The mayor of an east-end Montreal borough says the refusal to grant a permit for an Islamic community centre to controversial imam Hamza Chaoui is based on public-security concerns and is not a curtailment of his right to freedom of speech.
Mercier-Hochelaga-Maisonneuve Mayor André Ménard has added his voice to a chorus of local and provincial leaders opposed to the establishment of the youth centre where there would be prayers and Islamic teachings under the imam.
Mr. Chaoui is a fundamentalist interpreter of Islam reported to have stated on Facebook and YouTube that democracy and Islam are incompatible because democracy can result in the election of homosexuals, and that all women must have a male guardian when in public.
He has preached at the St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., mosque attended by Martin Couture-Rouleau, the Muslim convert who targeted and killed warrant officer Patrice Vincent in a hit-and-run in October, according to published news reports.
Mr. Ménard said the borough council is set to vote Monday on a change to the bylaws to prohibit prayer or religious instruction of any kind in community activities in the borough.
The mayor said in an interview Sunday that the decision to refuse an occupation permit is based on information provided by different public-security agencies about the Moroccan-born Mr. Chaoui.
Mr. Ménard would not disclose the names of the agencies or what information was divulged.
Mr. Chaoui could not be reached for comment but he is quoted in a La Presse interview Sunday as saying he has not done anything illegal and denying being an "agent of radicalization," as Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre described him on Saturday.
"This is not a question of freedom of expression, it's a matter of public security," Mr. Ménard said in an interview Sunday.
"We cannot provide a platform to that imam," he said.
Montreal civil rights lawyer Julius Grey said the borough lacks the powers to make the proposed bylaw changes.
"Questions of basic security other than land use and planning belong either to Ottawa or the provinces," he said.
"I do not think they can prevent meetings or expressions of opinion merely on the ground of suspicion."