Author’s note: Naresh Raghubeer of the Canadian Coalition for Democracies, the organization that opposed Qazi Hussein Ahmad’s entry into Canada for the ISNA conference last month, reports that Qazi was eventually denied a visa as a result of the public outcry and political pressure, preventing him from speaking at the ISNA conference. He also clarifies that despite the extensive ties of Qazi’s Jamaat-e-Islami to Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups, Canada has not yet officially designated it a terrorist organization, as originally reported in the article. Another organization also operating in Southeastern Asia with the same name has been so designated. We appreciate Mr. Raghubeer’s update and correction.
Qazi Hussein Ahmad has been banned from more than 25 countries across Europe and the Middle East for the activities of the Pakistani Jamaat-e-Islami (JEI) organization that he heads. Terrorism analysts around the world have noted JEI’s close ties to al-Qaeda, and Qazi has publicly defended Osama bin Laden, admitting to meeting with him on several occasions and claiming that no definitive proof exists of bin Laden’s involvement in the 9/11 attacks. In an October 2002 interview with Der Speigel Qazi went so far as to deny al-Qaeda’s existence altogether and defended his group’s support of the Taliban, saying that “they were just and honorable men, who brought peace to Afghanistan.”
With that kind of extremist rhetoric and close associations with known terrorist organizations currently at war with the United States, it is troubling that the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) had Qazi Hussein Ahmad as one of its featured speakers at its annual Canadian conference last month. The ISNA-Canada conference was run jointly with the Muslim Students Association and Muslim Youth of North America, and endorsed by the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Islamic Circle of North America, and the Muslim Association of Canada.
The program for the ISNA conference lists Qazi Hussein Ahmad speaking at their seventh session on Saturday, May 24, on the topic of “Religious Extremism: Fact or Fiction.” This was not his first time at an ISNA conference, however, as he was featured at the group’s 1998 35th annual convention held in St. Louis, where Qazi was one of two speakers on the topic of “Human Dignity in the Muslim World: The Case of Pakistan and Algeria.”
Qazi’s appearance at the ISNA-Canada conference was denounced by the Canadian Coalition for Democracies, which demanded that the government immediately review and reconsider his visa application, especially since Jamaat-e-Islami has been designated a terrorist organization by the Canadian government. ISNA’s decision to include the JEI leader in their event was strongly criticized by Calgary Herald columnist Rob Breakenridge, who used the occasion to question Canadians’ paradoxical “tolerant society.”