Stewart Bell, National Post · Thursday, Jan. 20, 2011
TORONTO — The mosque of outspoken Imam Aly Hindy, described in a RCMP report as “a focal point for Toronto area Islamic radicals,” has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from donors in the Middle East since 2009, the National Post has learned.
Foreign institutions have donated more than $650,000 to the Salaheddin Islamic Centre for renovations and an expansion of an Islamic school. It is the first time the mosque has received money from outside Canada.
Imam Hindy said that by securing funding from outside Canada the Toronto mosque was preserving Muslim culture, helping the local construction industry and employing Canadians and new immigrants in the education field while saving the public school system money.
“It is obvious that if we find money here, we will not ask other countries for help,” Imam Hindy said. “We always hear complaints about immigrants taking money from the system. So when we are able to bring money from outside, you should be thankful instead of implying this nonsense of allegations.”
Imam Hindy is known for his controversial views. He says he has officiated or blessed 30 polygamous marriages around Toronto, and that he would follow Islamic law if it conflicted with Canada’s laws. He has defended accused terrorists and says Canadian authorities have long monitored his mosque. A New York Police Department report calls Salaheddin “a known radical mosque.”
“The government of Canada should put an immediate end to all money coming into Canada from Arab countries to prop up Islamist organizations and mosques,” said moderate Muslim writer Tarek Fatah. “If we do not end this practice, Canada will pay a very heavy price in the future.”
The mosque’s overseas funding came to light in its latest tax return, which shows $250,000 in revenues from “sources outside Canada” in 2009 — the first year that registered charities such as the Salaheddin Islamic Centre were required to single out their foreign revenues.
The mosque’s 2010 tax return is not yet available but in a news release last February, the Saudi Embassy in Washington, D.C., said the Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank had approved $400,000 to the Salaheddin centre to help it buy a school in Mississauga, a Toronto suburb. The announcement was listed under the heading “grants and special assistance projects.”
Imam Hindy said 2009 was the first year the mosque had accepted foreign donations. Initially, he said the money came from the governments of Kuwait and Qatar, which each contributed about US$100,000 toward a $1-million mosque renovation. Later, he said he was not sure of the sources, saying the money might have come from Kuwait, Qatar or the United Arab Emirates.
The imam said the renovations were needed because the roof was leaking and had to be replaced at a cost of $150,000. The prayer room is also being downsized to make room for more classrooms for an Islamic school.
He said he had applied twice to the Canadian government for funding to pay for security cameras and lights but was turned down. He said he later saw the list of those who got funding under the same federal program. “All the names are Jewish,” the imam said. While he said Jewish organizations need government funding for security, he said, “also we are at risk.”
Before he left for the Persian Gulf to solicit donations, Imam Hindy said he told the Canadian Security Intelligence Service what he was doing. He said he went “a couple of times” to the Middle East.
He initially said the money came from the Kuwaiti and Qatari ministries of “awqaf” and Islamic affairs. (…)
“No, no, no,” he said. “They don’t believe. You see, it’s only here in Canada and U.S. and the West that they think that there is a big problem of terrorism or homegrown terrorism or all these things. They know that the government, they had to do something to please George Bush and do their own work in fighting what you call terrorism. So I didn’t have to explain anything. I showed them the recommendations from the people here.”
While several well-known Canadian terrorists have worshipped at the mosque, an Ontario Superior Court judge dismissed concerns about the centre. “I accept that, over the years, there may have been persons, involved in questionable activities, with questionable associations, who have passed through the centre from time to time,” Justice Gary Trotter wrote in a 2008 ruling. “In my view, this in itself is not sufficient to taint the centre in any way.”
Imam Hindy said his mosque is large and “many people come and go.” He said Khadr would visit the centre when he was in Canada and raised about $2,000 a year there. “But he used to do so with many other Islamic centres in Canada from Montreal to Vancouver.”
Egyptian Mahmoud Jaballah was hired to teach at the school only after a security certificate labelling him an Al Jihad member was quashed by the Federal Court, Imam Hindy said. Jaballah was subsequently removed from his position eight months before he was arrested again on a second certificate.
He said Toronto 18 ringleader Ahmad worshipped at Salaheddin but he went to three other mosques as well. He said Ahmad was not a threat. “He was like a big mouth, talking about jihad … he’s not able to do anything and he’s not going to do anything.” Ahmad has pleaded guilty to three terrorism-related charges.
“But unfortunately they had very bad lawyers. The lawyers just collect money from the legal aid and they didn’t do anything.” James has pleaded guilty to travelling to Pakistan to receive paramilitary training for the Toronto 18 terrorist group.
“Actually, I feel that I help many people to avoid to become extremists,” said Imam Hindy, adding he had prevented “so many people, maybe seven or eight” from going overseas.
“Because you know if I say there is no jihad in Islam — and some people say that, some mosques say jihad in Islam, only jihad is against your own bad desires. But it’s not true. There is jihad, also, and jihad including everything, even up to the end to fighting.”
Asked if fighting Canadian troops in Afghanistan was a jihad, he responded, “What do you think if you are attacked in your own country? I’m not talking about foreigners. I’m talking about Afghani.
“If a foreign army comes to Canada you think we should not? I will do jihad or fight against any army attacking Canada. But, anyway, what I am trying to say is people think that by not discussing, they think they are now pleasing the public and pleasing the government. No, you have to discuss these things.”
He later clarified that fighting Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan was a jihad only for Afghans.
Neither the Kuwaiti embassy in Ottawa, the Qatari embassy in Washington, D.C., nor the Islamic Development Bank responded to requests for comment.