B.C. Premier John Horgan is under fire for a letter he wrote praising Vancouver Imam Tarek Ramadan, who has been accused of spouting violent and anti-Semitic rhetoric.
According to a video provided and translated by B’nai Brith Canada, at a rally in support of Palestinians in July 2017, Ramadan led a group prayer for Allah to “grant victory to the Muslims in Palestine” and “rescue the Al-Aqsa Mosque from the malevolent Jews and the criminal Zionists.”
The Muslim Association of Canada described his remarks as “inappropriate” and stated that Ramadan would be suspended from delivering sermons while it investigated the incident.
On April 20, Ramadan shared a letter on Facebook that was sent from Horgan’s office. The letter praises Ramadan’s “work as a community activist” who’s striving to “ensure our province is a place of acceptance and vibrancy,” and extends the premier’s “best wishes for (his) continued success.”
In a comment posted below the letter, Ramadan portrays the premier’s letter as a personal vindication, stating that God “is exalted, and He harnesses His servants as He wishes to defend me and bear witness for me.”
“We want to thank the Jewish community for bringing this issue to our attention,” the premier’s office told The CJN. “We were previously unaware of the concerning statements made by this individual and have directed staff to look into them further. This individual has received similar certificates in the past from previous governments. In response to concerns raised, we are reviewing the process by which certificates are administered.”
The July 2017 speech is not the only time Ramadan has made incendiary comments. That same month, he was filmed saying, during a sermon, that the waqf (sacred territory) of Palestine has been invaded by “an impure gang of Israelites,” who he called “a gang of the worst kind of mankind, if you can even call them mankind. They have no mercy, no respect, no holiness, no respect for anybody, for any humanity.…
“So our first duty towards this land, when we come to the understanding that it is a waqf and a trust, is to fight along with our brothers and sisters by any means necessary. The United Nations declared that the Palestinians have a right to defend themselves, so we can give them any aid they want – weapons, money, expertise – we are not going to be shy about it.
“It is our duty, our individual duty, that we all share their jihad and their struggle against the Zionists by all means necessary, by all legal means and all Islamic means. We are not going to be shy about it, or wishy-washy about it.”
The video concludes with the imam saying that, “All of Palestine should only be in the custody of Muslims. It should not be in the custody of the Christians, or the Jews, or anybody else.”
Jewish groups were quick to speak out about the issue.
“By lauding Tarek Ramadan, the premier’s office is allowing this letter to be misused as a green light to incitement and support for violence,” said Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada. “How can it be that Ramadan’s own community understands that his rhetoric is unacceptable, while the premier apparently does not?
We assume that this was an administrative error.
– Michael Mostyn
“We assume that this was an administrative error, and that the premier would never intentionally praise someone with Ramadan’s track record. But the premier must make a point of coming out publicly and clarifying this fact. Failure to do so is irresponsible and incomprehensible.”
“We are disappointed to learn that Imam Tarek Ramadan, an individual with a history of anti-Jewish statements and calls to support violence against Israelis by any means, has received a certificate of recognition from the office of B.C. Premier John Horgan,” said Nico Slobinsky, director of the Centre For Israel and Jewish Affairs. “Ramadan’s hateful, violent rhetoric has been rejected by mainstream Canadians. We immediately engaged with the B.C. government to register our concerns. It has become clear that the certificate was issued as part of an administrative process and we understand that is being reviewed. We are working closely with the premier’s office on this issue and appreciate their engagement.”
Update: The premier’s office released a statement on May 24 saying, “When we provided a certificate to Mr. Ramadan, we did so unaware of the concerning statements he has made. We strongly condemn any racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic or discriminatory language. We have since rescinded the certificate. Mr. Ramadan also received certificates from provincial governments in past years and we are reviewing the process by which these certificates are granted.”