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Bill Narvey

Elliot Leven

Bill Narvey : Response to Elliot Leven- Justin Trudeau Was Wrong to Speak at Reviving The Islamic Spirit Convention

April 8, 2013

This responds to the Editor's inviting comments regarding David B. Harris’ article Justin Trudeau's Islamist Revival and Elliot Leven’s response, Trudeau was right to speak at Islamic convention published in your April 7-13, 2013 edition.

Leven agrees with Harris’ documented characterization of the tenor and purpose of much of the recent Montreal and past RIS [ Reviving the Islamic Spirit Convention], which is to preach and teach pro-Islamist intolerant bigoted anti-Israel, antisemitic and anti-Western messages, antithetical to Canada’s ways and values. It is hardly a trite matter, but Leven strangely sums up that aspect of the views promoted at RIS Conventions in his trite word, “nasty”.

In spite of that agreement, Leven disagrees with Harris’ evidence based conclusion that Trudeau’s appearance at the RIS Convention to speak on Canadian tolerance and diversity, does little if anything to promote those Canadian tolerance values and ways, but rather it does a lot to give legitimacy to the RIS Convention and the “nasty” views promoted there.

Many Jews and non-Jews including various Jewish, Christian and Muslim organizations such as Muslim Canadian Congress and Muslims Facing Tomorrow, reached the same alarming conclusion Harris did.

Leven thus contends that Trudeau’s appearance at the RIS convention to promote values of tolerance and mutual respect in our diverse society, is a good thing for some present may heed his kumbaya words and come away rejecting the “nasty” views being promoted at that convention.

Leven’s strained reasoning is naïve, misguided and/or willfully blind in the following respects:

1. His reasoning is bound up in mere hope, ascribing to Trudeau, a noble intent to turn minds from intolerant to tolerant;

2. Trudeau is a political animal, not some noble multicultural messiah. As a politician on the rise, it is only common sense to believe Trudeau was moved by crass political motives to use the RIS Convention as an opportunity to reach out to the Muslim community with a view to gaining support for himself and his Liberal party amongst the Canadian Muslim community, which exceeds the Jewish community;

3. Those Muslims who attend RIS Conventions do so precisely because they share the “nasty” views promoted there. Those Muslims who reject pro-Islamist intolerant views, stay away;

4. Leven equates Trudeau’s attendance at the RIS Convention which in part at least is geared to disseminating intolerant “nasty” views to his own appearance before a Commons Committee that disseminated no views, but sought opinions on the issue of marriage, including same sex marriage. The two forums and their respective purposes, could not be more different;

5. Leven has shown disrespect for the good people of Steinbach by implying that their likely disapproval of same sex marriage derived only from religious belief, when many of those against same sex marriage do so because they value traditional definitions of marriage, irrespective of religion, a point of view as legitimate as the pro-same sex marriage views that Leven advocates;

6. Leven further shows disrespect to the people of Steinbach by implying that they are against same sex marriage because they are against gays altogether and thus he expressly or implicitly equates the good people of Steinbach as being intolerant, just as those at the RIS convention who promote and heed intolerant pro-Islamist anti-Israel, antisemitic and anti-Western “nasty” views.

It is a premise that is fundamentally flawed in fact and further draws a false moral equivalence;

Leven is not however, a naïve person. So why does Leven resort to naivety and willful blindness in justifying his support for Trudeau addressing the RIS Convention?

Could it be that being a dyed in the wool Liberal party supporter, a fawning fan of Trudeau and a dreamer for the day the Liberals again govern Canada, he is compelled, even at the cost of his own credibility, to defend Trudeau’s address to the RIS Convention, even when Trudeau’s appearance, is objectively speaking by all the evidence Harris brings to the fore, indefensible?

[Editor's note : In point of fact, Elliot Leven is not a dyed in the wool Liberal party supporter, rather a dyed in the wool NDP supporter. Below is Elliot Leven's aritcle to which Bill Narvey is responding and also the article by David Harris that originated this  robust exchange of views.]


Trudeau was right to speak at Islamic convention

By Elliot Leven

I agree with almost everything which David Harris says about the December, 2012 Reviving the Islamic Spirit (RIS) convention in Toronto, but I disagree with his ultimate conclusion. The convention garnered media attention when prominent federal Liberal Justin Trudeau agreed to speak at it. Reports about his speech suggest that it was a fairly bland call for tolerance and diversity.

Writing before the convention began, Harris argued that Trudeau should never have agreed to attend the convention at all. Stripped of the hyperbole, Harris’ argument is that some of the speakers at some past RIS conventions have been extremely nasty people, with very nasty views about Jews, gays, women and Western values. I agree on this point.

However, sometimes it is useful to speak reason even to what might be a nasty crowd. The poet John Milton wrote: “"I cannot praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue, unexercised and unbreathed, that never sallies out and sees her adversary, but slinks out of the race...Though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play upon the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously, by licensing and prohibiting, to misdoubt her strength... Let her and Falsehood grapple. Whoever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter?"

Milton was defending freedom of speech, but his wisdom can be applied to the RIS convention. If Trudeau or any invited speaker believed that other speakers at the 2012 RIS convention might spew prejudice and bigotry, boycotting the conference would not be the optimal response. A far better response would be to attend, and to make a strong, forceful speech against bigotry.

Perhaps some of the people attending the 2012 convention were hard-line fanatics, who were so closed-minded that no rational speech could ever change their minds. However, even if that were true, it is certain that some of the people attending the convention were at least partly open-minded. Why not write a strong speech and aim it at them?

Milton understood that you don’t spread positive values by preaching only to the converted, and never speaking to those who hold different opinions. If you want to change hearts and minds, you must sally out and seek your adversary. That is what

Justin Trudeau did. Apparently, his speech was not particularly rousing, but that does not mean he should be faulted for agreeing to speak.

Being openly gay, I know that many religious groups consider homosexuality to be a sin and, for that reason, oppose even civil marriage rights for same-sex couples. However, during the same-sex marriage debate a few years ago, I drove to Steinbach, Manitoba to speak publicly in favor of same-sex marriage rights. A House of Commons committee was touring Canada to hear submissions about the marriage issue. Manitoba’s Vic Toews arranged for the committee’s only Manitoba stop to be in Steinbach. I knew that most of the people present would oppose equal marriage rights, but I saw it as a perfect opportunity to make the strongest possible arguments for equal marriage and to expose those in the crowd, perhaps for the first time in their lives, to these arguments. I have no idea if I changed any hearts and minds that day, but I am glad that I went to Steinbach.

Mr. Harris should continue to attack bigotry and hatred and to expose public speakers who have said nasty things in the past. However, he should re-evaluate his tactics. Preaching only to the converted is not an effective tactic.


Editor's note: In January 2013, David B. Harris, a Canadian lawyer with three decades' experience in intelligence affairs, sent me an article he wrote in IPT News, dated December 20, 2012 entiteld "Justin Trudeau's Islamist Revival." Harris serves as Director of the International Intelligence Program, INSIGNIS Strategic Research Inc. I asked Elliot Leven a WJR contributor to give his thoughts on this subject. Below is the article by Harris and Leven's response. I welcome readers to write in with their thoughts.

Justin Trudeau's Islamist Revival


by David B. Harris¨Special to IPT News ¨December 20, 2012

Nothing says bug-eyed clerical fanaticism more than inviting a hate-spewing Saudi cleric to address your religious revival meeting. But this is part of the under-reported history of the Reviving the Islamic Spirit (RIS) Convention, a conference that Justin Trudeau, a frontrunner in Canada's Liberal Party leadership race and " son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau" will address this weekend in Montreal. It's also why moderate Muslims and non-Muslims are aghast at the prospect of Trudeau's presence legitimizing the conference and some of its notables.

Although organizers pitch the gathering as "A Unique Youth Effort" "to help overcome new challenges of communication and integration" and "reviv[e] the Islamic tradition of education, tolerance and introspection," there is reason to be concerned. Aspects of the multi-year history and present-day manifestations of RIS invite questions about ideology and influences at play.

This year's conference was initially sponsored in part by IRFAN-Canada, an international Muslim relief entity that has seen its federal charitable tax status yanked by Ottawa, as a result of the Canada Revenue Agency's belief that millions in contributions went to "relieve" the Hamas terror organization. Although exposure of this background forced IRFAN's eleventh-hour cosmetic removal as an RIS sponsor, it is not evident that all remaining sponsors are clear of radical taint. UBS Bank recently blocked the overseas account of British-based charity and RIS 2012 sponsor Islamic Relief, a situation which an Islamic Relief official reportedly attributes to the technicalities of counterterrorism regulations. Meanwhile, some have questions about the uneven ideological record of one or two prominent figures attached to sponsoring organization Zaytuna College, an Islamic institution in Berkeley, Calif.

And, yes, the inevitable Tariq Ramadan, the charming, soft-spoken and dupe-seducing scion of the extremist Muslim Brotherhood “ a man who famously called for a moratorium, rather than a ban, on the stoning of women, and avoids condemning Hamas " will also speak at the event. Ramadan is an RIS veteran speaker whose apparent Muslim Brotherhood link offers little reassurance when taken in concert with a Brotherhood strategic plan for Canada and the United States which prescribes "a grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and sabotaging its miserable house."

Meanwhile, a journalist has exposed expected RIS 2012 speaker Yassir Fazaga as a fixture of Peace TV, an outlet with radical presenters, including Yusuf Islam “ the former Cat Stevens “ who called for author Salman Rushdie's death and spoke at the 2009 RIS.

But, years ago, those of us in intelligence who studied RIS conferences had concluded that RIS's problems exceeded even these present-day issues.

Indeed, the RIS's history of invited speakers includes some dignitaries who would give pause to people of conscience, especially when speakers might be considered models for youth and other convention attendees. For example, there was distinguished American neo-Nazi William W. Baker at the 2004 gathering. Known for establishing something dubbed Christians and Muslims for Peace (CAMP), Baker has rounded publicly on "belligerent American Jews." "[H]is apparent goal," wrote a reporter a year or two before his RIS invitation, is "the creation of a united Christian-Muslim front against Jews and other groups."

Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes complained that now-disgraced former RCMP Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli, then-Toronto Police Chief (and now federal Tory Minister) Julian Fantino and Mayor David Miller appeared at the Toronto conference, "thereby giving it" and by implication, William W. Baker “ their blessing." Zaccardelli's pander-filled speech was memorable. Even the social-democratic NDP's Jack Layton could not resist addressing an RIS meet.

For "bridge-building" and interfaith work, there was RIS 2006 speaker Imam Siraj Wahhaj, US unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

Another RIS invitee was Sheik Bilal Philips, a Canadian imam who is an unindicted co-conspirator in that bombing, favors death for homosexuals in Muslim lands, and fancies punitive amputations, lashings and public executions. From Kenya to Germany to Australia, he has been banned and deported on national security grounds.

The bug-eyed invitee mentioned above was reportedly Sheikh Abd Al-Rahman Al-Sudais, imam of Mecca's Grand Mosque. Well before his invitation to speak at the 2004 RIS, Al-Sudais said "Jews of yesterday are the evil forefathers of the even more evil Jews of today: infidels prophet murderers, the scum of the human race, accursed by Allah, who turned them into apes and pigs." "[A]n ongoing continuum of deceit, obstinacy, licentiousness, evil, and corruption," too. Christians?: idolators “ "worshippers of the cross" as were hideous "idol worshipping Hindus."

This was a bridge-building too far, and Canada's government barred entry to the Saudi imam.

As it did to RIS 2010 invitee (and previous speaker) Indian physician-preacher Zakir Naik, thought to have a crush on Osama bin Laden. "[E]very Muslim should be a terrorist," says Naik, and Jews are "our staunchest enemy." At the 2005 RIS, Naik pressed Islamic Sharia law upon America, complete with death penalties for homosexuals, heavy veiling for women. There was more than a dash of false equivalence in his comparing of the targeted civilian deaths of 9/11, and the accidental civilian casualties in Afghanistan combat. Naik's ambiguous position on suicide bombing included the view that it "should be done under proper guidance" surely a constructive thought for susceptible youth juggling contemporary responsibilities and trying to reach that life-balance between school and demolitions. Naik is progressive inasmuch as he believes wives should be beaten only "lightly."

Several years ago, Britain's Sheikh Riyadh ul-Haq spoke at an RIS convention in Toronto. Reports point to Indian-born ul-Haq's enthusiastic paraphrasing of the Quran in remarks made on another occasion: "the ones who are bitterest in their enmity towards Muslims, the most unrelenting, unforgiving, are the Jews and the mushrikeen, idolators in all their forms." Today's "chief idolators," he adds, are the Hindus.

U.S. authorities have taken an interest in RIS, and detained some American Muslims returning from the 2004 RIS conference in Toronto. Department of Homeland Security: "we had credible intelligence that conferences similar to the one from which these individuals were leaving were being used by terrorist organizations to fundraise and to hide the travel of terrorists themselves." The Saudi-funded, extremist-sympathetic Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) “ later an unindicted co-conspirator in a major terror funding U.S. prosecution, and the mother group of a Canadian chapter, CAIR-CAN, now attacking critics of this week's conference – sued the American government, and lost.

Border authorities, asserted the supportive U.S. appeals court, "had reason to believe that terrorists, or those with terrorist ties, would be attending the RIS conference."

It was at this Reviving the Islamic Spirit conference “ presumably in the midst of some of its participants' condemnations of liberal coexistence “ that a jargon-laced greeting was read aloud from a letter from then-Prime Minister Paul Martin. "[T]his year's conference," he intoned on behalf of the Government of Canada, "adds to the fabric of our nation and strengthens our social foundations by making our communities more dynamic, culturally rich, and cohesive." U.S. border authorities might have taken another view.

Now comes the Reviving the Islamic Spirit 2012 conclave. You've heard about Tariq Ramadan and the rest, but what about other invitees who will be joining this month's Montreal conventioneers?

Jamal Badawi: Professor Emeritus, St Mary's University, Halifax, and held by the Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Report to be "a leader in many of the most important organizations of the Global and U.S. Muslim Brotherhood." Unindicted co-conspirator in the aforementioned terror funding trial, and an executive member of the Islamic Society of North America, an unindicted co-conspirator organization. Former board member of the Muslim Association of Canada, an organization boasting of its Muslim Brotherhood ideology. A pamphlet by Badawi that was available at an earlier RIS appeared to justify the practice of polygamy.

Imam Zaid Shakir: A U.S. cleric tending to trade in 9/11 conspiracy theories, aiming for Islamic rule of America, and believing that the U.S. government is at war with Islam “ a poor example for the Muslim youth at any conference. At the 2005 RIS, Shakir seemed consumed with portraying the United States as a stain on humanity, a catalog of "slavery and genocide, oppression and military aggression." It is unsurprising that his ideology was condemned by moderate American Muslim leader and retired U.S. naval Lt. Cmdr Zuhdi Jasser, and by the American Anti-Defamation League. Shakir has spoken at RIS conventions on a number of occasions, and is a senior faculty member of RIS 2012 sponsor Zaytuna College.

Edina Lekovic: Policy director at the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood-linked Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC). Exposed in 2007 by leading American counterterrorism expert Steven Emerson as having been managing editor of UCLA Muslim students' newspaper when its 1999 "Spirit of Jihad" issue counseled Muslims: "When we hear someone refer to the great Mujahid ¦ Osama bin Laden as a 'terrorist,' we should defend our brother and refer to him as a freedom fighter." Bin Laden had declared war on the United States in 1996.

Almost all of the foregoing information was on the public record before Trudeau accepted his speaking invitation. No wonder the moderate Muslim Canadian Congress and Muslims Facing Tomorrow organizations are joining so many other Canadians in raising questions about public officials who would become involved in this kind of enterprise.

Worse yet, there are now reports of enormous prospective increases in Canada's already-world-beating per capita immigration, some of it from countries associated with extremism and subversion. As suspicions deepen that much of this intake reflects a Harper government desire to "import" grateful voters for coming elections and profit from resultant demographic shifts, Canada is left to face policy outcomes that will continue to inflate its radical ranks, fill conferences of the RIS sort, and imperil Canadians' future. In the end, the Reviving the Islamic Spirit Convention stands as a warning of the need to press ambitious political figures of all stripes to resist the temptations and perverse political incentives endangering that future.

David B. Harris is a Canadian lawyer with three decades' experience in intelligence affairs, and serves as Director of the International Intelligence Program, INSIGNIS Strategic Research Inc. He is on the advisory board of the Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow (MFT), although opinions expressed here are his alone.



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