A Muslim leader’s cancelled speech, and some earlier comments

Zijad Delic had meant to send a reassuringly moderate message


Zijad Delic, the executive director of the Canadian Islamic Congress, has made public the speech he would have delivered today, had Defence Minister Peter MacKay not cancelled Delic’s scheduled address to his department as it marks Islamic Heritage Month.

It seems Delic had meant to send a reassuringly moderate message and use the platform offered to him by the Defence department to urge other Islamic leaders to start talking about helping Muslims feel at home in Western democracies.

“Contemporary Muslim scholars should be seriously discussing proactive models of Muslim life in Western societies,” Delic (would have) said, “and helping the diaspora communities everywhere to adjust and thrive as citizens of their host countries—not making Islam difficult and confusing for them.”

It’s worth reading his whole text. However, he doesn’t touch directly on hot-button topics. As it happens, I interviewed Delic briefly last year for a story, but ended up not quoting him. I still have transcript of some of  his answers, though. Given the news, some points might be worth noting now.

I asked him about the way some Muslim and Arab groups have devoted so much energy to opposing Canada’s military mission in Afghanistan, and to supporting the Palestinian cause. Delic replied that Muslims are hardly alone in taking those positions:

“Millions of Canadians differ on the issue of Afghanistan and the issue of Israel and Palestine. We are talking about fairness and justice.

“In terms of Afghanistan, Canadian Islamic Congress has a clear position—that we should work on solving the problem of Afghanistan not through military intervention but, as the government at the very beginning stated, through development, diplomacy and defence.

“We firmly believe that our troops have to do what they have done for fifty and more years—they are peace brokers. Peacekeeping. Positive image.”

I followed up by asking him on whether the CIC’s emphasis on opposing Canada’s involvement in the fighting in Afghanistan might not give comfort to extremists who favour the Taliban’s extreme brand of Islam. His reply:

“We disagree with the Taliban at the very foundation. We totally disagree with them. [But] we have to negotiate with everybody, enemies especially.”

On the image of Muslims in Canada, I mentioned to him that among the worshippers coming and going from the mosque in my Ottawa neighbourhood, I rarely saw a burka—until recent years. Was I wrong, I asked, to be unsettled by what looks like a shift, among some, toward a more fundamentalist Islam? He said I was worrying about a negligible group:

We are talking insignificant numbers [wearing the burka]. The majority of Muslim women don’t wear hijab at all. There will always be people who are traditional, people who are middle-ground, and people who are liberal. We have to learn how to deal with it in Canada, just like in any other place.”


A Muslim leader’s cancelled speech, and some earlier comments

  1. A rational man, and someone we should pay attention to.

    We can begin by upholding the right to free speech in Canada.

  2. He was invited to speak…..then uninvited, by a minister of the crown….based on something he supposedly said in the past.

    This is not acceptable in Canada.

    • That would be a professional concern rather than a freedom of speech concern. It makes MacKay look silly but is hardly a threat to free speech. There is nothing preventing Mr. Delic from making all the public statements that he wants.

      • You are missing the point

      • MacKay always looks silly; but here he looks bigotted, perhaps racist, and is treating someone differently based on that person's religion. I dunno if he has violated the Charter, but he has surely shown poor leadership. Not officer material, eh wot?

        • How many Muslims were invited to speak at this?

          How mant people from other faiths, or atheists?

          This whole group looks like it is based on one particular religion… Islam

          In light of this undisputed fact, your cry of racism, bigotry, and violating the charter seems like just the usual leftie knee-jerk nonsense.

      • I agree that it's not about free speech, but unless this man has done or said something objectionable that I haven't found out about yet, (and I have been searching around) it's a rude and disgusting political move that is insulting to the man himself, and will encourage every anti-Islamic bigot in the country. Nice gonig, McKay, Harper and the rest.

        When I first read the statement from the Minister's Office I thought this man had said Israeli's are legitimate targets for suicide bombers so I assumed that was the issue. But then I found out that wasn't true, that a former leader of the group said that. These people are real smear artists.

        • Thank you Diane, I think Mckay was getting his information from fear mongering right wing extremists' blog sites, with no factual basis. If he knew anything about the guy (even a wikipedia search or maclean's artcile would give a sample) he would have known that Delic is not an extremist, in no way shape or form supports the taliban and wants and potentially could help bridge the cultural divide. I know that's a little optimistic but Mckay certainly is not helping anything with this stunt, only making things worse.

    • I thought he was 'uninvited' based on something said by someone else in his position in the past?

      The initial reports I read said that statements made (and subsequently apologized for) by the PAST director of the Congress were the issue….which imo, makes this even more offensive.

  3. Mr. Geddes: Great article, but found a typo: The majority of Muslim women don't where hijab at all. (should be wear).

    • And a typo above that: "CLC" was likely meant to be "CIC."

  4. The ex-Serbian Minister / Spokesman should seek the advice of a Lawyer who knows about Defamation.

  5. Western womyn walking around uncovered and offering opinions are deeply offensive to pious Muslims, a good liberal woman should be more sensitive and submissive to other cultures by covering up and shutting her mouth.
    Canada does not need to do a damn thing to make Muslims 'feel at home' in our Western democracy – if they don't feel comfortable here, especially with all these offensive womyn around, they can leave.

    • Muslims have been living in Canada for at least 130 years and they belong in Canada as much as you do, or more. If you don't feel comfortable in a country with diverse people, diverse cultures and diverse religions, then you can leave, too.