Sameer Zuberi’s activist past continues to dog the Liberal candidate as photos and a Concordia panel investigation of student misconduct during the 2002 riot at the university placed him at the scene in a leadership role.
The Liberal candidate for Montreal riding Pierrefonds-Dollard already back-peddled on 9/11 conspiracy theories he’s floated, most recently in 2011 when Zuberi remarked on social media that Osama bin Laden’s involvement was “still a matter of public debate”.
Questions by The Post Millennial about Zuberi’s participation in the Concordia riot were referred to his September 14, 2019 Facebook post, in which he clarifies his position on the 9/11 terror attacks on the World Trade Centre and Pentagon.
“It obviously is and has always been clear to me that Osama Bin Laden was the perpetrator of the September 11 terror attacks,” Zuberi writes.
The riot at Concordia University on September 9, 2002 did $17,000 damage to the Henry F. Hall Building, resulted in injuries, criminal charges and caused the cancellation of then-former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech.
Hillel, a Jewish campus student club had organized the event and Zuberi’s politics at the time–previously reported by TPM here–placed him on the other side of what turned into a violent, anti-Israel demonstration.
Given Zuberi’s involvement in the demonstration, TPM reached out for him to clarify his position on free speech in Canada, and if he supports Israel’s right to exist as a nation-state. Still no response.
Then-Concordia undergrad Daniel Ross has had similar luck with the Liberal Party in getting answers about their candidate in Pierrefonds-Dollard.
Ross provided TPM corroborating documents and photos of Zuberi at the event, while his own recollection of the day comes largely from inside the hall where Netanyahu was supposed to speak.
Ross had made it into the venue and did not witness the violence that prevented others from gaining entrance, but maintains Zuberi was in the thick of the chaos.
“He was the vice president of the student union at the time the riot happened and that was the time I was a student, so he was known,” said Ross, who described himself as “loosely affiliated with Hillel … in those social circles” at the time.
“From my point of view, (Zuberi) was involved in an event that was violent and hateful and nobody denies that this event unfolded. I don’t see how anyone could deny that he was in the event. I don’t think he’s denied it.”
Yves Engler, who at the time shared VP duties with Zuberi at the student union, was suspended for his participation along with two other students found guilty of “threatening or violent conduct” and “harassment”.
These charges were levied by the university under the school’s code of rights and responsibilities and separate from criminal charges against other individuals related to the incident that Montreal police were pursuing at the time.
During the January 2003 Concordia University Student Panel hearing into the students’ conduct violations, Jean-Marc Bouchard, lawyer for the accused, places Zuberi at the scene and in a prominent role among the demonstrators.
“Mr. Sameer Zuberi is seen outside the Hall Building being shoved by a police officer. He tells students to ‘sit down and they cannot move you’,” lawyer Jean-Marc Bouchard told the panel, while narrating video evidence.
“This is to illustrate that violence was not the prevailing attitude that day. The demonstrators are agitated when Zuberi is shoved but when he asked them to sit down, they are calm.”
National Post columnist and Quillette editor Jon Kay was also in attendance and describes the scene in a 2003 article he penned on kid-glove treatment agitators received from the university, and the fallout for “free speech and unfettered inquiry”.
From Kay’s point of view as a besieged ticket holder, the prevailing attitude of demonstrators was decidedly violent.
“Like others, I was sprayed with ketchup from a plastic bottle–a symbol, apparently, of Palestinian blood. The kicks didn’t hurt much. They were designed to provoke me into starting a fistfight or something equally stupid,” writes Kay.
“In a regular setting, many of these people were no doubt decent souls. But they’d been whipped into a frenzy by speakers shrieking denunciations of Israel and everyone who supported it.”
Two years after the Concordia riot, the university denied Hillel from hosting former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak on campus in October of 2004.