Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper participates in a moderated question and answer session with the BC Chamber of Commerce in Vancouver, British Columbia. REUTERS/Ben Nelms

Ottawa - A Muslim organization on Monday sued Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his spokesman for libel for linking the group to Hamas, which Canada lists as a banned terrorist organization.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), which filed the claim in Ontario Superior Court, had asked the prime minister's office in January to bar a rabbi accused of links to an American anti-Muslim “hate group” from Harper's first official trip to Israel, the West Bank and Jordan.

Harper spokesman Jason MacDonald responded by saying: “We will not take seriously criticism from an organization with documented ties to a terrorist organization such as Hamas.”

The comment was made to a Canadian media outlet.

Hamas has been a banned group in Canada since 2002.

NCCM asked for a retraction and an apology, but none were forthcoming, prompting Monday's lawsuit.

“This false accusation against the NCCM is of the most serious kind imaginable and was made in an attempt to discredit the NCCM and undermine its ability to conduct its public work,” NCCM executive director Ihsaan Gardee said in a statement.

“In order to uphold its good name, the NCCM has no choice but to issue a statement of claim for defamation against Mr. MacDonald and the prime minister,” he said.