Outcry Over Montreal Imam’s Prayer at Pro-Palestinian Rally

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Adil Charkaoui's speech has drawn broad condemnation from politicians like Premier François Legault and groups like the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. (Adil Charkaoui/X)

A speech delivered in Arabic by a controversial Montreal imam at a pro-Palestinian protest last month has sparked widespread outrage among politicians and Jewish groups. The imam, Adil Charkaoui, has been accused of inciting hate with his prayer calling for the death of “Zionist aggressors.”

A pro-Palestinian demonstration in Montreal has become the focal point of a heated controversy following a speech by Montreal imam Adil Charkaoui. The event, which took place on October 28, has drawn intense criticism after Charkaoui’s prayer was shared on social media, where he invoked Allah to “kill the enemies of the people of Gaza and to spare none of them.”

This incident has prompted responses from various quarters, including Quebec’s Premier François Legault, who expressed his concern about the speech being a possible incitement to violence. “It’s the incitement to hate and violence,” Legault commented, expecting the police to take action.

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators march in downtown Montreal on Friday, Oct. 13, 2023. PHOTO BY JOHN KENNEY /Montreal Gazette

Eta Yudin, Vice-President of the Quebec branch of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), questioned the decision to give Charkaoui a platform at the protest. Yudin emphasized the potential consequences of such declarations: “We know that words lead to actions. A declaration like that could inspire actions, and that’s not what we want in the streets of Montreal. We’re counting on the authorities to investigate.”

Niall Clapham Ricardo, from Independent Jewish Voices Montreal, criticized Charkaoui’s statements for distracting from the intended message of the demonstrations and disavowed any anti-Semitic sentiments. “Adil Charkaoui’s speech does not represent the movement at all. The movement has been peaceful right across this country,” Ricardo stated.

Major pro-Palestinian protest in Montreal

The Service de police de la Ville de Montreal (SPVM) has reported a significant increase in hate crimes and incidents, with the Jewish community being the primary target, followed by the Arab-Muslim community. Since October 7, there have been 73 reported hate crimes and incidents against the Jewish community and 25 against the Arab-Muslim community.

Charkaoui, who was arrested in 2003 but never formally charged over allegations of undergoing training in an Afghan camp, responded to the accusations on his Facebook page. He defended his speech, stating it did not mention Jews or incite violence.

Haroun Bouazzi, a Québec Solidaire MNA, referred to Charkaoui as a “provocateur” and a “pyromaniac in our society,” clearly stating his disapproval of Charkaoui’s actions.

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators gathered in downtown Montreal on Friday as violence continues between Hamas militants and Israel. (Danielle Kadjo/Radio-Canada)

Amidst rising concerns of anti-Semitism, Anthony Housefather, MP for Mount Royal, voiced the sentiments of the Jewish Canadian community: “There is something wrong in this country where a war in the Middle East has spread into Canada and is making Jewish Canadians feel this unsafe. This is not a minority feeling; this is the majority feeling right now,” he said.

The Montreal police have yet to confirm if an investigation into Charkaoui’s speech is underway. As the situation unfolds, community leaders call for peace and caution against the escalation of tension on Canadian streets.