Muslim groups say Quebec unfairly targeting conference speakers

Muslim organizations in Quebec are criticizing Agnès Maltais, the provincial minister responsible for the Status of Women, for asking the Canadian government to bar some invited guests from entering the country as speakers at a Muslim youth conference. Maltais wrote a letter to her federal counterpart, Kellie Leitch, calling the speakers “radical Islamists” who don’t respect equality between men and women.

On its website, the conference organizers – a group calling itself Collectif 1ndépendance – says that it will invite international speakers to “share knowledge on religious affairs with young Quebec Muslims.” The event is set to take place at Montreal’s Palais des congrès Sept. 7-8.

President of the Muslim Council of Montreal, Salam Elmenyawi, says Maltais should have contacted conference organizers before going to the federal government. “They jumped to conclusions before listening to both sides,” said Elmenyawi. “I think [Maltais] should have tried to have a meeting with them, and try to get an explanation to what she has read, and the concerns that she has about the treatment of women and the fact about education of women.”

Elmenyawi says he believes people should not be prevented from visiting Canada just because of their religious views.

One of the scheduled speakers is Nader Abou Anas, president of l’Association D’clic, a youth association in France. In an online video, Abou Anas warns women against wearing revealing clothing, perfume and make-up, and counsels them to wear the hijab.

Fayza Rifai, formerly with the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, says she doesn’t share the point of view of the speakers, but supports free speech. “People who are listening to these preachers have the ability to judge what they are saying and have the freedom of discarding what they say or accepting it,” said Rifai.

In a written statement, a spokesperson for the Canadian minister of immigration told the CBC: “if they have done anything that violates our laws they may be deemed inadmissible to Canada.”

CBC News, 23 August 2013