Ottawa Imam Ordered Out Of Canada

Ottawa imam ordered out of Canada
Egyptians work permit refused; Muslim community fears further disruption

By Jennifer Green
The Ottawa Citizen
March 30, 2010

OTTAWA—The imam of Ottawas main mosque has been told to leave the country before Canadian immigration authorities kick him out.

A March 11 letter from the Niagara Falls office of Citizenship and Immigration Canada told Khaled Abdul-Hamid Syed: This refers to your application for work permit and documents for your accompanying family members. Your application as requested is refused.

A letter was mailed on 04 September 2009 notifying you of the decision of refusal on your previous application at which time you were requested to leave Canada.

You must leave Canada (before your visa expires) Failure to do so could result in enforcement actions being taken against you.

The imam could reapply, but only from outside Canada.

Idris Ben-Tahir, a member of the mosque at 249 Northwestern Ave., says the disruption would be difficult for the Muslim community, which has already been torn apart by controversy over leadership, and financially difficult for the imam, his wife and two-year-old son.

The high-handed antics of Citizenship and Immigration would only exacerbate Muslim-Christian relations, said Ben-Tahir.

They are using all kinds of tactics. What will happen to the community? Hes not a radical. He has done a good, stable job.

Last week, Khaled wrote to Gordon OConnor, chief government whip, spelling out what went wrong and appealing for help.

John Aris, OConnors spokesman, said he was aware of the case, and his office was making inquiries, but he could not comment further.

It appears from Khaleds letter to OConnor that the confusion stems from a tug of war over his leadership in 2008, when he first arrived at the mosque.

At that time, members of themosques board of directors had failed to find a Canadian imam, and had turned to Egypts Department of Religious Affairs, which sends imams abroad and pays their salaries when communities cant find one on their own.

But the mosques leaders were deeply divided over whether they should accept the Egyptian imam, or keep trying for a Canadian.

In the course of the infighting, one group of leaders wrote a letter to the Egyptian Embassy, indicating they had no desire to keep Khaled, and would not be renewing his contract.

Eventually, however, the new imam was accepted, and the disgruntled directors resigned. But the damning letter stayed on his file.

Khaled wrote to OConnor: The people who had signed that letter have resigned from the OMA (Ottawa Muslim Association) executive and they have apologized for their error.

Khaled explains that he then sent a second application for a visa extension with letters of support from the OMA and the Egyptian Embassy, but that still didnt work.

I was told that this decision was made because my application was received after the expiration of my visa, which is contrary to the facts. Although my first request was made much before the expiration of my visa and the follow-up request was just a clarification for the record, (this) was misunderstood by the officer.

There seems to have been a confusion created due to no serious issue, but rather a misunderstanding. … I hope you would endorse my appeal favourably and forward it to the minister of immigration for his kind consideration and action.

Aris said he did not know why Khaled did not write directly to Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney. Ben-Tahir felt OConnor would give the matter a more sympathetic hearing.