The head of the Canadian Islamic Congress says he's hurt and insulted that his speech at National Defence Headquarters has been cancelled by Defence Minister Peter MacKay over accusations the congress holds extremist views.

"I don't know why he decided this. His decision is totally unfounded, it's baseless," Imam Zijad Delic, the executive director of the organization, told CBC News. "This decision tells me quite a lot in terms of how [the government] is disengaged from the Canadian Muslim community.

"It hurts definitely. Knowing my background, knowing what I've done with building bridges with different interfaith groups, this definitely undermines many of the activities we have done," he said.


Imam Zijad Delic, the executive director of the Canadian Islamic Congress, says he's upset over a decision by Defence Minister Peter MacKay to cancel his speech at a commemoration for Islamic Heritage Month. ((Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press))

Delic, a Bosnian Muslim,  was invited to speak at defence headquarters on Oct. 4 as part of Islamic Heritage Month celebrations.

Jay Paxton, MacKay's communications director, said in a statement that "[Friday] morning, upon hearing Imam Delic may participate in these celebrations, Minister MacKay took the decision to cancel the Imam's role based on extremist views promulgated by the Canadian Islamic Congress.

"The Canadian Islamic Congress has declared that Israelis over the age of 18 are legitimate targets of suicide bombers. These types of comments don't support Islamic Heritage, they simply divide Canadians, promulgate hate and they have no place in Monday's celebrations."

The statement referred to comments  made by Mohamed Elmasry, former president of the Canadian Islamic Congress, who four years ago said any Israeli over the age of 18 are legitimate targets for suicide bombing because they’ve served in the Israeli army.  

But Delic said the CIC should not be judged on the remarks of a past president who Delic says was expressing his own thoughts, and not the views of the organization.

"Of course CIC doesn't agree. There are many leaders who speak and they don't speak on behalf of everybody. They just speak," Delic said. "Muslims totally forbid suicide bombing."  

Delic added that he has spoken at events sponsored by  the departments of Foreign Affairs and Transportation.  

MacKay's statement, issued late Friday, came after two Christian-based associations began circulating an email that described Delic's presence at the event as affront to Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan and their families.  

"I think it's pure politics," Delic said of MacKay's decision. "Some people complained about it and they just took it from there."  

Asked about Delic's involvement with other government departments, Paxton said: "I can speak to the decision taken by Minister MacKay this morning, which he took upon hearing of the situation. I am not in a position to speak for other government departments."  

With files from The Canadian Press