NEWS

Montreal Islamic conference cancelled by Palais des congrès

08/31/2013 01:42 EDT | Updated 10/31/2013 05:12 EDT
A conference on Islam has been cancelled at Montreal's largest convention centre surrounding concerns over security, the Palais des congrès announced in a statement.

The conference scheduled for Sept. 7 and 8—called Entre Ciel et Terre (Between Heaven and Earth)—faced criticism from Quebec's minister for the Status of Women, Agnès Maltais.

Maltais asked the Canadian government to bar some invited guests from entering the country, calling the speakers "radical Islamists" who don't respect equality between men and women.

The conference organizers defended their choice of speakers, saying they were only made aware of their guests' controversial statements through the media.

Conference spokesman Ishaq Moustaqin says he doesn't endorse these specific messages, but says his group can't be held accountable for what was said outside of Canada.

"We can't control what people can say. we assure the public that none of those messages will be allowed at our conference," said Moustaqin.

Several demonstrations were planned to protest against controversial Islamist preachers like a French citizen named Nader Abou Anas, who had made comments stating women refusing to wear a headscarf was worse than having cancer or AIDS.

Salam Elmanayi, the president of the Muslim Council of Montreal says the comments were distasteful, but considers them a blunder and says Maltais had no right to asked Canada to refuse the speakers entry into the country.

"We don't let a civil servant somewhere sitting at his desk decide, who you're going to say, what you're going to say tomorrow and when you're going to say it," said Elmanayi. Everybody has the right to come and say whatever they want to say.

In a written statement Ottawa said it was still considering all options.

It's not yet known if organizers will try to hold the conference elsewhere.

MORE:cbcNews