A just-finished, very large Islamist conference in Toronto (the Toronto Star says it attracted 7,000 participants) called "Reviving the Islamic Spirit" featured such stars of the Islamist circuit as Tariq Ramadan and Siraj Wahhaj. It also hosted a neo-Nazi named William W. Baker.
Baker was exposed in February 2002 in the Orange County Weekly in a major investigation by Stan Brin, titled "Hour of White Power: Reverend Robert H. Schuller relies on a man with ties to Neo-Nazis to build religious understanding." Brin established Baker's close ties to Willis Carto, the "dean of American neo-Nazi politics," and revealed Baker's many other insalubrious activities, including his chairmanship in 1984 of a neo-Nazi organization called the Populist Party. Soon after, the Crystal Cathedral's Schuller expelled Baker and cut all ties to him.
But the news has not gotten out. William W. Baker stills gets invited to – and paid by – reputable institutions. In October 2003, Campus Watch exposed Baker's presence at an event sponsored by the Muslim Student Association at the University of Pennsylvania. As Jonathan Calt Harris noted, "Baker's selection as speaker is bad enough, but the use of university funds to pay for it is a scandal; the Office of the Chaplain and the Office of the Vice Provost for University Life helped MSA come up with nearly $5,000 for the week-long program," part of which money went to pay for Baker. Our expose prompted press coverage, red faces and lots of denials – but the talk went ahead as scheduled.
On Jan. 3, 2004, Baker appeared at the Toronto conference and delivered a talk titled, "More in common than you think." The Star archly characterized his presentation this way: "During his panel, which was to explore common ground between Islam and Christianity, Baker criticized Israel's treatment of Palestinians and asked audience members if they were willing to stand up and demonstrate for the Palestinian people."
We have some idea of the content of his talk because More in Common Than You Think: The Bridge Between Islam & Christianity also happens to be the title of Baker's 1998 book, which Stephen Schwartz characterizes as an attempt "to bring together fringe Christians and extremist Muslims."
The Canadian Jewish Congress protested William W. Baker's presence, but the Toronto Star reports this in the softest possible way, stating only that the CJC alleged Baker "been connected with American groups with a racist agenda."
The Star then provides this full-bodied – but dubious – quote from Jeewan Chanicka, the event's media-relations director: "We have no business being involved in inviting anyone who shares any agenda of hate and racism, because we don't find that to be anything within the realm of Islam or beliefs as Muslims, especially within the purpose of this conference, which is promoting a pluralistic Canadian society."
It also bears noting that such big-time authority figures as Toronto mayor David Miller, Toronto police chief Julian Fantino and Royal Canadian Mounted Police commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli participated in the "Reviving the Islamic Spirit" conference, thereby giving it – and by implication, William W. Baker – their blessing.
As I wrote recently of a comparable case in Boston where politicians did favors for a radical mosque: "The moral of this too-oft-repeated tale is not hard to guess: politicians – and bureaucrats, journalists, clergy, academics, et al. – need to know an Islamic institution is clean of Islamist associations and intentions before endorsing it ... Good will and ecumenical intent cannot substitute for research."
Mar. 9, 2005 update: For more on Baker's ties to Islamists, see "Keeping up with William W. Baker and the Islamists" and "CAIR Promotes and Hosts William W. Baker, Neo-Nazi."