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Updated: Sat, 31 Aug 2013 14:21:38 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

Islamic conference cancelled by Montreal convention centre



Islamic conference cancelled by Montreal convention centre

A Muslim youth conference in Montreal, which drew criticism from the Parti Québécois government, has been cancelled by the convention centre where it was supposed to be held.

The Palais des congrès, the city's largest convention centre, announced Saturday it won't hold next weekend's event due to security reasons.

The decision was made after a "security review," the Palais des congrès said in a statement.

The Entre Ciel et Terre conference — translated from French as "Between Heaven and Earth" — faced criticism from Quebec's Minister for the Status of Women Agnès Maltais.

Maltais asked the Canadian government to bar some invited guests from entering the country, calling the speakers "radical Islamists" who don't respect equality between men and women.

- Muslim groups say Quebec unfairly targeting conference speakers

The conference organizers defended their choice of speakers, saying they were only made aware of their guests' controversial statements through the media.

Conference spokesman Ishaq Moustaqin says he doesn't endorse these specific messages, but says his group can't be held accountable for what was said outside of Canada.

"We can't control what people can say. We assure the public that none of those messages will be allowed at our conference," said Moustaqin.

Several demonstrations were planned to protest against controversial Islamist preachers including a French citizen named Nader Abou Anas, who had made comments stating that a woman refusing to wear a headscarf was worse than having cancer or AIDS.

Salam Elmanayi, the president of the Muslim Council of Montreal says the comments were distasteful, but considers them a blunder and says Maltais had no right to ask that Canada refuse the speakers entry into the country.

"We don't let a civil servant somewhere sitting at his desk decide, who you're going to say, what you're going to say tomorrow and when you're going to say it," said Elmanayi. "Everybody has the right to come and say whatever they want to say."

In a written statement the federal government said it was still considering all options.

Meanwhile, conference organizers said they were aware of the convention centre's decision and were "working on the situation."

It's not yet known if organizers will try to hold the conference elsewhere.

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