CANADA: 'TOWN HALL' TARGETS NEWMARKET MOSQUE
A mosque planned for the Toronto-area suburb of Newmarket was labelled a potential "house of terror" yesterday at a meeting partly spearheaded by the Jewish Defence League, whose members in other countries have themselves committed terrorist acts.
Meir Weinstein, the militant league's Canadian head, helped put on the "town hall" session to raise questions about the Newmarket mosque's connections with Zafar Bangash. The controversial imam has promoted sharia law and vigorously defended Iran's fundamentalist regime and Lebanon's Hezbollah terrorist movement.
But Mr. Weinstein found himself on the defensive at the meeting over his own group's sometimes violent past, his allegations that Mr. Bangash is under watch by CSIS and suggestions a local politician may have taken a bribe from the Muslim congregation.
"I don't think he has any credibility at all," said Brian Patterson, a Newmarket resident, after an angry exchange with the league head. "To suggest at a public meeting that any public official in this town has taken a bribe without any evidence of that is outrageous."
Mr. Bangash is president of the Islamic Society of York Region, of which the new mosque forms part, and he advocated on behalf of the religious facility initially. But the mosque's leaders have since said he is not directly involved in the project.
Ansar Ahmed, a spokesman for the mosque, said yesterday's meeting would only inflame emotions after the mosque worked hard to allay the concerns of Newmarket residents and politicians.
"We're extremely disappointed," he said. "They are playing on the fears and anxieties that have arisen around this issue. They've obviously made up their minds about the Newmarket mosque and Muslims in the community." He said Mr. Bangash clearly has "very provocative" views but the mosque does not in any way align itself with those opinions.
The event marked another step in the recent resurgence of the Jewish Defence League (JDL) in Canada, six years after two U.S. members were charged with plotting to bomb a mosque and the offices of a Lebanese-American congressman.