Bilal Philips is no stranger to controversy. The Canadian preacher who makes his home in Qatar these days now has the attention of the Attorney General of Ontario, the Ontario Provincial Police and Toronto Police, for incendiary comments he made to reporters.
Philips was in Toronto to speak at the Journey of Faith (JoF) conference, an annual assembly of every able-bodied Salafist preacher not yet banned from entering Canada. Last year’s conference made headlines when Zakir Naik’s visa was cancelled by Ottawa days before his anticipated arrival. This was Philips’ year.
His carefully dyed black beard, African style skull cap and fluency in Arabic goes a far way to mask the fact that he was born on the tropical Caribbean island of Jamaica in 1947 as one Dennis Bradley Philips. He would later migrate to Canada, convert to Islam in 1972 and change his name to Bilal. He is also known as Abu Ameenah, the father of Ameenah, the name of his eldest child. Although given his colourful past moonlighting as a gun-runner it could have easily served as his nom de guerre.