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Several Muslim attendees who participated in the convention said it should not have allowed premier of Ontario province Doug Ford to speak.
The Reviving the Islamic Spirit (RIS) conference, one of the most important Muslim events in North America, decided for this year’s assembly to invite the controversial premier of Ontario province Doug Ford, and his Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, a decision seen by many as contradicting all the principles the event is supposed to endorse.
Several Muslim attendees who participated in the convention held over the weekend said RIS should not have hosted the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, nor allowed Ford to appear via video-link, especially when the latter decried a pro-Palestinian protest last month as "racist," Middle East Eye reported.
"I think that was really foolish of them," said Humaima Ashfaque, a student at York University.
"To allow him to have such a huge platform to try and get votes and claps from people is unacceptable," Khaled another student at York University who chose to be identified by his first name only told Middle East Eye.
When Ontario's Minister of Education and member of Ford's political party Stephen Lecce started speaking, some listeners came to the front of the auditorium and shouted "shame," while others walked out of the room.
Ford sparked controversy last month when he condemned a protest outside Toronto's York university organized by backers of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) non-violent movement, which aims to pressure Israel economically and politically to end its abuses against Palestinians.
Members of York University's chapter for Students Against Israeli Apartheid had organized a demonstration after former members of the Israeli Defence Force (IDF), some of them accused by several human rights groups of war crimes and serious violations against Palestinians, were invited to speak at an event on campus.
Members of the Jewish Defence League, a designated hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, were also present at the event.
Although members of the Toronto police later described the protest as "mostly peaceful,” Ford slammed the protesters and called them racist.
"I was shocked by the vile hatred that was on display last night at York University," Ford said. "I stand with Jewish students and the Jewish community."
Other individuals also told Middle East Eye they were upset by Ford’s taking part at RIS, because of other reasons including his party's rhetoric against Muslims and other minority groups.
RIS for its part justified Ford's appearance, saying its policy is to give "equal opportunity to elected officials from all parties."
"We believe in the importance of promoting civic engagement in our community across the political spectrum," the convention said.
RIS is an annual conference generally held in Toronto, Canada. It started in 2001 and has since become one of North America's largest conference on Islam, alongside the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) convention in the United States.
Attendees and speakers attend from around the world, including the United States, Europe, and the Middle East to participate in lectures and discussions about spirituality, theology and Islamic ethics.