The National Post – October 15, 2010
Canadian Defence Minister Peter MacKay’s banning of a leading imam from the military’s Islamic History Month event has exposed an executive-level rift in the Canadian Islamic Congress between forces of progress and orthodoxy.
In a letter to the National Post today, CIC president Wahida Valiante openly disavows her reform-minded executive director, Zijad Delic, and rejects his criticisms about the Muslim group’s many public controversies, especially the failed hate speech cases against Maclean’s magazine.
Ms. Valiante writes that Mr. Delic’s plan to “purify” and “Canadianize” the CIC, and his desire to avoid lawsuits in favour of dialogue, “in no way reflect the views of CIC board.” This latest flap illustrates the harsh consequences for a Canadian Muslim leader who does not pledge loyalty to Mohamed Elmasry, the CIC founder and former president to whom Ms. Valiante was a long-time deputy.
News Agencies – October 2, 2010
An Ottawa imam who calls himself a bridge builder between Muslims and other Canadians has been barred by the Canadian government from speaking at a Defence Department event on the grounds that his organization has promoted “extremist views.” Zijad Delic, national executive director of the Canadian Islamic Congress, was scheduled to participate in a National Defence headquarters ceremony recognizing Islamic History Month. But Defence Minister Peter MacKay has cancelled the imam’s planned appearance. His office issued a statement saying the Canadian Islamic Congress has a record of fomenting hatred and has no place at an event honouring Muslim contributions to this country.
Mr. Delic has previously been cited for efforts to help Muslims integrate into Canadian society. He was one of 13 Canadians included in a 2009 book, The 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World, penned by Islamic studies scholars at Georgetown University. One of the book’s editors called Mr. Delic “a scholar who writes about how Muslims can integrate into Canadian society.” Mr. MacKay’s office cited incendiary comments that were made in 2004 by a then-president of the Canadian Islamic Congress as the reason for its decision. “The Canadian Islamic Congress has declared that Israelis over the age of 18 are legitimate targets of suicide bombers,” Mr. MacKay’s spokesman Jay Paxton said.
Sohail Raza, president of the Muslim Canadian Congress, said he is happy MacKay cancelled the speech by Imam Zijad Delic.
Police forces in different parts of Canada claim charges will be laid against anyone who refuses to remove religious face-coverings such as Muslim niqabs when being booked after an arrest.
The RCMP and the Montreal police forces, who outlined the policy in interviews, laid down one notable caveat: such a case has never actually come up in either of their jurisdictions.
“This is getting absurd, really,” said Wahida Valiante, national president of the Canadian Islamic Congress. “There are only, in the entire Quebec province, 25 women who wear the niqab so they can’t be in the highest number of criminals expected to be arrested.”
The RCMP and the Montreal force confirmed that to their knowledge no one wearing a niqab has ever refused to remove it for a mugshot. In fact, they can’t actually recall arresting anyone with a full veil either. While Montreal police sought legal advice on the issue a year ago, the RCMP say they’ve always followed the Identification of Criminals Act, part of the Criminal Code of Canada.
The International Muslim Organization of Toronto is one Muslim organization that has mobilized to help the people of Haiti following a 7.0-magnitude earthquake. “Almost all masajids and centers participated in this project,” said Dr. Zijad Delic, National Executive Director of the Canadian Islamic Congress, one of the participating groups.
A Canadian Muslim group is calling on the Canadian government to ban the wearing of the burqa in public, saying the argument that the right to wear it is protected by the Charter’s guarantee of freedom of religion is false.
The Muslim Canadian Congress called on the federal government to prohibit the two garments in order to prevent women from covering their faces in public – a practice the group said has no place in a society that supports gender equality.
“To cover your face is to conceal your identity,” Congress spokeswoman Farzana Hassan said.
Mohamed Elmasry, former president of the Canadian Islamic Congress, disputed suggestions that the garments pose a security threat, saying only a minority of Muslim women living in Canada feel the need to conceal their features in public. Elmasry stated that women should have the freedom to decide whether they wish to cover their faces, and that a ban would limit freedom of expression.
Mohamed Elmasry, a professor of microchip design and national president of the Canadian Islamic Congress, takes issue with the treatment of Islam in Canada’s weekly news magazine publication, Maclean’s Magazine.
After considering how to best respond, whether with a criminal complaint or a civil case, Elmasry and the CIC decided on a quasi-judicial compromise by focusing on human rights commissions. All three of their complaints have been rejected. He claims, “The first point that I did learn from this exercise is that Islamophobia is alive and well in Canada, in the media and also in politics. In all of this, we’ve been victimized.” Elmasry adds that Canadian law is deficient because it lacks the concept of “group defamation” which would enable tribunals to uphold complaints such as his.
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Canadian Muslims and refugee advocacy groups have rebuked calls by a right-wing think tank, the Fraser Institute, to restrict the arrival of immigrants from Muslim countries. The spokesperson for the Canadian Islamic Congress, Mohamed Elmasry, in response, stated, Canadian Muslims contribute to the wealth of this country more than the average and have higher levels of education than the average.