have been oppressed anywhere in the Muslim world."
Clark told QMI Agency he was satisfied the organizers' application should be approved.
"We met with the organizers this year ... and based on what they said, we approved the application," said Clark, who would not comment on what rally organizers told him, but was aware of concern around what had been said last year.
"Very seldom do we deny something unless they came in and they told us that what they were going to do was unlawful."
Progressive Conservative MPP Peter Shurman disagrees, saying remarks at past Al-Quds rallies could be considered unlawful.
"If there were concerns expressed last year, and there were ... I don't think the sergeant-at-arms should be so hasty in saying, 'Go ahead folks, common back and do it again.'" Shurman said.
"We have laws against the expression of hatred that are clear cut, but not clear cut (enough) for police to listen or look and make an absolute determination. That's why I'm concerned," he said.
Premier Dalton McGuinty said while Clark has the authority to approve "these kinds of gatherings," the dissemination of hate would not be tolerated.