Muslim Community Blindsided By Dismissal of Longtime SNMC Imam

The removal of Imam Dr. Zijad Delic blindsided many members of the South Nepean Muslim Centre earlier this month.

Imam Delic has been the spiritual leader of the Muslim community for Barrhaven, Riverside South and the surrounding area since before the SNMC was built, dating back to the days when prayer sessions were held at Jockvale School.

A couple dozen demonstrators protested the imam’s sudden departure in front of the SNMC, wearing “Bring Back Imam Zijad” t-shirts. Signs posted on Woodroffe Ave. called for the SNMC to “Bring back Imam Zijad.”

Abdallah Bayaa set up a GoFundMe page to assist Dr. Delic.

“This fundraiser is to help Imam Zijad deal with his affairs in the immediate term. I would also love nothing more than to see this support the effort to restore him as the Imam of SNMC. If you are already donating to SNMC, I urge you to consider supporting this cause directly, at least until circumstances change,” wrote Bayaa.

Bayaa set a goal of $10,000 and as of Fri., Feb. 23, he was 85 per cent of the campaign’s goal.

“On a personal level, I’m not appealing to the world, I’m appealing to the people of Barrhaven first and foremost. You have seen with your eyes and experienced Zijad’s character first hand for many years. We benefit the most from his presence. And it would be nice for my kids to have a Sheikh they think is cool too!,” Bayaa wrote.

Bayaa was one of the protestors on Woodroffe Ave. He told CBC that “a lot of us don’t exactly know what’s going on. What we do know is that he was removed from his position. This is a well-known imam, well-respected within the community, and here for a long time.”

Dr. Delic is prohibited from speaking to the media or making social media posts about his dismissal.

On Sun., Feb. 11, the SNMC issued a statement to the CBC.

“This matter is governed by labor laws. Following the recommendation of SNMC legal counsel, we cannot comment on it.

“We serve over 10,000 very diverse community members. We are one of the most active and welcoming religious institutions. We have members of other faith groups who participant in some of our programs as well, which we are happy to see. With that much diversity it is normal to have differences, we respect the right of people to express their views.

“The board of SNMC is an elected board that makes decisions in the best interest of SNMC. The board follows the different laws and Acts that govern charitable organizations, including following SNMC bylaw, which the organization is founded on.”

In addition to the GoFundMe campaign, there are also two pages dedicated to the reinstatement of the popular imam.

A page started by Mehran Khan had more than 3,100 signatures by Fri., Feb. 23.

Imam Dr. Zijad Delic talks to Conservative Party of Canada leader and former local MPP Pierre Poilievre in a meeting last year. (X photo)

“Our beloved Imam Zijad has been unjustly fired,” Khan states in the petition. “He’s been with the Barrhaven community for decades and has impacted everyone deeply. This decision is not being taken lightly and as the snmc community, we would like answers. Our input in such important decisions matters.”

Mohamed Salem was among the first to sign the petition.

“In times when the Muslim communities struggle adequate, modest, and well educated leadership, firing a long well-established and trustworthy leader like Imam Zijad Delic by the SNMC board without proper justification to the community and in complete disregard of its will, only compromises the trust in this board and serves to weaken the Muslim community and its strive for unity. If the board does not reinstate the Imam, the community could call to stop donating to the Masjid until the board resigns and re-election takes place.”

While the SNMC did not offer reasons for the dismissal of Dr. Delic, CBC reported that it received an emailed statement that it was “an internal matter that is being solved quickly.”