Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 3/11/2011 (3562 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The former federal justice minister appointed to oversee elections for the Manitoba Islamic Association has quit, leaving the association in "a mess," said the lawyer for the group trying to settle a long-running feud.
Robert Tapper told the court Wednesday that Otto Lang quit after the lawyer for association president Dr. Naseer Warraich quit. That put Lang, who agreed to work through lawyers for both sides, in an "untenable situation," he said.
Under Warraich's leadership, the Islamic association's administration has changed three times in the past two years. The doctor, who ran unsuccessfully as a Tory candidate in the provincial election, had filed civil suits against a dozen former and current board members, accusing them of defaming him.
Neither Lang nor Warraich nor his lawyer showed up for the court hearing before Justice Perry Schulman Wednesday. With no one there to object, the judge agreed to Tapper's request that business firm PricewaterhouseCoopers oversee the election instead.
In an affidavit filed earlier, several members of the association were concerned some members wouldn't be allowed to vote if Warraich was in charge of the election.
"All my clients want to do is practise (their faith) unmolested by these things," Tapper told the court.
The members who attend the Grand Mosque on Waverley Street were glad the election can go ahead, but fed up they've had to go to such lengths.
Former board member Ahmed Durrani said they tried to work within the bounds of the MIA constitution to have fair and democratic elections, but Warraich dug in. Durrani, a financial analyst, estimates the wrangling will have cost the association close to $100,000.
Having a corporate overseer, rather than an individual like Lang, will add to the bill.
"It's not going to be inexpensive," Tapper said outside the court.
It's also hurt the Muslim community's reputation, said Durrani, who was born and raised in Canada.
"It adds another black eye," he said.
It's not what Syrian-born Jude Kasas expected to see.
"I never, ever imagined this could happen in a place like Canada," said the Muslim man. "We're seeing exactly the same thing as in Syria."
One person in a position of authority shouldn't be able to use his or her resources to fund court cases to cling to power, Kasas said. Younger, more moderate members of the Muslim community have challenged the old-school leader and his imam, he said.
Kasas said his wife was yelled at during prayers for not being completely behind the barrier separating men from women. The youth group of older teens and young adults isn't allowed to use the mosque for meetings and was relegated to the gym, even though the sexes sat on opposite sides, he said.
A few elders support the hard-line approach, and just a few were prepared to go outside the mosque to challenge authority when the association overstepped its bounds, he said.
"Most of the elders in our community don't like to air our dirty laundry in public," said Kasas.
The younger members are the ones who are challenging Warraich's leadership, he said. "We want democracy and fair elections."
The youth have signed up more than 700 new members eligible to vote, said the past-president of the association, Idris Elbakri. They used social networking and door-to-door canvassing to conduct an "unprecedented" membership drive, said Elbakri, who's out of the country on sabbatical for a year and won't be running.
Warraich did not respond to requests for comment. Earlier, he accused his opponents of inciting the youth in the community to revolution and sacrificing their lives.
The election is scheduled for Dec. 4.
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.