Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Justin Trudeau Brushes off Complaints about Appearance at Islamic Convention

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Justin Trudeau Brushes off Complaints about Appearance at Islamic Convention

Article excerpt

Trudeau defends decision to address Islamic event

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Justin Trudeau is brushing off criticism about his upcoming keynote speech at an Islamic convention, saying he's proud to be participating in the event.

His planned Dec. 22 appearance at the Reviving the Islamic Spirit conference has been attacked by an anti-Islamism website and those complaints have been picked up by some mainstream media outlets.

The critics have raised concerns about radical views and the alleged affiliation of other speakers at the event later this month; they have also pointed to alleged ties between major conference sponsors and the Islamic militant group Hamas.

But Trudeau makes no apologies for his decision to attend.

When asked about the controversy, Trudeau said he doesn't share the critics' concerns and he accuses them of trafficking in misinformation. He said politicians from all parties have spoken at the annual Toronto event -- including former New Democrat leader Jack Layton a few years ago.

"If there are concerns about some of the speakers that I've heard rumours about, I think there's also a bit of misinformation," the Liberal leadership candidate said during a news conference Monday in St-Jerome, Que.

"I've heard a number of people express concerns about this event that I certainly don't understand and I don't share...

"It's a group of young people who've pulled this together. Most of the organizers are young Muslims who are looking at trying to bridge the gap between the reality for Muslim Canadians and mainstream Canada and I'm very proud to be able to contribute."

The convention had 30,000 attendees in 2011 and at least 20,000 are expected this year. The working title of Trudeau's speech is: "Being Inclusive in Canada: Our Story, Our Politics, Our Future."

A spokeswoman for the convention said the criticism is an example of broader fear-mongering about Muslims.

"Unfortunately, (such criticism) will always exist and I think the idea of a large congregation of Muslims gathering is often attached with speculation over the last decade or so," Farhia Ahmed said Tuesday.

"There's been wide speculation about whether or not Muslims are all terrorists... That's also what the media has been portraying. …

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