Jewish groups are protesting Ontario Liberals’ decision to permit an “anti-Semitic hate rally” to be held at Queen’s Park by an Islamic group labeling Jewish nationalists in Israel as “oppressors and criminals,” the Toronto Sun reported.
An Islamic group’s request to mark International Al-Quds Day has been approved by Sergeant-At-Arms Dennis Clark. They will gather outside the Ontario Legislature on Aug. 18, as they have been doing for several years now.
Al-Quds Day was started 33 years ago by then-Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini to mark the last Friday of Ramadan, and a call for Muslims to rise up against Israel which should be eliminated and replaced by a Palestinian state.
Last year’s Al Quds Day event featured several controversial speakers, including Zafar Bangash, an Islamic journalist and commentator from Toronto who called Israel an “apartheid state” of “oppressors and criminals,” and urged Muslims to “march” to liberate Palestine.
“Our concern … is the veil of secrecy that is around it,” Bromberg told the Sun, adding that while nobody has been arrested for hate crimes at previous rallies, the tone of what has been said at past rallies was an incitement to hate.
“This year, there is no information on who is behind the event’s committee. If you’re going to have public rallies … the organizers should come forward and stand behind what they are doing,” she said.
In a video from last year on the website Shia TV, Zafar Bangash appears at Queens Park, bellowing into a microphone while a demonstrator behind him holds a photo of the Ayatollah.
“When shall I see that day, when we, the Muslims, march on Palestine and liberate Palestine for all the people in the world … and under Islamic law, they will live as equals,” yelled Bangash. “The Zionists … claim that Muslims hate Jews … I challenge any Zionist … to come and prove to us that any Jewish people have been oppressed anywhere in the Muslim world.”
Clark told the Toronto Sun he believed the organizers’ application should be approved.
“We met with the organizers this year … and based on what they said, we approved the application,” said Clark, who would not comment on what rally organizers told him, but was aware of concern around what had been said last year. “Very seldom do we deny something unless they came in and they told us that what they were going to do was unlawful.”
Progressive Conservative MPP Peter Shurman disagreed, pointing out that remarks at past Al-Quds rallies could be considered unlawful.
“If there were concerns expressed last year, and there were … I don’t think the Sergeant-At-Arms should be so hasty in saying, ‘Go ahead folks, common back and do it again.’” Shurman said.
“We have laws against the expression of hatred that are clear cut, but not clear cut (enough) for police to listen or look and make an absolute determination. That’s why I’m concerned,” he said.
Premier Dalton McGuinty noted that while Clark has the authority to approve “these kinds of gatherings,” the dissemination of hate would not be tolerated.
“This is an international event,” Anita Bromberg argued, “The Al-Quds committee has a website, but they don’t really give you the names of the individuals or the groups that are involved, but if you look at the 2011 event you can see there was a list of different organizations involved.”
The Canadian Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies told JTA that “the endorsement of hate” is “a matter of public safety.”
“This is no longer a debate about free speech versus hate speech,” said the Canadian Friends’ CEO Avi Benlolo. “This is an insult to all Ontarians and a simple matter of right and wrong.”