(TORONTO – December 15, 2012) – The organizers of Reviving the Islamic Spirit (RIS) conference announced tonight that the relief organization, IRFAN-Canada, has withdrawn its sponsorship of the event.
IRFAN’s charitable status was revoked by Revenue Canada Charitable Directorate in 2011.
“RIS is aware that IRFAN denies any wrongdoing and has been in the process of challenging the revocation of its status,” RIS said in a statement.
“The material evidence used by Revenue Canada against IRFAN are matters best left to the relevant legal bodies to be resolved,” said Fouzan Khan, a founder and director of RIS. “It is extremely unfortunate that this issue has threatened to detract from the many accomplishments of RIS in the last ten years.”
Earlier this month, the Reviving the Islamic Spirit event was attacked by extreme anti-Muslim blogs for being sponsored by organizations that they claimed are affiliated to Hamas.
Those blog postings were picked up by a few mainstream media outlets and garnered national coverage when Liberal MP and leadership candidate, Justin Trudeau, was questioned about his participation in the event at a news conference in St-Jerome, Quebec on December 10th.
“I’ve heard a number of people express concerns about this event that I certainly don’t understand and I don’t share,” Trudeau said during the news conference. “It’s a group of young people who’ve pulled this together. Most of the organizers are young Muslims who are looking at trying to bridge the gap between the reality for Muslim Canadians and mainstream Canada and I’m very proud to be able to contribute.”
In the last ten years RIS has emerged as a major platform for some of the leading thinkers from around the world to address one of the largest assembly of Muslims in the western hemisphere.
“The conference has always been about uniting and joining hands with scholars, journalists, academics, representatives from other faiths, and artists to promote messages of peace and tolerance,” said RIS spokeswoman, Farhia Ahmed.
Over the years speakers have included the late Jack Layton, Rabbi Michael Lerner, Robert Fisk, Pamela Paul, Ambassador Atalla Shabazz, Chris Hedges, Dr. John Ralston Saul, Prof. Syed Hosein Nasr, former RCMP Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli and former Toronto Chief of Police Julian Fantino.
“The message at RIS conferences have helped counter extremism by offering a better understanding of the Islamic tradition in the modern context and this in turn has helped second and third generation Muslims make meaningful contributions as citizens while living a life of faith”, added Ahmed.
The convention is organized and managed by approximately 400 young Canadian volunteers. Every year, thousands of dollars collected at the conference are donated to local food banks and charities.
“On the tenth anniversary (2011), The Hon. Prime Minister Stephen Harper sent a congratulatory statement and the government of Canada issued certificates to each of the speakers,” said Ahmed.