CANADA: Controversial Montreal Muslim conference cancelled due to security concerns

UnknownThe city’s downtown convention centre cancelled a controversial Islamic youth conference due to alleged security concerns, one week after the Quebec government said the conference’s speakers should be barred from entering Canada. The Islamic event was due to be held Sept. 7-8 at Montreal’s Palais des Congres. 

Montreal Gazette  The conference, titled Entre Ciel et Terre (Between Heaven and Earth), was scheduled to be held at the popular Montreal conference centre on Sept. 7 and 8. But the Société du Palais des congrès, the organization that runs the centre, issued a brief statement on Saturday stating it was cancelled “following a recent security review.” No specific security concerns were outlined.

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The conference was organized by a Montreal group called Collectif 1ndépendance. A description on its website describes the conference as a chance for youth in the Muslim community to “exchange and share” opinions.

Le Collectif québécois contre l’islamophobie, a local non-profit organization that aims to fight Islamophobia in Quebec society, said in a release that cancelling the conference one week before it was scheduled to take place “sets a dangerous precedent for rights and freedoms in Quebec and in Canada, especially those of ethnic and religious minorities.”

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The planned conference was at the centre of a controversy earlier this month when Agnès Maltais, the provincial minister responsible for the status of women, asked the federal government to bar some of the invited speakers from entering Canada. In a letter, Maltais asked the speakers be barred because “they transmit values that go totally against the principals of equality between men and women in Quebec.”

One of the speakers, French citizen Nader Abou Anas, has made particularly strong statements in the past about women, saying they should wear a head scarf, avoid revealing clothing and refrain from wearing makeup or perfume.

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On Tuesday, federal Public Security Minister Steven Blaney told reporters he would not order that the speakers, based in Europe, be prevented from entering Canada.  The board of directors who run the Societé du Palais des congrès follow a mandate set by Quebec’s tourism minister.

At least one group recently told reporters it planned to demonstrate at the Palais des congrès if a couple of the invited speakers were allowed to present.