A proposal to build a Montreal-area housing development aimed at Muslim homebuyers is taking heavy criticism from all three of Quebec’s major political parties.
Nabil Warda, the Egyptian-Canadian behind the idea, says many Muslims consider it a sin to pay interest, making it difficult to buy homes. Born a Christian, Warda converted to Islam in his forties and voted for Quebec sovereignty in the 1980 referendum, The Toronto Star reports.
“A lot of Muslims interpret bank interest as usury and consider it a very, very, very bad sin,” Warda told the Star. “So a lot of people have $30,000, $40,000, $50,000, but if they need to buy a house at $150,000 they have to wait another 20 years.”
Warda’s plan is to build 80 homes on 100 hectares of land in the south-shore suburb of Brossard. Buyers would be offered Shariah financing, under which the bank officially owns the house and collects “rent.”
“Let us call it a technicality, for me as an accountant, but for the believers it is not a technicality,” Warda told the National Post.
But many politicians in Quebec have come out against the proposal, calling it discrimination.
“It’s called a ghetto,” said MNA Eric Caire, a member of Coalition Avenir Quebec, as quoted at the Montreal Gazette.
“It’s not acceptable for our society to build a place reserved to religious people. Just think if we built a place reserved for white people, would that be acceptable? The answer is no.”
Even Premier Phillippe Couillard got involved.
“Discrimination goes in both directions. Inclusion goes in both directions,” he said in the Star on Tuesday. “We prefer housing diversity as much for cultural communities as for religions. It’s fundamental.”
“There must be some modesty in the way you dress. We don’t want women living there going half-naked down the streets."
— Nabil Warda
But Warda says non-Muslims will be welcome to live there so long as they share the same values.
“You don’t drive drunk on the street. If you want to drink alcohol, you drink it in your house,” he told the Post.
“There must be some modesty in the way you dress. We don’t want women living there going half-naked down the streets. We don’t like that. … If they want to do that, let them go and live in downtown Montreal.”
The proposal is still an idea at this point. Warda is planning a meeting at Brossard's mosque, the Islamic Community Centre of South Shore, on Friday, to gauge buyer interest.
The mosque stressed it has no links to the project.
“We promote full integration within Quebec society, and we are proud Quebecers and Canadians,” it said in a statement.
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