City’s Muslim youth issue ‘call of distress’ – Many want a leader familiar with daily societal pressures
By Jennifer Green,
The Ottawa Citizen
A small but outspoken group of young Ottawa Muslims want the city’s new imam replaced with someone who speaks their language, literally and figuratively.
“(It’s) not the person himself, it’s the language barrier and failure to understand our problems,” said 20-year-old Sara Mohamed. “I really feel, when I hear this imam that, yes, he is very knowledgeable and I have a lot of respect for him, but, as a leader of those of us who have been here for quite some time, I don’t feel he represents me.”
Mohamed sent the Citizen an e-mail entitled “A Call of Distress from an Unheard Voice: The Muslim Youth of Ottawa.”
The statement said many young Muslims are drifting away from their faith, dabbling in drugs, alcohol and dating. They have no strong Muslim leaders to identify with. “At a time when most young Muslims have multiple difficulties relating to their own parents, communicating with an ‘imported imam’ is simply not an appealing substitute,” said the statement.
“Rarely can a foreign leader present the faith in an effective and humble way to Muslim or non-Muslim youth.”
The group is criticizing 37-year-old Imam Khaled Abdul-Hamid Syed who arrived in Ottawa last July from Egypt with impressive scholastic credentials, but halting English.
Mohamed Ghadban, president of the Ottawa Muslim Association, acknowledges the imam’s early sermons were difficult to understand. “His English wasn’t very good.” Since then, “this imam has come a long way in terms of his English, 1,000 per cent.”
“Some people don’t like him — I’m being honest with you — and some people like him.” The association will have its general annual meeting April 19.
It has the option of continuing with the imam for the next two years or finding another one.
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