Ottawa imam ordered to leave the country
The federal government is ordering the imam of Ottawa's largest mosque to leave the country, something a community leader warns could lead to radicalization.
Immigration officials sent Khaled Abdul-Hamid Syed a letter in early March advising him that his application to renew his work visa was refused.
Officials say the Egyptian-born imam must now leave Canada before his current visa expires.
Although Syed isn't speaking about the case, members of the mosque on Northwestern Avenue are expressing concern about losing their spiritual leader.
"It's just a bureaucratic hassle. There is no reason for him to be terminated because he had applied long time prior to the expiration of his visa and they rejected it," said Idris Ben-Tahir, a leader in Ottawa's Muslim community.
"Everybody I have seen or know says very good things about the imam, so for him to be threatened with that kind of deportation, it's senseless. I don't understand where it's coming from or why it's happening," added Mohamed Suleiman.
It appears Syed may be the victim of a power struggle within the mosque -- somehow, a negative letter ended up in his immigration file.
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney told reporters on Tuesday that he wasn't aware of the situation until this morning. However, from what he's been told, he said it appears to be a problem with documents.
"It looks like it's a case of poisoned pen letters that sometimes affect people's immigration files . . . We'll review it to ensure that the individual is treated fairly, according to the law," Kenney said.
However, if the imam is still ordered to leave the country, Ben-Tahir fears radicals could take over the mosque and "further radicalize the community here."
"If hotheads and radical elements take over the mosque, then we have a bigger problem," he said.
Syed came to Ottawa on loan from the Egyptian Ministry of Religious Affairs, and his salary is currently being paid by the Egyptian embassy. Members of the mosque in Ottawa say they can't afford to hire a new imam.
The previous imam left Ottawa because the mosque could no longer pay his salary.
With a report from CTV Ottawa's Jonathan Rotondo