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A very controversial Indian televangelist was denied a visa to travel to Canada for the Toronto Journey of Faith conference being held over July 2nd to July 4th at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. The conference is the 3rd annual Islamic Conference, featuring vendors and an assortment of speakers.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada did not release a statement on the denial of visa, citing privacy. The televangelist, Dr. Zakir Naik, was also denied entry to Britain last week.
Naik’s views were the reason his visa was denied, according to an unnamed source who told the National Post. In his talks, Naik recommends beating gays and lesbians, killing those who leave Islam, that everyone who is Muslim should be a terrorist, that Jews are the biggest enemy of Muslims and that men are within their right to beat their wives lightly, but not in the face or hard enough to leave a mark. According to Naik, women’s choice of clothing also makes them more susceptible and vulnerable to rape. Very un-Canadian views to say the least.
Facebook groups sprung up in an effort to protest his arrival and after the ban was announced the founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress, Tarek Fatah, who said he had e-mailed MP’s telling them he didn’t want hate-mongers allowed into Canada last week, said, “We are very happy that government agencies, having been made aware of his statements, have taken this decision.”
In the eyes of most Canadians, these views should come across as vile, outrageous, offensive and frightening. And, newcomers who have immigrated to Canada may have even fled countries where these ideologies are entrenched in law. However, it is important to note that this man has been denied entry into Canada for what he may be saying – for his potential words, not his actions.
The majority of Naik’s beliefs are also not unique to any religion, but are shared by fundamentalists of many belief systems world wide and these people have been let into Canada before.
In the big picture, the principle of free speech, being able to say whatever you feel in Canada without directly inciting violence, is a cherished freedom. Barring someone for what he might say and what his belief system is, however distasteful, sets a dangerous precedent of government censorship–that in my view is also very un-Canadian.
For those cheering his visa denial, I say “Be careful what you wish for” because the next person denied entry to Canada could be someone you know and with whose beliefs you share. I would rather risk having potential hate mongers cross our borders than having our government pick and choose whose ideas are suitable for us. Democratic countries are sustained by open societies not government controlled ones….even when we may agree with them.
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