Skip to main content

Muslim group demands apology from Harper, chief spokesman over ‘terrorist’ comment

Stephen Harper speaks in the House of Commons on Jan. 27, 2014.

CHRIS WATTIE/REUTERS

A national Muslim organization is demanding Prime Minister Stephen Harper publish a retraction and apology on his government website for a chief spokesman's comments that the group says linked it to terrorists.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims, which is now challenging Mr. Harper to prove this allegation, has filed a notice of libel saying it intends to sue Mr. Harper and Prime Minister's Office director of communications Jason MacDonald for comments he made earlier this month.

On Jan. 18, the PMO spokesman, dismissing comments from the Muslim group about the makeup of Mr. Harper's Middle East trip delegation, told Sun News: "We will not take seriously criticism from an organization with documented ties to a terrorist organization such as Hamas."

Story continues below advertisement

The Canadian government has designated Hamas, headquartered in the Palestinian territories, as a terrorist entity.

Mr. Harper is named as a defendant in the threatened suit because, the council says, Mr. MacDonald "was acting as the representative and under the direction" of the Prime Minister.

The PMO declined to release any evidence supporting Mr. MacDonald's statement Tuesday. It also did not answer why it hasn't taken action if it believes the council is linked to terrorists.

"As this matter may be the subject of litigation, we have no further comment," PMO press secretary Stephen Lecce said.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, however, suggested Canadians turn to the Internet for answers. "I'd encourage any Canadian to Google the group in question and do some research on their own and come to their own conclusions," Mr. Baird told CBC's Power and Politics. Before a recent name change, the group was called the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations.

The Muslim council's executive director, Ihsaan Gardee, said his group has no ties to Hamas and said that if the government has proof, then it should make it public. "By maliciously attacking [the council] instead of addressing the substance of our legitimate concerns, the PMO is trying to intimidate and silence dissenting voices," he said.

"It is undemocratic and goes against everything Canadians expect from a responsible government."

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. Gardee said he welcomes Canadians conducting research on his group, but cautioned that "just because the minister says to Google us doesn't mean everything on the Internet is true."

"We welcome and encourage Canadians to Google our organization. All of our work is a matter of public record."

He noted that last November, after legal action, a University of Ottawa professor was forced to retract and apologize for writings that said the organization National Council of Canadian Muslims believed in, and was supportive of, terrorism, among other things. This professor also took back his assertion that the council is connected to, and inspired by, the Muslim Brotherhood.

NDP multiculturalism critic Andrew Cash called the PMO comments "the type of smear tactic that have come to define the Conservative reaction to critics. It's offensive and divisive."

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter