Saleem Chaagtai says his group, the Islamic Education and Research Academy, never intended to offend or anger the Jewish and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans communities when it booked speakers who have been criticized for past antigay and anti-Jewish comments at its upcoming Canadian launch event in Toronto on Oct 23.
IERA actually wants to promote dialogue with the wider non-Muslim community, including the Jewish and LGBT communities, Chagati says. He blames the controversy on misreported and misquoted statements from his guest speakers and the action of a small minority of “extremist” groups that refused to allow his group to respond to their concerns.
The group had originally booked the Sheraton Centre for its conference but the hotel cancelled the booking last week after The Toronto Star reported that a number of planned speakers had a history of making antigay and anti-Jewish comments. The group has since relocated the conference to the Islamic Centre of Canada in Mississauga.
Chagtai says accusations that one of the conference speakers called for homosexuals to be stoned to death are a misrepresentation of actual comments.
“I saw the blog post, the offending article by Abdur Raheem Green. His point was very simple: in an Islamic state, a public act of—there’s no other way of saying—penetrative anal sex in public is punishable in Islam. By the way, that goes the same for heterosexual couples as well,” he says. “Now that never happens, not even in the western world, but it’s a deterrent. But it’s a discussion about the morality.
“So there was no advocation at all of any violence against any homosexuals and we would condemn that in the strongest possible terms, because it’s against the law, it’s immoral, and it goes against the Islamic teaching of dialogue and discussion,” he says.
Another speaker, Abdullah Hakim Quick, has apologized for the wording of past writings that suggested that homosexuals want to spread AIDS to the Muslim community, and for referring to the “filth” of Jews and Christians, Chagtai says.
As to evidence that another speaker, Hussain Yee, has called “the Jews” the “most extremist nation in the world” and suggested that Jewish people perpetrated the 9/11 attacks, Chagtai condemned the comments but suggested that opening up that dialogue was still important.
“The speakers here are not part of IERA. So when we invite them to conferences, we’re not fully aware of what they’ve said. As soon as we become aware of these things, we would speak with them and we’d debate with them. If we find something’s objectionable, we’ve got the relationship with these people that we can express that,” Chagtai explains.
Chagtai says he hopes to open channels of dialogue between the Muslim community and the LGBT and Jewish communities so that controversies like these can be dealt with in the open...
Yes, because as long as Jews and gays can "dialogue" with people who, based on their reading of Islamic scripture, think they're "filth" (in the former case) and acting in a manner that puts one in line for a good stoning (and I don't mean the wacky weed variety), everything will be A-OK.