Muslim Students' Association speaker choice sparks controversy at U of A
Muslim scholars chosen to speak during awareness week promote hatred, University of Alberta professor says
A Muslim professor from the University of Alberta is concerned some Islamic scholars invited by a student association to speak on campus this week promote what he describes as extremist views and homophobia.
Four scholars have been invited to campus for Muslim Awareness Week, an annual event organized by the Muslim Students' Association.
Some of these speakers' ideologies are cause for concern, U of A professor Junaid Jehangir said.
"All of these speakers are coming from a pool of ideology … who essentially try to promote this idea that the modern nation states are a symbol of disbelief, and therefore there needs to be an establishment of a caliphate," Jehangir said.
Jehangir said one of the speakers, Abdullah Hakim Quick, refers to homosexual people as "filthy, disgusting things" in a video posted to YouTube.
"In that particular video … he's using those words to put down the LGBT community. That subjects vulnerable minorities to hatred," Jehangir said. "This is a main concern of all the speakers: they basically apostatize gay Muslims who believe that being gay and being Muslim is compatible."
Event meant to promote acceptance, president says
Muslim Students' Association President Ayesha Sohail said the week-long speaker series is their biggest event of the year. It's intended to promote understanding and acceptance between Muslims and non-Muslims, and to break down Islamophobia, racism and bigotry, she said.
Quick heads a social service agency in Toronto open to Muslims, non-Muslims, and any community or minority, Sohail said. He has previously spoken out against violence towards the LGBTQ community, she added.
This isn't the first time some of these speakers have been invited to the U of A, she said.
"They're well known and recognized, not only to have benefited many people but also to have significantly contributed to creating peace and mutual understanding in the community," Sohail said.
Sohail said she does not believe Quick is homophobic, and that his comments in the YouTube video were taken out of context. She said he's making reference to someone else using negative words in referring to the homosexual community.
"He is not expressing his own opinion, he is giving an example of somebody saying things like that," she said. "He is actually arguing against that. He's saying 'we don't say things like that, but rather we should express our beliefs in a calm and collected manner, in a peaceful way.'"
Both Jehangir and Sohail said anyone is welcome to go to these speaking sessions throughout the week and ask any questions they might have.
"Without this ambient hum of discrimination, come listen to them speak for themselves, let them defend themselves," Sohail said. "If you have any questions or concerns, present it to them in public and on a public front where they can't hide from you.
"They have already defended themselves and I'm sure they will continue to do so."