Controversial sponsor dropped from Islamic conference, but critics still concerned

Imam Zaid Shakir speaks the Reviving the Islamic Spirit conference in Toronto in 2007.

Credits: Brett Clarkson/QMI AGENCY


OTTAWA - Despite dropping a sponsor with ties to a terrorist group, critics still have serious concerns about the Reviving the Islamic Spirit conference.

The conference attracted negative attention when it was revealed one of its main sponsors - IRFAN-Canada - lost its charitable status in 2010 after the Canada Revenue Agency found it gave $14.6 million in resources to terror-group Hamas.

Adding fuel to the fire was Liberal leadership hopeful Justin Trudeau's decision to give the keynote address.
RIS organizers said in a release Saturday they were "pleased to accept the unconditional withdrawal" of IRFAN-Canada's sponsorship.

"It is extremely unfortunate that this issue has threatened to detract from the many accomplishments of RIS in the last 10 years," Fouzan Khan, RIS founder, said in the release.

The sponsor's removal doesn't change things for Jewish group B'nai Brith, whose officials were so disturbed by the news of Trudeau's planned address they requested a face-to-face meeting to discuss their concerns.

"Justin has refused to even hear our concerns," spokesman Sam Eskanazi said. "If IRFAN was our one concern, I guess we'd be fine. But it wasn't."

Salma Siddiqui, president of the Muslim Canadian Congress, wasn't mollified either.

"You sponsor an event that appeals to you, that believes the same thing you do," she said. "One sponsor's gone but the speakers are all the same."

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said he was surprised to hear of Trudeau's speech and urged Trudeau to meet with B'nai Brith.

The event takes place Dec. 21 to 23 in Toronto.

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