Originally published in the Ottawa Citizen November 22, 2010
‘Civilized people talk’ – After cancellation, imam finds new venue to deliver sermon
By Tom Spears
The Muslim leader whose recent Ottawa speech was cancelled by Defence Minister Peter MacKay spoke at a church Sunday instead, saying it’s better to talk than to avoid it.
Imam Zijad Delic delivered a guest sermon at First Unitarian Congregation of Ottawa on Cleary Avenue. But he has also been giving talks at community groups and in libraries since MacKay cancelled his speech in early October.
“Civilized people talk and get involved in discourse, no matter how difficult,” he told the packed congregation. “Uncivilized people don’t want to talk.”
Delic is executive director of the Canadian Islamic Conference. He had been scheduled to speak at National Defence headquarters during Islamic History Month, at an event with folk dancing and cooking. But MacKay’s office cancelled the event because a previous leader of the Canadian Islamic Congress (not Delic) had advocated killing Jewish Israelis.
Delic has a long record of condemning terrorism and violence.
The imam said Sunday that a reporter had asked him whether he was angry about the cancellation.
“Not angry,” he told the man. “I am disappointed, but not angry. When people are angry they can’t see past the end of their nose.
“That misunderstanding definitely was not a good move for this beautiful Canadian society. It has made some dents,” Delic said. “But I think there is a positive that came out of there. I have received such support from politicians, bureaucrats, educational institutions, (and) religious groups.
“Hundreds of letters have been sent to politicians (and) the papers. So government has to realize that this moderate voice that is present — and I’m not talking about hundreds of people, but thousands — needs to be listened to.”
Cancelling the speech sent a message to young Muslims, he said. “Many young Canadian Muslims have called me and asked me, ‘What’s this? If this can happen to you, then what about others?’ So a moderate voice definitely needs to be part of the discourse.”
Delic said he wrote a paper for the government last March advising them how to use Islam to make young people less radical, and to help them adapt to life in Canada.
Born and raised in Bosnia, he immigrated to Canada in 1995 to escape the fighting. He now describes himself as “a proud Canadian Muslim.”
“As groups or religious institution, we do have our differences,” he told the congregation. “Families have differences. Husbands and wives have differences. If we focus on differences before we focus on similarities, then we will never talk about our similarities.”
The imam spent time before and after the service mingling with congregation members. He appeared chatty and relaxed, and mixed in some lighter notes with the serious talk.
Delic said he has learned to evaluate people by how they react to five factors: rainy days, the elderly, young children, lost luggage and traffic jams.
He also spoke repeatedly about his gratitude that “Canada has opened its doors to me.”
Original Ottawa Citizen link: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/health/Civilized+people+talk/3864065/story.html
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October 4, 2010
The head of the Canadian Islamic Congress says he’s hurt and insulted that his speech at National Defence Headquarters has been cancelled by Defence Minister Peter MacKay over accusations the congress holds extremist views…… MacKay’s statement, issued late Friday, came after two Christian-based associations began circulating an email that described Delic’s presence at the event as affront to Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan and their families.
Vancouverite – Background info on Imam Delic.
Text of speech Imam Delic was going to deliver at DND.