Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau said he had no problem visiting a mosque that had given thousands of dollars to a charity that has recently been declared a terrorist entity by the Canadian government.
The Islamic Community Centre of South Shore, located just south of Montreal, gave over $11,000 to the International Relief Fund For The Afflicted And Needy (IRFAN – Canada), an organization that Canada says funds terrorism.
“Between 2005 and 2009, IRFAN-Canada transferred approximately $14.6 million worth of resources to various organizations associated with Hamas, a listed terrorist entity under the Criminal Code,” Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney said in an April statement.
However, the chairman of the mosque’s board, Usman Shaikh, said initially on Friday that he didn’t know of any payment to IRFAN-Canada.
Later on Friday, Shaikh, in an email to QMI Agency, said that his mosque donated roughly $11,000 to IRFAN-Canada, but the payments were in 2009, before Canada listed the organization as a terrorist entity.
“The contributions were made in 2009. At that time IRFAN was a legitimate organization registered under Canadian laws,” Shaikh wrote. “We have no way to find out their agenda. No contributions were made (to) IRFAN after 2009.”
Trudeau said that Shaikh’s response satisfied him.
“If the minister of public safety has concerns about this or any other mosque, (then) he (should) act on it and not use it as a way to attack people who are doing their jobs and bringing Canadians together,” Trudeau said.
The Brossard mosque has a connection to someone convicted of terrorist activity here.
Misbahuddin Ahmed, who was found guilty in July of two counts of terrorism offenses, was a regular at the mosque before his 2010 arrest.
Shaikh said that the mosque is “open to everyone…it’s impossible to know what’s inside people’s hearts.”
He said he welcomed Trudeau’s visit because he said that politicians in Canada need to build bridges between the Muslim community and other groups.
Trudeau’s visit to the Brossard mosque on Friday, one of several stops on a campaign-style tour of Montreal’s South Shore, was the second time he’s visited a controversial place of worship.
Trudeau visited a Montreal mosque in 2011 that had been identified in a leaked U.S. Department of Defence report as an al-Qaida recruitment centre.
On Friday afternoon, during a meet-and-greet with Liberal Party members at the Brossard Golf Club, Trudeau defended his decision to visit the Brossard Islamic center.
“For me the visit to the mosque is part of my job to promote a message of openness and respect,” he said. “If there are concerns about one community or another it’s even more important to not marginalize them. These are Canadians and they deserve to be visited by Canadian politicians.”
In an e-mail to QMI Agency late Friday night, a spokesman for Blaney criticized Trudeau’s visit.
“This is just another example demonstrating that Liberal leader Justin Trudeau simply cannot be trusted to ensure the safety of Canadians,” Jean-Christophe delaRue stated.