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Ontario premier stands by minister under fire

TORONTO - Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is standing by a minister who denies he endorsed a controversial book on Islam that sanctions the physical punishment of women.

Labour Minister Yasir Naqvi acknowledged that he wrote a letter of support for the book on Islam, but said he didn't read it.

"I strongly condemn violence against women," Naqvi said in a statement.

"I believe that abuse of any kind is unacceptable and I do not share the views expressed in this book."

Despite calls for an apology, Wynne said she's satisfied with his response.

"It was quite clear to me that Minister Naqvi had not read the contents of the book. He was sending a congratulatory note on the publication, but he had not read it," she said in London, Ont.

"I think it is fully appropriate that he would issue a letter stating his position. And obviously any acceptance of violence against women is unacceptable to me."

In the letter, Naqvi thanked the author, Suhail Kapoor, for writing to him about his book "Islam: Balancing Life and Beyond."

"I admire your drive to reach out to the public and promote values of tolerance, understanding and respect," Naqvi writes in an excerpt that appears on the book's website.

"I wish you the best of luck on your reprint, and look forward to reading it upon its release."

Naqvi, a cabinet rookie who served as president of the Ontario Liberal party, also said he didn't authorize the use of his name or comments to be used in the "reviews" section of the book.

The Ottawa MPP said he received a letter from Kapoor in 2009 regarding the book and responded, "as I do to all letters received at my community office."

But a published report said Kapoor was granted permission to reprint the letter in the book, which sanctions men to "lightly" strike their wives if she shows "serious moral misconduct."

Opposition Leader Tim Hudak said Naqvi must apologize.

"I think it's very disturbing that any member of the assembly, let alone a cabinet minister, would endorse this kind of garbage," he said.

"I think that Premier (Kathleen) Wynne needs to call her labour minister onto the carpet to rescind his endorsement of the book and to apologize."

Naqvi noted that he twice introduced a private member's bill aimed at helping abuse victims to leave their partners.

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