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Quebec Muslims speak out against French Islamists

Members of Quebec’s Muslim community are speaking out against radical Islamic preachers expected at a conference in Montreal. Quebec’s women’s issues minister wants to ban the Islamists, some of whom live in France, from attending the event.

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A conference called “Between Heaven and Earth”, scheduled for September 7 in Montreal, has stirred controversy in the French-speaking Canadian province of Quebec, with several people protesting against the expected presence of radical Muslims from Europe.

Agnès Maltais, the region’s minister of women’s issues, has spoken out against the Islamists, calling them “radical” and penning a letter to her federal counterpart, Kellie Leitch, to urge her to ban the speakers in order to “avoid the spreading of a discourse that is unacceptable for the women of Quebec”.

“These [radical] preachers express values that are totally contradictory to the principles of equality between men and women that we protect in Quebec,” Maltais said via a statement.

‘Hateful and intolerant discourse’

Several members of Quebec’s Muslim community echoed those sentiments. In an editorial published on Huffington Post, Karim Akouche, a Quebec writer of Algerian (Kabyle) descent slammed men he described as “Allah fanatics” who “glorify death”.

“I’ve seen these kind of preachers in the streets of Algeria in the early 1990s, and the result was more than 200,000 deaths and infinite suffering,” he wrote. “How can I hold my tongue?”

Another Quebec journalist of Algerian origin, Lamine Foura, also denounced the impending arrival of the radical Muslim preachers in Canada. According to Foura, the vast majority of Quebec’s 150,000-strong Muslim community does not share their vision of the religion. “Native-born Quebecers are calling for the Muslims of Quebec to dissociate themselves from this kind of hateful and intolerant discourse,” he said in an interview with Radio-Canada.

Meanwhile, several calls for organised protest have been launched on social networks. The “Quebecer collective for freedom in the face of radical Islam” is organising a “day of action” – set for September 7 – against a conference it accuses of “spreading a vision of a radical Islam founded on Sharia law for all”.

‘Refusing the headscarf is worse than having cancer or AIDS’

The four “star preachers” expected at the conference are known for their radical sermons calling for a strict application of original Islamic law. One of them, a French citizen named Nader Abou Anas, has spoken at the mosque of Bourget, a Parisian suburb, voicing a rigid vision of male-female relations. In several videos published on the internet, he says that all accessories (jewels, makeup, tight jeans) are forbidden for Muslim women, whom he calls “servants to Allah, who are not free to do as they wish in this world”.

He has also said that “his sisters” must wear the hijab, because “refusing the headscarf is worse than having cancer or AIDS, because not wearing it means you go to hell”.

Another speaker invited to the conference in Montreal is Farid Mounir, president of the sociocultural centre of Parisian suburb Longjumeau, where he regularly denounces “provocative women”.

“Look at the bare-skinned women on television. Today, we all watch news on TV and sometimes we see women who are almost entirely naked, with low-cut shirts, and we see everything,” he said during one sermon that was posted on the internet in 2011. “Their attire is not appropriate! Allah forbids us from looking at such people and asks us to lower our eyes.”

Despite the growing controversy, the conference’s organisers have remained silent, apart from a message published on their Facebook page. The conference “is meant to be an annual forum for exchange and sharing aimed at young members of the Muslim community”.
 

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