Brazilian Jews call for boycott of anti-Israel Islamic cleric speaking on fighting terrorism


RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA) — Brazil’s leading Jewish organizations have called for a boycott of a Muslim cleric who openly preaches the destruction of Israel slated to lecture in Sao Paulo.

Shiite Ayatollah Mohsen Araki was announced as keynote speaker at an Arab-led event titled “Muslims and the fight against radical terrorism” to be held on July 29 in South America’s largest city.

“We cannot allow the import of the conflict to our lands, as well as the speech of hatred and discrimination, taking into account the harmony between our Arab and Jewish communities,” read a B’nai B’rith’s note released on Wednesday, pointing out Araki’s “alleged involvement” in the AMIA Jewish center bombing in Argentina in 1994 and his “close ties” to the terrorist Hezbollah organization.

The international Jewish human rights group, which has been working in Brazil for 85 years, also stressed the fact that Latin America’s largest nation defends the two-state solution and called for Brazilian government to speak up.

“In a moment where polarization takes over society, hate speeches only ignite worrisome sparks in our country. We cannot allow dangerous manifestations of discrimination, destruction and wrath to be sown in our country, importing here a conflict that we do not want to see in our land,” said Bruno Laskowsky, president of the Sao Paulo Jewish Federation.

Congressman Jean Wyllys, an openly gay activist who has positioned himself against the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions, or BDS movement against Israel since he recently visited the Jewish state, posted a comment about the cleric titled “No to fundamentalism” on his Facebook page liked by nearly 1.3 million followers.

“He is a key figure in the Iranian dictatorship, a regime of terror that persecutes and executes homosexuals, oppresses women, persecutes opponents, curtails freedom of expression and thought, supports international terrorism and has links to murderous organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah,” Wyllys wrote.

“Mohsen has also made absurd and anti-Semitic statements by preaching hatred against the Jews and characterizing the State of Israel as ‘a cancer that should be expelled from the Middle East.’ I regret that our country welcomes such a harmful character. Fundamentalism and hate speech as something normal: they have already led humanity into the worst tragedies of its history.”

Ayatollah Sheikh Mohsen Araki, who was born in Iraq, is an Iranian scholar and politician. He is a member of the Assembly of Experts in Iran and a prominent Iranian cleric. He was the personal representative of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in London and also the Head of the Islamic Center of England until 2004.

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