FIRST READING: The man who led a street full of cheering Montrealers in prayer to 'kill them all'

Adil Charkaoui has been linked via allegations and investigations to extremist groups ranging from al-Qaeda to ISIS

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A man on a balcony in a Canadian downtown takes a microphone and leads a public prayer for the violent eradication of the “Zionist aggressors.” “Allah, count every one of them, and kill them all, and do not exempt even one of them,” he says in Arabic. Below him, a crowd of hundreds respond with cheers.

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The speaker was Montreal Imam Adil Charkaoui, and the venue was the city’s Oct. 28 “Stop the Genocide in Gaza” rally — one of dozens of Canadian events organized over the last 30 days by the Palestinian Youth Movement, a group that has openly praised the Oct. 7 massacres and called for continued violence against Israel.

Charkaoui’s speech may very well have been overlooked entirely if he hadn’t posted it online himself. He posted it (from multiple angles) to his Twitter, Instagram and Facebook profiles — along with lengthy screeds calling for the violent destruction of Israel, and denouncing Western media and politicians as Zionist collaborators.

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“Israel terrorist, politicians complicit,” he wrote in French in an Oct. 31 post repeating a chant led by the same crowd who cheered his “kill them all” prayer.

“The only solution is the end of the occupation,” he added, alleging that the “Zionist entity” could be destroyed in 24 hours if not for “traitors” in the Arab world staying the Palestinians’ hand.

This is not out of the ordinary for Charkaoui, a Moroccan immigrant who has spent more than 20 years facing allegations and police investigations linking him to Islamist groups ranging from al-Qaeda to the Taliban to ISIS.

None of which has stopped him from obtaining Canadian citizenship and even being cited as an expert on “anti-Islamophobia.”

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Charkaoui’s Oct. 28 speech galvanized a Quebec media and political class that had largely been waiting for Montreal’s growing spate of anti-Israel rallies to fizzle out on their own. On Tuesday, Quebec Premier François Legault said the speech incited “hate and violence,” and called on law enforcement to take notice.

“It’s not my place to tell (police) how to do their job, but inciting violence is not allowed,” he said. The leaders of Quebec’s other three main political parties soon followed suit. 

Charkaoui, in turn, has alleged he is the victim of a campaign of Zionist defamation.

“The Zionist entity has lost the battle of public opinion … it is therefore normal that the Zionist narrative would change,” he wrote in French on Nov. 7, against a screenshot of headlines from Quebec media denouncing his Oct. 28 speech.

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“In brief, the strategy of the Zionist lobby is to attack — via biased and amoral journalists — all those who denounce genocide,” he added.

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In a 10-minute YouTube video posted on Wednesday, he accused Legault of levelling “false accusations.”

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

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“It contains no hates or calls to violence; on the contrary, it was a clear condemnation of the violence, war crimes and crimes against humanity executed by the Zionist army of occupation,” he said in French.

Charkaoui does not say that his “kill them all” prayer was mistranslated or misinterpreted, only that it was directed at “Zionist aggressors committing what I consider to be a genocide.”

“The word Jew was never used in my speech, nor in my prayer,” he said, asserting that it thus doesn’t fit the Criminal Code definition for inciting hatred because he didn’t target an “identifiable group.” He also added that it wasn’t a call for violence because he was calling on God to do the killing. “It was a prayer for judgement,” he said.

In 2003, it emerged that Canadian intelligence agencies had identified Charkaoui as a potential al-Qaeda sleeper agent, before withdrawing a security certificate against him in 2009 on the basis that it would reveal their intelligence sources. 

In the years before the 9/11 attacks, RCMP and CSIS investigators said they observed Charkaoui carrying out credit card fraud purportedly to fund overseas terrorism, and in an intercepted 2000 phone call, investigators said he could be heard discussing “seizing control of a plane for aggressive reasons.”

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In 2015, it emerged that at least two former members of Charkaoui’s Centre Communautaire Islamique de l’Est de Montréal (Montreal East Islamic Community Centre) had been arrested as they allegedly attempted to travel to Syria in a bid to join ISIS.

At the time Parti Québécois secularism critic Agnès Maltais accused Charkaoui of “recruiting” Jihadis. Charkaoui did not deny a connection to the two men arrested, but chalked up all other accusations to a political “witch hunt.”

It was around this same time that Charkaoui founded the Quebec Collective Against Islamophobia, on whose behalf he would even testify at a 2015 Quebec National Assembly hearing. In 2014, Reuters would cite him as an expert about a purported rise in “Anti-Muslim bullying” following an Islamist terrorist attack on Parliament Hill.

Just two years ago, as Canada scrambled to evacuate former allies from Afghanistan following the country’s recapture by the Taliban, Charkaoui was issuing social media posts praising the Taliban as religious warriors who had chased out foreign “invaders.”

“Men, women and children can finally know liberation,” he wrote in French.

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This is not turning out to be a great month for the reputation of public sector unions. Camille Awada, head of the Canadian Association of Public Employees, resigned this week after comments of his from 2019 emerged in which he denounced “European Zionists” as the “true Aryan race” who “look down on the world as if we are cattle.” Meanwhile, members of CUPE have launched a human rights complaint against leader Fred Hahn, who wrote in the immediate aftermath of the Oct. 7 massacres that he was thankful for “the power of resistance around the globe.” Hahn has also circulated literature carrying the slogan “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” – an explicit call for Israel’s total eradication.

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