Alleged online ISIS supporter’s refugee claim based on ‘bogus’ conversion to Christianity, officials say

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The Immigration and Refugee Board has ordered the deportation of a Palestinian man said to be a "danger to the security of Canada." As Mercedes Stephenson reports, the board's ruling comes as Canada tries to decide what to do about citizens who were part of ISIS – Oct 26, 2018

A Federal Court judge has sided with government officials who argued a B.C. man who posted pro-Islamic State propaganda online had faked a conversion to Christianity when he came to Canada as a refugee.

While Othman Ayed Hamdan was accepted as a refugee based on his claim that his abandonment of Islam had put him at risk at home in Jordan, the government argued his “conversion to Christianity was bogus.”

In its ruling, the court found it was unreasonable to conclude that Hamdan was anything other than a “Christian of convenience in order to get into Canada.”

“Mr. Hamdan is an unmitigated liar. One must wonder if he has uttered one truthful word since he came to Canada in 2002,” the judge, Sean Harrington, began.

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The Fraser Regional Correctional Centre in Maple Ridge, B.C., where Othman Ayed Hamdan is being held. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward.

The court decision was the latest setback for the Jordanian citizen, who arrived at the B.C. border from Washington State in 2002 and made a refugee claim based on his alleged conversion to Christianity.

In a separate case, the Immigration and Refugee Board ordered his deportation last month, ruling he was a danger to Canada’s security who had promoted the “social media agenda” of ISIS in dozens of online posts.

Meanwhile, Global News has learned that in yet another case, the 37-year-old was stripped of his refugee status on Oct. 18 after the Refugee Board ruled he was not a Christian and therefore did not need Canada’s protection.

Hamdan is currently detained at a prison in B.C.’s Fraser Valley.

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A document obtained by Global News shows that Hamdan wrote on his refugee claim that he was raised in a conservative Sunni Muslim family that taught him to shun Christians but that he later came “to realize certain aspects of Islam that are simply not palatable to me any longer.”

“I now believe Christ is the Saviour,” he wrote, lamenting “the role Islam has played recently delaying and impeding much of the Arab world’s political and social development.”

As a Christian convert, he argued, he would be viewed as an apostate and persecuted if he went back to Amman, Jordan. He feared his own family would kill him, particularly two uncles he said were “members of Hamas.”

His refugee claim was accepted in 2004.

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But when Hamdan began posting pro-ISIS propaganda on Facebook in 2014, he came under police scrutiny and was arrested for terrorism in 2015. Although he was acquitted of the charges last year, immigration officials began steps to deport him based partly on his apparent change in religious identity.

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At a hearing conducted behind closed doors in Vancouver in June, federal officials argued that Hamdan had obtained refugee status as a Christian convert, and since he now identified as a Muslim, he no longer needed Canada’s protection.

“The minister’s position is that the reasons for which the respondent sought protection have ceased to exist,” the IRB wrote. “In support of the application, the minister submitted evidence that the respondent is a practising Muslim.”

Hamdan argued he was a “largely non-practising Muslim” and would still be perceived as an apostate in Jordan. He also feared persecution by the Jordanian government because of his political beliefs.

A vendor sells produce from a truck in the Thraa al-Gharbi neighbourhood in Amman, Jordan on Sat. Jan. 28, 2017. (AP Photo/Sam McNeil)
A vendor sells produce from a truck in the Thraa al-Gharbi neighbourhood in Amman, Jordan on Sat. Jan. 28, 2017. (AP Photo/Sam McNeil).

But the Refugee Board agreed with the government and revoked his refugee status.

“He does not practice Christianity,” the IRB wrote. “On the contrary, he has returned to Islam, aligns himself with Sunnis and practices his Islam religion. As such, there is insufficient evidence before me to establish that he will be perceived as anything more than a Muslim man in Jordan.”

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The decision means he must be removed from Canada “as soon as possible.” Hamdan has appealed the ruling to the Federal Court.

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