POLITICS

Montreal imam denied community centre permit rejects claim he's a radical agent

02/03/2015 01:36 EST | Updated 04/05/2015 05:59 EDT
MONTREAL - The Montreal Islamic preacher denied a permit to open a community centre says he's being unfairly demonized and rejects accusations he's inciting violence and hatred.

Hamza Chaoui said Tuesday in a posting on his Facebook page that he "categorically refutes" claims made against him by city officials.

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre said Saturday that the imam was an "agent of radicalization" who had the potential to influence youth to commit acts of violence.

Real Menard, the local borough mayor, denied a permit to Chaoui, who'd hoped to open an Islamic community centre in the area.

Although Chaoui had not formally applied for the permit, the city made a preemptive decision to deny it for security reasons, in response to published reports about him.

Chaoui is a Moroccan-born imam who has described Islam and democracy as "completely" incompatible and has made statements deemed homophobic and sexist.

But Chaoui said those comments about homosexuals and women were "taken out of context," adding that the subject of his sermons are based in Islamic texts, which are similar to the teachings of Christianity and Judaism.

"I have never incited hatred or violence," Chaoui wrote. "On the contrary, I have always encouraged youth to integrate harmoniously into Quebec society, to respect the law and to never use violence as a means of conflict resolution."

Chaoui said he is considering suing the mayor for defamation and for what he calls a violation of his charter rights.

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard on Tuesday reiterated his support for the city's decision to deny Chaoui a permit.

"I will repeat for Quebecers that we welcome people from all around the world," Couillard said. "But the security of Quebecers will be always our top priority."