In 2007 I attended a Canadian Islamic Congress (CIC) fundraiser. The keynote speaker was controversial journalist Yvonne Ridley, a British convert to an aggressive form of Islam who is an open advocate for terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah. She publicly sympathized with Shamil Basayev, the Chechen mastermind of the 2002 Moscow theatre hostage disaster and the 2004 Beslan school massacre as a "shaheed" (martyr). She has even defended the utility of British Muslims watching videos of Iraqi insurgents beheading hostages as a necessary counterpoint to Western media propaganda.

On that evening, where I and a few other interested observers were the only non-Muslims in a packed hall of hundreds, Ridley's command of the podium had her audience captivated. She happened to be speaking shortly after Stephen Harper had voiced his opposition to women concealing their face when they vote, so there was something of a charged air in the room. (I gave a full account of the evening in a Sept 12, 2007 column.) One memorable moment of Ridley's talk sprang to mind when I read academic Emmett Macfarlane's op ed in the Mar 23 National Post, "Harper's needless niqab fight."

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