Mohamed Elmasry, the embattled president of the Canadian Islamic Congress, apologized again yesterday for his controversial remarks but did not resign -- despite repeated calls to do so from other Muslim and Jewish organizations.
Instead, the CIC issued a statement yesterday saying it accepted Mr. Elmasry's apology for saying that all Israelis over the age of 18 are fair targets for suicide bombers, but not his offer to resign, noting "one unintentional mistake does not wipe out his exemplary 30-year record."
"It has always been a core belief of mine that killing civilians -- any civilians for any cause -- is an immoral act of the worst kind and I will never change in this conviction," Mr. Elmasry said in the media release.
"Failing to articulate my beliefs clearly, completely, and forcefully on that occasion was the biggest mistake in my 30 years of public life."
While the CIC says it has been "overwhelmed" by calls of support from Muslim, Jewish, Christian and Arab communities, yesterday several organizations reiterated their belief that Mr. Elmasry has done lasting damage to the credibility of his organization, to the cause of Palestinians and of Muslims.
The Muslim Canadian Congress, the Canadian Jewish Congress, the Canadian Autoworkers Union, the Canadian Coalition for Democracies and B'nai Brith Canada have all called for Mr. Elmasry's resignation.
"In refusing to step aside, Elmasry and the CIC have demonstrated the authoritarian and dictatorial nature of their structure," said Tarek Fatah, co-founder of the Muslim congress.
"They purport to speak for Canada's 600,000 Muslims, but are not accountable or answerable to them.
"We demand he not . . . masquerade as leader of the community."
Mr. Elmasry said last week on the Michael Coren Show on Crossroads Television System that because all Israelis over the age of 18 must serve in the army, they can be considered fair targets for Palestinian suicide bombers.
He later recanted the position, saying it is a widely held view among Palestinians.
It was unclear yesterday whether Mr. Elmasry considers out-of-uniform serving Israelis civilians or soldiers, and neither he nor Wahida Valiente, the CIC's vice-president, returned The Globe and Mail's calls.
Halton Regional Police are investigating whether Mr. Elmasry's comments constitute a hate crime.
The University of Waterloo, where Mr. Elmasry is a professor of computer engineering, has launched a review of the incident that could result in a reprimand, suspension or dismissal.
While some observers say his remarks were out of character, others believe the incident underscores the need for advocacy groups to have broad-based consultation so that their public positions accurately reflect all members' views.
"The early signs are, CIC hasn't been going through consensus building. Sometimes their positions are far-fetched," a Muslim advocate says.
Earlier this year, the CIC printed an article by Ms. Valiente calling the Jewish notion of being a chosen people racist: "This concept is not only racist, but directly contradicts the Qur'anic worldview of racial equality. Unfortunately, the Jewish idea of being 'chosen' not only institutionalized racism, but also set a terrible precedent for human history in general, where racial superiority claims became the norm, the divisive standard by which all others, those not like us, were to be judged and treated."
After the Canadian Jewish Congress complained, Ms. Valiente sent the organization a letter acknowledging that her interpretation of the term "chosen people" was "inconsistent with its meaning in the scriptures of the Old Testament."
Yesterday, Ed Morgan, national president of the CJC, said it is impossible to know who the CIC really represents, and that it will continue to work with Canada's other, more accountable Muslim and Arab organizations.
The CIC, formed in 1994, was a pioneer in the field of advocacy work for Muslims. "Dr. Elmasry has spoken out on social justice issues in Canada," its statement said. "We also recall his tireless efforts to achieve the noble goal of world peace with justice."
In recent years, other advocacy groups such as the Muslim congress and the Council on American-Islamic Relations Canada have formed, and they often disagree with the CIC.
Mr. Elmasry's recent suggestion in a speech to the University of Calgary that the Baha'i faith came about as a result of the "British approach to encourage, support and even finance a religion of their liking in order to control and subjugate Muslims in India and the Middle East" angered some in the community.