Though the community centre hasn't yet been issued a permit to open, the Moroccan-born Chaoui is promoting it on his Facebook page.
Connections to radicals
Chaoui has connections to radical Islamists.
He has preached at the same St-Jean-sur-Richelieu mosque attended by Martin Couture-Rouleau, the Muslim convert who killed Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent.
Chaoui was also the leader of a Muslim association at Laval University. One of that association's member, Chiheb Esseghaier, is about to be tried on charges related to a plot to derail a VIA train travelling between Toronto and New York two years ago.
Chaoui uses social media to share his fundamentalist interpretation of Islam. He has posted to Youtube and Facebook his views sympathetic to Sharia law, and he advocates that women should have designated guardians.
“There are non-Muslims who come to our home and tell us, ‘Really you cut off heads, you cut off hands?' But that’s religion. It’s our religion in our own country. We decide how we implement it,” he said in a Youtube video.
His Facebook page has nearly 1,000 likes.
City withholding community centre permit
Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre said today he wants to know more about the status of the community centre before it receives an operating permit.
“We are not talking about opening a church or whatsoever, we are talking about a community centre,” he said.
Quebec Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil said she doesn't want to tell the City of Montreal what to do, however she cautioned the city against providing Chaoui with a platform for his extremist views.
“The teachings, if you will, of this Imam, they are totally unacceptable in a free and democratic society," she said.
The Parti Québécois opposition, meanwhile, called Chaoui’s teachings “medieval.”
“Imam Hamza Chaoui said in the past that democracy and Islam are incompatible, and that voting is a sin. We strongly condemn these medieval remarks,” said the party’s secularism critic, Agnès Maltais.
A spokeswoman for the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) called on the premier to go further.
“Philippe Couillard needs to affirm that teachings of that nature are not compatible with our values, and we won’t tolerate them,” said Nathalie Roy.
Chaoui was unavailable for comment.