Controversial Islamic conference set for Toronto this weekend
Source: Toronto Sun, December 23, 2011 (Internet version)
Author: Terry Davidson
Spokesman of RIS 2011: Farhia Ahmed
List of speakers being identified:
Original title: Controversial Islamic conference set for Toronto this weekend
TORONTO – As many as 20,000 Muslims will descend on a convention centre in downtown Toronto over the Christmas weekend for a long-standing Islamic forum.
The gathering has prompted at least one prominent critic to call it a cloaked attempt to teach hatred toward the West.
The forum marks the 10th annual Reviving the Islamic Spirit (RIS), a youth-driven convention to celebrate and shore up the unity, faith and identity of Muslims in North America. Featured during the weekend event are daily prayer sessions, as well as speakers including Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan, and Jusuf Islam, formerly known as the 70s-era songwriter Cat Stevens, who converted to Islam in 1978.
“The Islamic spirit is based on education, peace and introspection,” said event spokesman Farhia Ahmed. “It is an initiative of Muslim youth who were born and raised in North America. It’s an opportunity for them to show their leadership to the younger generation who are currently in the midst of… trying to develop their identity.”
Not so, says Tarek Fatah, a moderate voice in Canada’s Muslim community. The RIS convention, he says, regularly invites speakers who follow the anti-Western philosophies of groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, a century-old religious and political group dedicated to spreading Islam throughout the world.
“It has little to do with Islam, (but) it’s got everything to do with Islamism,” said Fatah. “It is to revive goals of the Muslim Brotherhood, which…feels that its destiny (is) to undermine Western civilization.”
RIS speakers will “no longer talk about how the west is evil,”he says, but will discuss attributes of the West that they see as harmful to Islam, such as gender rights, sexuality and the West’s rejection of arranged marriages.
Ahmed strongly disagreed, but did acknowledge that speakers had free reign to speak about what they wanted.
“The purpose of this conference is to allow youth to hear from the scholars, and RIS…(does) not really engage in any ideological debate,” said Ahmed. “These are issues that they might touch on, but it’s not part of the program, per say.”
Muslims of all ages poured through the doors of the centre Friday morning. Many of the men wore on their heads white, knitted kufies. Most women wore burkas down to their ankles with hejabs covering their heads.
At 12:00 p.m., an Imam – a spiritual leader – conducted midday prayers. As Qasim Ibn Ali Khan read from the Qur’an, the room fell silent and around 1,500 men filled a large space on the bottom floor of the convention centre. All at once, they bowed with their foreheads touching the floor. In a large section behind them were the women.