Canadian Muslim organizations call for urgent meeting with Defense Minister MacKay

(October 5, 2010) – Canadian Muslim organizations are calling for an urgent meeting with Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defense, following his decision to cancel a lecture by Imam Dr. Zijad Delic, the Executive Director of the Canadian Islamic Congress (CIC), which was scheduled to take place at National Defense Headquarters in Ottawa on Monday to mark Islamic History Month.

“We urge you to meet with Dr. Delic and other community leaders without delay and mitigate the damage done by this unnecessary episode of us-versus-them suspicion,” states the open letter sent to the Minister.

The letter is signed by major Muslim organizations in Canada including the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CAN); the Canadian Council of Imams; the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA – Canada); the Islamic Social Services Association (ISSA); the Islamic Society of North America – Canada (ISNA – Canada); and the Muslim Association of Canada (MAC).

Dr. Delic is a well respected Canadian Imam and a longtime facilitator and promoter of interfaith dialogue and Muslim civic engagement.

“The decision to rescind the invitation to Dr. Delic sends a clear message to Canadian Muslim communities that the federal government will uncritically yield to pressure groups when it comes to Canadian Muslims,” the organizations state in their letter.

Meanwhile, the Muslim Coordinating Council of the National Capital Region which represents Islamic organizations in the Ottawa region has also sent a similar letter to the Minister.

“We, leaders of the main Muslim organizations in the National Capital Region, are writing to request a meeting with you to express the concerns of the 65,000-70,000 Muslims in the region,” the states the Council’s letter.

“Dr. Delic is a well respected member of the Muslim community in Ottawa. He has spent his entire career in Canada building bridges between various faith groups.”

There is growing concern about Minister Mackay’s decision and the message it sends to Canadian Muslims.

“The result is that yesterday’s attempt at community-building will now be remembered for finger-pointing,” wrote columnist James Travers in today’s Toronto Star.

“Delic is no zealot. He’s an internationally recognized scholar respected for his work integrating Muslims into Canada’s polyglot mix,” Travers added.

Aisha Sherazi, an Ottawa freelance writer who blogs for the Ottawa Citizen, commented today that by hastily cancelling the speech by Imam Delic, Defense Minister MacKay has shattered the faith of Muslims in the political process.

“Last Sunday, I sat next to Imam Delic at a youth conference where we were both invited to speak. He has been heavily involved with the event for the last few years, and encouraged me to come out to at least one of the events. As he presented his talk, it was clear that this man, who came from war-torn Bosnia as a refugee, had proudly made Canada, a place of safety, his home. He stood smiling, and preached about how important it was to be an engaged citizen, and a progressive one,” wrote Sherazi in the Citizen.

“When MacKay allowed himself to be led by pressure groups, he not only shattered the delusions we all had that day when we listened to Imam Delic speak to youth about how Canada is a free country that allows us to express ourselves, he also shattered any hopes we had in our political process.”