August 18, 2012
Al-Quds Day sparks debate
By MARYAM SHAH, QMI Agency
TORONTO - Peace broke out in Toronto Saturday afternoon when competing ideas and raised voices were the only exchanges in an ongoing annual meeting of ideologies.
A controversial rally marking Al-Quds Day and a counter-rally by the Jewish Defence League (JDL) met a group of expatriate Iranians in front of the Ontario legislature as part of the yearly exchange.
Al-Quds Day was made a global event by the late Ayatollah Khomeini to mark the end of Ramadan and to call for the establishment of a Palestinian state. Last year’s Queen’s Park rally garnered attention due to Muslim journalist Zafar Bangash calling Israeli nationalists “oppressors and criminals.”
Howard Davidson from Independent Jewish Voices says the organization supports a “call for the end of war crimes committed by Israel.”
“To name them as crimes is only to name the truth,” he said.
Chants included: “Zionism is racism”, “God loves Israel”, and “down with the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
A verbal spat between a man and a woman resulted in her asking him: “Would you like to kill all the Muslims in the world?” to which he replied “100%.”
When asked about the exchanged words, JDL spokesman Meir Weinstein said “some studies have shown 10% of Muslims support terrorist groups.”
“That means 90% don’t, according to the study,” he said. “But there’s about 1.5 billion Muslims in the world, and if 10% of that support terrorist groups, there’s a serious problem.”
Weinstein maintained the JDL was there to peacefully oppose the rally.
“Anyone’s allowed to join us, provided they’re not coming to disrupt,” he said.
The demonstrations were also marred by a brief scuffle. Toronto Police’s 52 Division confirmed there were no arrests made.
As spokesman for the Islamic group holding the Al-Quds Day rally, Bangash said “we represent the true Canadian values.”
“We are not here to spread hatred,” he said. “We are here to support the rights of the Palestinian people.”
As crowds grew, Toronto Police erected a barrier with police bicycles between the two sides. Iranians stood on the JDL side and waved the pre-revolution flag, featuring a lion, along with denouncing the current Iranian regime.
“We’re here to say we don’t want Islamic regime supporters in Canada,” activist Sayeah Hassan said.