Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Sponsor pulls out of Islamic conference

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TORONTO -- Criticism of Liberal MP Justin Trudeau's planned appearance at an Islamic conference has prompted a sponsor to bow out after scrutiny of the event highlighted the group's stripped charity status.

The organizers of the Reviving the Islamic Spirit conference say the decision for IRFAN-Canada to withdraw was made after the Liberal leadership hopeful came under fire for his plans to attend the annual event.

IRFAN had its status revoked by the Canada Revenue Agency in 2011 for allegedly using deceptive fundraising to send nearly $15 million in donations to organizations with ties to the Islamic militant group Hamas.

IRFAN denies any wrongdoing, is challenging the ruling and the group's lawyer said it decided to withdraw from the upcoming conference to avoid causing further controversy.

Some Jewish groups and media outlets raised concerns last week about Trudeau attending a conference backed by IRFAN.

Trudeau has already brushed off questions about making a keynote speech on Dec. 22.

When asked last week about his participation plans, he said much of the controversy over his appearance was based on misinformation.

"I've heard a number of people express concerns about this event that I certainly don't understand and I don't share," he said at a news conference.

"Most of the organizers are young Muslims who are looking at trying to bridge the gap between the reality for Muslim Canadians and mainstream Canada and I'm very proud to be able to contribute."

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 17, 2012 A9

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