On a recent Friday at the Salaheddin mosque, Imam Aly Hindy spoke to his followers about how homosexuality was “invented,” calling it “nonsense” and “garbage” to believe anyone could be born that way.
He went on to talk about “illegal sexual acts” but added a qualifier: “Illegal means illegal in Islam, not illegal in the Canadian law, because everything is legal in the Canadian law, except children. Other than that, they allow everything.”
The Toronto imam has long been known for his controversial comments. He called the 9/11 attacks a joint CIA operation, refused to join other imams in signing a statement condemning the 2005 London bombings and referred to the Toronto 18 terrorists as good people.
But while he remains as provocative as ever, the institution that serves as his platform has undergone a notable shift: According to federal charity records, the Salaheddin Islamic Centre is being increasingly financed by foreign patrons.
Almost a quarter of the centre’s revenues came from outside Canada in 2010, figures posted on the Canada Revenue Agency website show. Three unnamed foreign donors provided $931,000 of the centre’s almost $4-million in revenues that year.
In 2009, the centre got $250,000 from overseas, less than a tenth of its total revenues that year. Charities have only been required to publicly report their foreign revenues since 2009. Figures for 2011 are not yet available.
“Our policy is to follow CRA [Canada Revenue Agency] requirements and report every dollar that we receive from inside or outside Canada,” Imam Hindy said in an email response to questions.
The CRA blacked out the names of the offshore donors for privacy reasons before releasing a copy of the tax return to the National Post. The amounts of each contribution were also obscured, along with whether the donors were organizations, governments or individuals.
But Imam Hindy said US$400,000 came from the Islamic Development Bank, which is based in Saudi Arabia and whose president is a Saudi. He said the other foreign donors were charities in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
Imam Hindy does not preach violence and says he steers youths away from radicalism. But some of the centre’s former worshippers have been linked to terrorism. A former founder, Hassan Farhat, left Canada to join an al-Qaeda-linked group in Iraq, where he allegedly commanded a squad of suicide bombers. Ahmed Khadr, a senior Canadian al-Qaeda figure, visited the mosque when he was in Toronto and his family worshipped there.
The former principal of the mosque school, Mahmoud Jabballah is undergoing deportation proceedings after the government alleged he was a member of the Egyptian terrorist group Al Jihad. The ringleaders of the Toronto 18 terrorist group, which plotted attacks in Southern Ontario, were also worshippers, as was a man arrested last year at the Toronto airport as he was allegedly on his way to join the Somali terrorist group Al Shabab.
When Mohamed Mahjoub, whom the government alleges was a member of the Egyptian terrorist group Vanguards of Conquest, applied to be released from detention, Imam Hindy offered to act as a surety but was rejected by the judge, in part because “his published statements are open to the inference that he is sympathetic to or at least defensive of the threats of Islamic terrorism towards Canada.”
But the Ontario Superior Court of Justice rejected the notion the Salaheddin centre was involved in terrorism. “I accept that, over the years, there may have been persons, involved in questionable activities, with questionable associations, who have passed through the Centre from time to time,” the court wrote in 2008. “In my view, this in itself is not sufficient to taint the centre in any way.”
The centre’s financial supporters seem to agree. From a budget of $372,000 in 2000, the centre now reports an annual revenue more than 10 times that amount and says in its latest tax return it intends to expand into Clarington, Ont., east of Toronto.