Chris Alexander Visited An Islamic Centre Whose Founder Supports Child Marriage

    Chris Alexander also reportedly had a dispute with the leader of the Islamic centre he visited after the man was critical of the prime minister.

    Canadian Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander has been an outspoken critic of "barbaric cultural practices," such as child and forced marriages.

    Chris Wattie / Reuters

    He's doled out millions of dollars to organizations trying to end early marriages, and championed new Canadian laws that, among other things, established a new national minimum age of 16 and criminalized "conduct" surrounding early and forced marriages.

    When the laws were enacted last month, Alexander issued a statement saying the legislation sent "a strong message to those in Canada, and those who wish to come to Canada, that we will not accept the practice of cultural traditions that deprive individuals of their human rights."

    Fast-forward to last Sunday, which marked the end of a month of fasting for Muslims around the world. Alexander decided to celebrate Eid-al-Fitr at an Islamic centre in his Pickering, Ont., riding.


    The co-founder and resident Alim — or Islamic scholar — of the Al Mahdi centre is Syed Mohammad Zaki Baqri. He's also the founder of The Council of Islamic Guidance, which runs the Al Mahdi centre.

    Baqri has urged parents to "get their children married early in order to form a pious and pure society." On his website, he writes that "the encouragement of early marriages" is Islam's solution to today's "sexual society."

    Baqri later notes that, according to Sharia Law, the age of "Buloogh" — physical maturity — is 9 years old for girls, and 13 to 15 years old for boys.

    Moreover, Baqri writes that in marriage, "the wife should be led by her husband," and that women need permission from their husbands to leave the house and talk to others.

    He also reportedly called Jews "inhuman" at a protest last year. His biography on the Council of Islamic Guidance's website paints him as an "aggressive and concerned community leader" with an interest in guiding Toronto's Shia youth toward marriage.

    Alexander and Baqri didn't exactly see eye-to-eye at the Eid celebration, a report by The Rebel claims. Baqri reportedly called Prime Minister Stephen Harper a "poodle," which put Alexander in defense mode.

    Chris Wattie / Reuters

    According to the report, Baqri spoke to the crowd before Alexander and criticized the Conservative government for its alleged "anti-Muslim bigotry." Baqri reportedly didn't know the citizenship and immigration minister was next to speak.

    Alexander reportedly criticized Ali Khamenei, Iran's top religious leader and head of state, which offended some of those in attendance.

    One of the commenters on Alexander's Facebook post said Alexander should have "handled the situation much more professionally and diplomatically." The commenter also referenced the "poodle" remark.


    The Rebel claims it got a hold of a letter from The Council of Islamic Guidance to its members responding to the incident with Alexander.

    "Diplomacy has proven itself to be a very viable solution between two differing views, and in hindsight we agree that the situation should have been handled in a more diplomatic manner from all parties involved," the letter reads.

    It also says the council is reviewing some of its policies as a result of the incident. "Our pulpits and podiums are essential for the growth of the community and should be treated as sacred."

    Requests for comment from BuzzFeed Canada to Alexander's office, the Al Mahdi centre, and Baqri have gone unanswered.

    Last summer, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau was lambasted by Tory cabinet ministers when news broke that a mosque he had visited in his Montreal riding had alleged links to al-Qaeda.

    Ben Nelms / Reuters

    Then-Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney was caught using his parliamentary email address to urge others to share the story.

    Emma Loop was a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.

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