Muslim group denounces "Hate Imam" accusation; Eindhoven event scrapped

The Saudi cleric Aidh al-Qarni is falsely labeled as “hate Imam," but is rather someone who confronts extremism, comments Muslims and Government Help Center (CMO). There were criticisms of his scheduled appearance at an event in Eindhoven for preaching anti-Semitic rhetoric in the past.

The controversial leader was supposed to give a lecture at the Eindhoven al-Fourqaan mosqe. The event was canceled after the Italian government revoked the imam’s Schengen visa on Wednesday making short-notice travel to the Netherlands impossible.

The allegations of hateful rhetoric are wrong, says CMO, which represents 80 percent of all mosques in the Netherlands. “Al-Qarni is a world renowned theologian who preaches a sound form of Salafism and rejects all manners of extremism,” said the organization's spokesman Yassin Elforkani. “On Twitter, where he has nine million followers, he criticizes terrorism. He also advocates a stronger position of women in Saudi Arabia. He is very progressive.”

Also an anti-Semitic statement that the sheikh stated in the past does not immediately make him the “hate imam”, says Elforkani. “He never approved of anti-Semitism. But if someone years ago made a certain statement, should he still be banned?” he commented.

It is time the government draws up clear rules for refusing entry to a foreign imam, states Elforkani. The framework currently lacks clear criteria and is hijacked by right-wing politicians.

In recent months, several Islamic gatherings were compromised by arrival of controversial ministers. Authorities also canceled a charity gala in Rijswijk in February on similar grounds.