The federal government has stripped one of Ottawa’s largest mosques of its charity status over “activities that promote hate and intolerance,” Global News has learned.
The Canada Revenue Agency took action against the Ottawa Islamic Centre and Assalam Mosque following audits that raised concerns about its roster of guest speakers.
“Many of the views expressed by the organization’s speakers are misogynistic, homophobic, racist and/or promote violence,” the CRA Charities Branch wrote in a letter sent to the mosque president.
The CRA was also concerned that “radicalized individuals” had attended the mosque, one of whom, Ashton Larmond, is now imprisoned for attempting to join the so-called Islamic State.
While the CRA said the mosque had not been directly implicated in their radicalization, it said there was a “possibility” they may have been influenced by parishioners or speakers.
The federal agency said the guest speaker issue had been repeatedly raised with the mosque but auditors found “no indication that the organization has implemented any due diligence procedures with respect to the vetting of its guest speakers.”
Mosque officials denied promoting intolerance and said the troubles dated back to more than five years ago when the organization was run by two hardline board members. The audit covered the years 2012 and 2013. Speakers are now pre-screened, they said.
“We were really shocked this happened to us,” Muhammad Haile, the mosque secretary and a member of its board of directors since 2014, told Global News. “We don’t tolerate any hate.”
The revocation took effect on July 14.
It means the mosque no longer benefits from the tax advantages enjoyed by government-registered charities. Foremost, it cannot issue receipts allowing donors to claim their contributions as income tax deductions.
“It was devastating for us. It was like an earthquake. But what can we do?” said Ali Abdulle, the mosque treasurer, who called the CRA action “politically-motivated.”
The mosque can still operate as a non-profit organization, but the decision could serve as a warning to other charities that they cannot give a platform to those who have espoused bigotry.
Documents detailing the results of the government audits were obtained by Global News. They indicate the CRA was unable to determine exactly what the various speakers said while at the mosque.
But the CRA auditors reviewed the views that had been publicly expressed by a number of the speakers and found them to be at odds with the “public benefit” required of charities under federal tax law.
The CRA documents (available below) singled out Abu Usamah At-thahabi, Bilal Philips, Hakkeem Quick and Saed Rageah — all of whom had spoken at the Ottawa mosque one or more times.
According to the CRA, At-thahabi has called women deficient, said Christians and Jews were enemies, spoke about throwing homosexuals off a mountain and said those who left the Islamic faith should be killed.
“The audit by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has revealed that the Organization is not complying with the requirements of the Act as they pertain to registered charities,” the CRA letter says. Among other things, the CRA found that the mosque “failed to devote all of its resources to charitable purposes and activities, in that it allowed its resources to be used for activities that promote hate and intolerance.”
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