An Islamist organization in Canada has charged the agency auditing its charitable practices of engaging in “systemic Islamophobia.” Officials responsible for the ongoing investigation have kept quiet about the content of a forthcoming audit of the charity’s operations but have stated that they guard against systemic bigotry in the course of their work.
The Muslim Association of Canada (MAC), leveled its charges against the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) on April 13, claiming that an ongoing audit “poses an ‘existential threat’ to the organization because it threatens to revoke its charitable status and raises the possibility of damaging sanctions.” MAC accuses CRA of relying “upon Islamophobic sources and discredited newspaper articles to support its allegations.”
In 2015, United Press International reported that Canadian police found that between 2001 and 2010, MAC gave almost $300,000 to the International Relief Fund for the Afflicted and Needy-Canada (IRFAN-Canada), which in turn had sent millions to Hamas-affiliated organizations in the Gaza Strip between 2005 and 2009, prompting the Canadian government to list IRFAN-Canada as a terrorist entity in 2014.
MAC denied any wrongdoing, but the events help shed some light on why Revenue Canada might be conducting an audit of the charity. The agency’s Review and Analysis Division (RAD) operates under the Anti-Terrorism Act and is responsible for preventing “the abuse of registered charities for the financing of terrorism.”
Lauds Muslim Brotherhood
There are other issues that indicate the MAC that should be worthy of scrutiny by Revenue Canada. By its own admission, the MAC looks to the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization committed to promoting shariah law in the Middle East and Western democracies.
MAC’s “about” page from 2016 lauds “the late Imam Hassan al-Banna and the Society of the Muslim Brothers (commonly known as the Muslim Brotherhood),” declaring that “Al-Banna’s core messages of constructive engagement in society […] had a deep impact on much of the Muslim world.” The organization’s website still promotes Al-Banna, and his founding of the Muslim Brotherhood, as a source of inspiration for Muslims today.
The MAC’s apparent admiration for the Muslim Brotherhood is noteworthy. The Muslim Brotherhood may oppose terrorism for tactical reasons but it still promotes a narrative that encourages young Muslim men to radicalize. That’s the assessment Lorenzo Vidino, director of the program on extremism at George Washington University and author of The New Muslim Brotherhood in the West (Columbia University Press, 2010) offered in 2015 about the Muslim Brotherhood narrative.
“They have this narrative where they lump together foreign policy issues with issues like cartoons and so on as part of a big narrative that proves this point that the West hates Muslims and Islam,” Vidino said. “It’s that mainstreaming of this narrative which is very much the staircase to violent radicalization and the brotherhood does mainstream that. It provides somewhat of a fertile environment.”
The MAC accuses its critics of anti-Muslim bigotry even as its leaders and associates have promoted hostility toward Israel and Jews over the years.
A MAC associate who has behaved in such a manner is Tarek Ramadan. According to the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Tarek Ramadan (not to be confused with professor Tariq Ramadan from Switzerland) led a demonstration that took place on July 28, 2017 with “chants of ‘Long live Palestine. Long live the intifada. Long live the resistance… With soul and blood we will redeem you, Al Aqsa!’” That same day he spoke in an MAC mosque and accused Jews of “wearing beards like Muslims, praying in the mosque,” in their campaign to bring down the Ottoman Empire led by the last caliph Sultan Abdul Hamid. Ramadan also called Israel a terrorist and fake state and declared, “The [Israelis] have unlimited money from Wall Street. They have money from your mutual funds, by the way, that you save in your banks.”
The episode prompted B’Nai Brith Canada to call for an “inquiry be held into the actions of the Muslim Association of Canada (MAC) and its Vancouver mosque, which promoted the imam’s remarks by sharing the offensive sermon on its official YouTube channel.”
The MAC eventually distanced itself from Ramadan’s bigotry, describing him as a “volunteer speaker,” but has, in the years since, continued to provide forums for other speakers who promote similar bigotry.
Last August, the MAC’s Muslim Student Leadership conference featured Kuwaiti preacher Tareq Al-Suwaidan, who in 2013, was fired as director of Saudi Al-Risala TV by Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal for admitting he belonged to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Al-Suwaidan is also author of the Jewish Encyclopedia, which according to the ADL, purports to inform readers about the Jews and “their wickedness, treason, and deception which they practiced with all nations so not to be deceived by them and by their promises of false peace.” The text declares that only 200,000 Jews were killed during the Holocaust.
In protest of MAC’s decision to host Al-Suwaidan as a speaker, the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), issued a press release which included quotes by Al-Suwaiden, such as: “All the mothers of the Islamic nation….should suckle their babies on the hatred of the sons of Zion” and “We want all the young people who are skilled in the use of Twitter, Facebook, and other technological media to think about what we call ‘Electronic Jihad.’”
Apparently, MAC hasn’t learned its lessons from these controversies. In a now broken link promoting the MAC’s annual convention scheduled to take place in early July, the organization touted a planned appearance by infamous “Islamophobia” Berkeley professor Hatem Bazian.
Bazian, who called for an intifada in America, stated that the “sacred texts of Islam require its adherents to ‘fight the Jews” and has urged the Muslim world “to militarily support Palestine.” Bazian serves on the national board of American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) an organization that, in 2014, hosted a talk in which attendees were taught to “navigate the fine line between legal activism and material support for terrorism.”
Received Public Funds
Despite MAC’s admiration for the Muslim Brotherhood and its tendency to give a platform to anti-Jewish bigotry, the organization is the recipient of public funds. Last year it received almost $350,000 in federal funding and another $225,000 from the Ontario government.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau helped paved the way for MAC’s Charter challenge against CRA with statements at the Government of Canada’s National Summit on Islamophobia organized by the Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat in June 2021. During the conference Trudeau singled out Revenue Canada for condemnation, stating “From the (Canada Revenue Agency) to security agencies, institutions should support people, not target them.” At the summit, Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier requested that the Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson, François Boileau, “examine concerns by certain Muslim-led charities and engage other charitable organizations led by racialized communities about their experiences with the CRA.”
CRA spokesperson Pamela Tourigny has defended the fairness of the CRA process, stating that “the CRA does not select registered charities for audits based on any particular faith or denomination.” Three years ago, the government revoked the charity status of the Canadian Jewish group Beth Oloth Charitable Organization, with no follow-up barrage of antisemitism accusations.
MAC has not responded to an FWI request for comments, but the Office of the Minister of National Revenue, did respond by emphasizing the concerns of the Muslim community, declaring that it takes concerns of systemic racism and discrimination “very seriously.” Revenue Canada reiterated that the Office of the Taxpayers Ombudsman is preparing a study addressing the concerns of the Muslim community and that the agency is looking forward to the examining the final report and its recommendations when it is released.